I know I´ve touched before on words that aren´t words becoming words. This post here was over four years ago! I was young and foolish then. "If it acts like a word we might as well let it be one," I said. I guess I´ve become more of a prescriptivist in my old age. I´m aware of this now because Michael asks me about once a week if I consider myself more of a prescriptivist or descriptivist. I always tend toward prescriptivist but, I of course know that language isn´t unchanging or frozen. I just like rules, and grammar, and knowing how to speak correctly. I know that modern English isn´t what it was 500 years ago and language is always evolving, but come on! We can´t lean too far descriptivist, either. We can´t just take a jumble of sounds and say, this is what this means now. And quite frankly, sometimes I really just say "huh?"--I sincerely didn´t understand what that jumble of sounds that you just made was supposed to mean and I refuse to start using said jumble in the way that you say, on a stupid whim! "Turn down for what" doesn´t mean anything. It makes no sense! It´s not even a clever reference to anything. I´m not doing it.*
I know I lean prescriptivist now because when people speak or write incorrectly IT MAKES ME ANGRY. I understand the difference between stylistic choices and just plain wrong. I do. "Supposably" is never a stylistic choice. Capitalizing the first letter of random words in a sentence "for emphasis" is not stylistic. It´s not fancy. It´s just plain wrong.
When I was younger, I liked cultural and geographical linguistic anomalies--I liked how they marked a person to be from a certain place--how they implied a history and a culture. I still do. I used to really, really wish I had a typical New Orleans accent. I wish my accent gave me away as a New Orleanian. I wish it were so plainly stamped on my forehead. I love this city and with pride would wear that stamp. But I don´t have it. I try to use some New Orleanian phrases sometimes, but I do so very intentionally--despite it sounding wrong in my head. "I´ll go by her house tonight." "Yeah, you right." These have a history. They´re cultural--stylistic, even. It´s different.
I remember moving to Natchitoches when I was 15, and never having heard anyone ever before use "could" so liberally as they did. "I might could do that." "She might could´ve come." "I used to could play the piano." I hated it. Hated it hated it. It was like nails on chalkboard for me to hear "could" thrown about this way, and yet I was forced to hear it daily. But you know, they wore me down, in time, all those country-talking kids. When I would go home to New Orleans my friends started to say I sounded country, and I kind of liked sounding different, and I started using "could" in the way I had hated. I thought it was funny. Like my own personal secret joke.
Fortunately, it´s fallen out of my vernacular, but when I hear someone else say it (which is rare in New Orleans), I smile fondly at the memory of my time in small-town Louisiana.
I live in New Orleans again, but this time as a conscientious adult. I pick and choose very carefully the local-speak I let into my diction. I´m in an environment that is flooded with incorrect English, I try to just let the mistakes wash over me and I try to let it go--but I have to tell you. My latest pet peeve that I cannot let go is "they have" or "they got" instead of "there is" or "there are." For example, instead of "There are a lot of cars on the highway today," I too often hear "They got a lot of cars on the highway today." I just want to shout WHO?! WHO has a lot of cars on the highway today?! All day long I shout in my head WHO?! and the only reason I don´t correct people is--not because I think that´s a jerk thing to do--oh no--it´s because I don´t even think they know they´re making this mistake. They wouldn´t understand my question. It wouldn´t be a simple fix. It would take time and explanation, but I´m on the edge. I´m on the verge of verbalizing my internal WHO a thousand times a day. I feel it coming. They´re not going to win me over on this one. I hate it.
*I tried to understand it. I really did. I even listened to this song in its entirety in hopes that hearing more lyrics would clarify the meaning. THERE ARE NO OTHER LYRICS. It just says "turn down for what" over and over again. I´m not doing it.