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Letters

By David PankratzRichard T. Hart, Joel Crandall, and Branko Radetich / December 10, 1998



Rules of usage versus real communication

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The opinion piece "English on the chopping block" (Dec. 7) was little more than a laundry list of "don'ts" in proper English, and was rather unenlightening to anyone who might actually be interested in the underlying grammatical rules.

I doubt if English will disintegrate just because not everyone knows the difference between "I" as a subject and "me" as an object. Although I understand why such constructions as "between you and I," for example, are technically incorrect, in reality language is dynamic and changes over time regardless of the rules. That's precisely why we aren't addressing our colleagues as "Ye" and the family pet as "thou."

It's one thing to apply the rules consistently, and another to communicate effectively. I can only imagine my wife's reaction were I to come home announcing "Hello, it's I!"

Computers generate patterns and paradigms flawlessly; humans are much better at real communication.

David Pankratz

Chicago

Congratulations to Ted Rueter for the opinion piece "English on the chopping block." He opens again the "banalities in common English" issue. It appears that the folks most heard on the air and read in print have had the least education in the use of the language.

Maybe Mr. Rueter would develop a review course for sportscasters, field reporters, editors, and all the other high-profile media people, and for politicians and others frequently on public display. Whether we like it or not, these people set the patterns for much of what our youth (and adults) see as proper English.

Richard T. Hart

Watsonville, Calif.

I thoroughly enjoyed "English on the chopping block," particularly the Orwellian reference. May I add a favorite to his list?

I hear the governor of Pennsylvania is well pleased with the license-plate slogan "You've got a friend in Pennsylvania." Such a pity, when I remember that my mother, with immigrant parents and only a Pennsylvania grade school education to instruct her, never misused the English language.

Joel Crandall

Arlington, Va.

Balkans hot spot?

For years I have been reading your articles about Serbia, and finally I have to respond to "The next Balkans hot spot?" (Dec.1). It is surprising that you can find trouble where there is none. My mother is from Vojvodina, and I have many relatives there (of course I am a Serb), and so many of them are appalled with Milosevic and his politics. But that is not to say that they think that they are not Serb. Most of them want some form of economic autonomy, which is understandable. Vojvodina contributes 40 percent of economy with 2.2 million people. But they are not there to create Greater Hungary (or Romania or Croatia).

Serbs of Vojvodina have been leaders in preserving Serbian culture and religion, and were often more tolerant of others than others were of them. Vojvodina is an integral part of Serbia and is going to stay such. Serbs of Vojvodina are the ones, I believe, who might bring change and lead the rest of the country into prosperity.

There is no comparison with Albanians of Kosovo, who led the country in the other direction.

Political parties mentioned in the article are nothing but outsiders with very little support. Your writer should have devoted time to others that represent legitimate forces of change, such as the Serbian Renewal Movement, which has a far greater following.

Branko Radetich

Columbus, Ohio

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