Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I AM Speaking English

I have always had a love for words and spoken accordingly, to the amusement (one might say glee) of those around me. I remember in particular one occasion at work many years ago. A co-worker informed me that part of a project had been completed ahead of schedule, to which I replied, "Splendid!" After the knee-slapping hilarity of the others in the room had passed, another person asked me, jokingly, "Why don't you just say 'cool,' like everyone else?"

Why, indeed.

A couple of years later, my dh asked, more than once, essentially the same thing. "Why don't you just speak regular English?"

In my humble defense, I am speaking regular English. English is a rich, complex, and heavily nuanced language, and I intend to speak as much of it as I can. It reminds me of the scene in Sophie's Choice in which Sophie complains about all the English words for "fast," while in French there is only "vite."

I love all the different nuances in English. For example, She put the letter away hastily is very different from She put the letter away quickly. Is it just me, or does the first sentence imply a sense of guilt or subterfuge? The difference of one word opens up vast avenues of new possibilities.

This past summer, my neighbor gigglingly relayed to me something Miss Priss said while visiting her house. My two girls and her two had just eaten some fabulous peanut butter fudge, and then laughed at how quickly they'd wolfed it down. Miss Priss said, "I didn't take time to savor mine." It was the "savor" that threw my neighbor for a loop. "I don't think my girls have ever heard that word before!" A few weeks later, Miss Priss remarked to me that we had enjoyed "a day of splendors!" I had to agree.

Weird? I don't think so. While I can "talk American" with the best of them, I've never felt it necessary to dumb the language down for my children's ears. We limit the amount of t.v. they watch, and they listen to "my" radio stations in the car. Also, the books we read tend to use elevated language. So it's only natural that my children pick it up.

And I think that's cool.


  1. Ellen, I came here from the AO group to see your review on Good Masters!, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed that and look forward to reading it as it is now on the Christmas list.

    I also wanted to tell you that I appreciate your use of more beautiful and specific language. That is one reason I love AO books. I found your posts so pleasant to read and appreciate your thoughts. I wish I could (would) take more time with my own blog. I look forward to reading more from you! Blessings, Eva

  2. Eva, what kind words! I am glad you enjoyed the book review and my post about the English language. You have made my day.


  3. Ellen,

    As I was reading your post, I was feeling a kindred spirit! My best friend is frequently chiding me on my use of "big" or "outdated" words! I am so glad to hear of someone in the same boat. The words seem to be disappearing and I keep hoping they won't!!!


  4. My mother always used descriptive words with me - I just thought it was natural. Now, I do the same with my kids, who have taken right to AO because they have always had an enriched vocabulary themselves.

    I do remember a high school boyfriend who could not understand many of the words I used, whereas my dh also uses an extensive vocabulary. Needless to say, I'm glad he is the father of my children. ;-)


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