The (d)Evolution of the English Language


It don’t make no difference if me and you talk right. It ain’t that important.

If the above sentence didn’t make you cringe while you read it, you are in the minority. According to Martha S. Lyon, in a response to the question What percentage of people might be using correct grammar while speaking an English sentence? :

While that is an estimate based on one person’s experience and, as such, could vary by 10%–20%, I am reasonably certain that no more than 25% of us speak English correctly.

I’ll confess that immediately after graduating from high school, my excellent grammar skills were so honed it was all I could do not to correct people. I have since learned this is known as Grammatical Pedantry Syndrome, which only served to establish my nerdy status in college.

Now, in my 50’s, I have, for the most part, succumbed to the daily bombardment of poor grammar. I even hear myself use it from time to time (*gasp!*). I’ve learned to “pick my battles”, as it were. And this year I had a recent revelation.

It occurs to me that the English language (and for that matter, probably all languages ) are constantly evolving. Everything evolves, changes, and grows or else it remains stagnant–it’s just one of those Universal Truths. Language is no different. It’s the reason we don’t speak like Chaucer or Shakespeare today.

Keeping in mind language is not static, I considered that maybe we shouldn’t cringe at double negatives and prepositions at the ends of sentences.  What if, in 50 or 100 years, such things are considered correct?  I think there’s a good chance this is the direction in which English is going.

So next time I’m within earshot of incorrect grammar usage, I’ll rein in my urge to correct them and, with a sigh of resignation, I’ll acknowledge that I’m witnessing the inescapable evolution of my mother tongue.