Even when the Associated Press style guide continued its plunge off the liberal cliff, you could at least say one thing for them. They may be adopting the language of liberal correctness in their choice of adjectives, but for the most part they still insist on using actual words assembled in mechanically correct sentence structure. But how long will that last when the major dictionaries are now adding huge volumes of new “words” every year that haven’t withstood the test of time or scrutiny of the literate community? (I won’t even get started with a comprehensive list, but Websters recently added “riduckingficulous” and it goes downhill from there.)
Of course, spotty language needs to find a way to creep out of dusty dictionaries and into accepted publications. Enter A.W. Strouse, a professor at the City University of New York (CUNY). He’s tired of seeing the downtrodden masses being further downtrodden for their colorful and frequently ineffable choices of words these days. And not just in daily speech around the quad, either. He’s talking about language used in scholarly papers. (Washington Free Beacon)
A professor of medieval literature published an article Friday, in which he argued that students and scholars should not be “privileging certain forms of speech over others” and advocated for the use of “nonstandard,” “improper” English in academic work.
A.W. Strouse, who teaches at the City University of New York (CUNY) and the New School, claimed in Inside Higher Ed that it was a sign of “prejudices” to believe, for example, that overusing the word “like” in one’s speech is a sign of “unintelligence.”
“[L]inguists know that notions of ‘proper’ speech have nothing to do with ‘mastery’ and everything to do with how certain in-groups dictate propriety,” he wrote, criticizing the notion that speaking in slang or without decorum could impede one’s professional opportunities.
To Strouse, students’ use of the word “nigga” in class was a mark of being “members of groups that dwell outside of the white, middle-class milieu that governs academe in the United States.”
How one manages to be a professor while advocating the use of what he himself describes as “improper English” remains a mystery. Granted, most of his article is written with the skill of a master wordsmith, making it all the more ironic since he’s arguing that others shouldn’t be held to those standards in the realm of scholarly or professional writing.
For the record, I fall seriously short of those ideal goals myself here on a regular basis since these types of interactive discussion forums frequently lend themselves to a more casual voice and more than a little sarcasm, but then again I’m not publishing peer-reviewed papers here either. And even if I were, being one of those privileged white spaces people that Strouse was talking about (who is also a white man, just for the record), I wonder how well I would do trying to use that word which begins with an “N” which he referenced in the excerpt above? Something tells me it would be a brief and catastrophic experiment.
And that’s really part of the larger point here, going well beyond discussions of social justice or the impact of poverty on education. Language is supposed to be – at a bare minimum – standardized so that everyone ostensibly speaking (or reading) the same tongue can communicate. Once you being approving certain verbiage only for one subset of users, the mission is on its way to a critical failure.
So what sort of college education are your children getting these days? If they’re taking Professor Strouse’s class on medieval poetry, they were assigned a paper where they had to use the word “bromance.” And hey… why not? It’s already in Webster’s.
Somewhere the original Noah Webster is rolling over in his grave.