It’s not cool anymore to judge people for not talking or writing good.
But then, it never really was.
The well-educated and well-spoken have never had a dominant hold on American culture.
A hundred years ago, H.L. Mencken said that an American could distinguish himself as a prince among his fellow citizens simply by having read 50 good books.
But I know many Americans who haven’t read five, since graduating from school. (And know some self-published authors who have written more books than they’ve read, as a British speechwriter friend once snottily said.)
I hear college-educated people say, “Him and me should have went ….” I doubt that would have been the case even a generation ago.
Nobody uses “notoriety” correctly anymore; it’s erroneously and almost exclusively used, even by media people who should know better for a living, as a synonym for “fame.” Which leaves us badly needing a new noun describing the main possession of the notorious.
Everybody under 30 refers to the “ground” as the “floor.” As in, “Walking down the street, I tripped and fell right on the floor.” Fine, I guess? But that’s as hard on my old ears as it would be to hear someone talking about sweeping the kitchen ground.
And again, there was no literate heyday—not in America, anyway. Not long ago I was listening to a radio broadcast of the D-Day invasion, and the announcer said, “I have no doubt that Hitler was literally caught with his pants down.”
Fella shoulda went to his composition classes.
The question is: Do we even care anymore? Like, care enough to annoy our children by interrupting them to make corrections? I used to. I don’t anymore. Partly because my child is older now, and I don’t want to mar our precious conversations. And partly because I think, It just doesn’t matter anymore.
Yes: Just as I hope that she doesn’t get invited to a dinner at the White House and put her elbows on the table, I hope she knows to code-switch in an interview with a fancy would-be employer, and not say, “Me and Frank collaborated on the project,” the way she sometimes says, “Me and Maiia went out for Taco Tuesday.”
But I’m also increasingly convinced that the would-be employer won’t make her pay any price for that. And I’m starting to think that my grammatical rabbit ears, except for their ability to help me make a living in and around the other snots who inhabit the writing business, are about as useful as my appendix.