Monday, March 18, 2013

Where Did the Consonants Go?

I'm not sure why misuse of the language gets me fired up. But it does. I've been that way since I can remember. I guess it's what makes me the logophile that I am. Here's my latest rant on my belief that our language is being ushered down the porcelain facility.

I'm driving down the road recently when I tune the radio to the broadcast of a high school basketball game. I have no idea who was doing the broadcast or who was playing, except to say that one of the teams was nicknamed the "Spartans". A few seconds into my listening experience the young man (I say young man because he sounded young to me) calling the play-by-play says..."And the rebound goes to the Spar-uhns". And I said to myself..."What? The Spar-uhns?" I must not have heard him correctly. So I decided to leave the broadcast on the radio as I drove on to see if I misunderstood.

Sure enough, a few moments later out comes..."The Spar-uhns bring it up the court". So now I realize what I'm hearing is one of the quirks in modern speech that has been brought about by the younger generation's exposure to popular music and the so-called "Hip-Hop" culture. In this strange speech pattern, the consonant, usually a T, in the middle of multi-syllabic words gets abandoned in favor of a last syllable that starts with a vowel. No sooner did I realize this was what was happening in my basketball broadcast, than it happened again with a double whammy..."The Spar-uhns star-ing lineup features..etc.etc". Wow! This really got me going.

So I listened on. And as I drove along, otherwise enjoying the game description, this man-behind-the-microphone continued to treat me to variations on the theme.

"That long shot ra-uhls the rim." (rattles)
"Time will tell if the Spar-uhns can whi-uhl away at the lead." (whittle)
"This is really a heck of a ba-uhl going on here tonight." (battle)

Are you ge-ing where I'm coming from with this? When this kind of thing gets started, over a period of months/years/decades the population loses sight of what is correct pronunciation and what isn't. The language gets bastardized and the lowest-common-denominator street lingo somehow becomes acceptable.

Ladies and Gen-uhlmen, (oops) Please join with me to help put a stop to the dumbing down of our perfectly fine language into a collection of words that are misused and abused. I hope the next time you hear someone botching up a word or words in this way you will ask them to sit down in front of a playing of the recent movie Lincoln. Perhaps Daniel Day-Lewis and Mr. Lincoln's revisited speeches and stories can display what a precious tool, effective commodity, and lovely personality trait proper speech can be.

Thursday, March 07, 2013


I realize it's much more interesting to people who have an SIU connection, but the recent board of trustees controversy is giving me flashbacks. It was long, long ago...or maybe just yesterday...when I was a mass communications student at SIU-E. Either way, I vividly remember the on-going discussion between students, and some outspoken professors, about how the Edwardsville campus was always getting "second class-citizen"  treatment in most all decisions made at the board level.

"We need to be our own university", we would say.
"It's not fair, why should Carbondale get all the money", someone would add.
"How come they can play football there and we can't", another would chime in.
"It's all those Chicago politicians who have no idea about anything south of Joliet who are controlling things", was a popular thought. "Let's stage a protest...yeah that's it...a protest". Protests were big back then. We rarely actually had them, but it was always cool to suggest.

Whenever the discussion came around to the quality of education, faculty members, sports facilities, and a host of other things, it was generally thought that Edwardsville got short shrift because it was the "new kid on the block" and had many less students to be served. Carbondale was the jewel. Edwardsville was the coal. Whether it was justified or not, that's what many of us who were Cougars thought about the relationship with our Saluki brethren. In the months/decades (take your pick) since I was a student there, things have changed dramatically with E picking up momentum as to student population and C struggling to maintain it's customary numbers.

Now, because of politics, there is huge controversy as to the makeup of the board of trustees. Governor Pat Quinn, in what many see as a political vendetta, has dumped the three Metro-East board members and appointed three Carbondale grads to replace them. Read the full story here from StLToday's esteemed Pat Gauen. Whatever Quinn's reasons in his own mind, it's seen by many as a move to have a governor-friendly board president; one who will do what Quinn wants to do with the SIU system.

In any case, the move has sparked a couple of bills in Springfield that would require more equity on the board and assure Edwardsville's voice is heard. One of the bills, introduced by state Rep Jay Hoffman, rekindles the effort to separate the campuses into independent universities. With all of the bad will that the governor has managed to create for himself in the state capitol, maybe Edwardsville, "the growing and vibrant", will finally be autonomous of Carbondale, "the original, but not so vibrant". I think for most of us who were handed a Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville degree, we would say that it couldn't come soon enough.

Monday, March 04, 2013

When it's Your Time...

It's hard to imagine anything more unexpected or terrifying. When you are lying in bed and the earth suddenly opens up beneath your house and swallows you up, I guess  you were just meant to go. Unbelievable? Yes. But it happened to 36-year-old Jeff Bush in a Tampa suburb last Friday. And it could happen to someone near you.

I happen to live in the area of southern St. Clair County Illinois known as The Sinkhole Plain. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources knows all about it. And it has documented the phenomenon in this interesting little report. As I drive around the area where I live there are sinkholes everywhere. It's called karst terrain, and it's easy to see that's it's different than most of the land in southern Illinois and Missouri. Most of the sinkholes have been stable for hundreds of years, according to a geologist I ran into studying a creek near my home a few years ago. He said most of the sinkholes were formed back in the day when the Mississippi River was carving it's way through the middle of the continent and sucking all sorts of soil and rock downstream with it. The holes on top of the nearby limestone bluffs collapsed in places creating the sinkholes.

They say at any time the next big earthquake could come along and shake everything around the holes loose to the point where homes, and all sorts of nearby material could be pulled into one of these surface weaknesses and be lost into an underground cave or river.

No, I don't think about it very much. But it's definitely possible. And if you're going to get struck by lightning...or sucked up in a tornado...or get buried in a sinkhole,  I figure there's not much you can do about it and your time has just expired. Not many of us go out on our own terms anyway. So if my wife chooses to worry about such things, that's her choice. I think I won't.