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Letters: Reactions To 'Bad English'


Yesterday, I interviewed Ammon Shea. He's written a book called "Bad English." He argues that the rules of the language are meant to be bent.

AMMON SHEA: Many of the rules that we hold on to are capricious and arbitrary and do more to stunt the language, than to kind of foster change and innovation.


We asked you to weigh in. Right us, we said, and tell us what usage offends your ears, and hundreds of you did.

SIEGEL: Doris Sutteth (ph) of Carollton, Georgia, tells us that it makes her nauseated when people use the word nauseous instead of nauseated. She writes - if you are nauseous, you are making others nauseated.

CORNISH: Margaret Kierkegaard (ph) of Downers Grove, Illinois, hates the phrase, between you and I, instead of you and me. She thinks changes should be accepted only when they add something. She writes, I am saddened when nuances in language are lost.

SIEGEL: Jerry Hoffman (ph) takes a relaxed view of English. He's from Kalamazoo, Michigan and he writes, I do believe English is, and should be, a living language. When I was teaching high school English, I told the kids that it really doesn't matter if you are proper or correct in your language, since the real goal is to be understood. However, people of higher socioeconomic classes speak more precisely, and if you want to pass - that is, join a higher class of people - you will have to learn to sound like them.

CORNISH: Joshua Kreugman (ph) of Middletown, Connecticut, doesn't like it when people say, try and do something instead of try to do something. He scolds us. Even Robert Siegel and every other commentator on the radio and TV does that.

SIEGEL: I'll try to do better. Actually, I shall try to do better, Mr. Kreugman. Meanwhile, here is a pet-peeve from Jenny Carroll (ph) in Monticello, Illinois. She's unhappy when people use the words fewer and less interchangeably, especially in commercials. She writes, if professional copywriters were to make fewer grammatical mistakes, I would be less frustrated.

CORNISH: And Michael Rogers of Arroyo Grande, California has got his own complaint. He writes, my main irritation is got - I got pregnant, married, an apartment etc. - as opposed to became, was, rented.

SIEGEL: Well, thanks to all of you for telling us your opinions about bad english. You know what my pet peeve is?

CORNISH: Tell me, Robert.

SIEGEL: It's that no one says, anymore, that that was not so big a deal. Everyone says, that was not so big of a deal. I have heard too much of that of. Anything bothering you lately?

CORNISH: I got nothing.


CORNISH: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.