I ain't a prude, Part 2

SINCE there was such a large response to the ``I ain't a prude'' column, dealing with the English spoken on television, it seems only fair to do one more and include some of the pet peeves from readers. And one more will be the absolute end, even though it's like trying to describe what's wrong with the government on a post card. One reader complains that Barbara Walters, when talking about art, always says ``pitcher.'' On the other hand, Barbara Walters gets a lot of things right, so perhaps we shouldn't complain.

Several readers groan when TV personalities try to show their respect for proper speech by saying, ``He will be with you and I.'' It is especially groanworthy when such mistakes are made by members of Congress who have just had a raise in salary. (They would probably say they got it ``irregardless'' of their objections.)

Most complaints come from readers about the ads done by prominent actors, using words like ``diper,'' ``Febuary,'' ``realator,'' and phrases such as ``most unique.'' There is a special complaint from my wife that commentators too often use the word ``nucular'' when talking about the bomb.

Speaking of bombs, it seems the biggest grammatical bombs are dropped by sportscasters: ``It was him who made the score...'' is commonplace. It seems to be a rule that anyone interested in sports is not allowed to use good English.

No less a lexicological deity than William Safire supports the correctness of ``It is me,'' so one has to accept it. In his convoluted way he defends it as established idiom. What it boils down to is that if poor English is used persistently enough, it makes correct English seem pompous and thus to be avoided, which proves one can't fight city hall. And one can't fight city streets, either.

I think we should continue to insist on high standards of speech, even in a world where all standards seem to be pushed aside. At the same time we can be grateful that English, even when misspoken, can be understood, as in the case of the foreigner explaining to his friend why he had no children by saying his wife was ``inconceivable.''

His meaning was clear at least on the second time around.

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