Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Me and Him

Mike Mentzer, writing for the Clapham Commentary (E-mail subscription only), laments the erosion of grammatical standards in the King's English:

During halftime of the NCAA lacrosse finals, two Duke players were describing the key to successful passing and shot making. "Me and him have to have eye contact."

Me and him?

There was a time not too long ago when "me and him" would have been considered bad form and poor grammar. More formal language was the key to success in making the world a better place. Today however casual language like "me and him" is considered more "authentic." Formal language is deemed to be detached. The poles have been reversed. Should we care? How does formal language make our world and us better?

Movies migrated to our lips in the 1960s, writes linguist John McWhorter. The sixties' rebellion against authority included overthrowing formal language for the casual language of everyday life (or, in McWhorter's words, beer-drinking speech). Casual language gained a reputation as intimate and "authentic." Formal language was disdained as detached and distant, boring and insincere.

Well, maybe that's part of it, but I have another theory about why standards in grammar have declined.

I suspect that in the sixties and seventies white guilt placed a lot of teachers in a dilemma. Minorities, particularly African-Americans, speak in a patois that is often grammatically atrocious even if culturally endearing. White teachers, confronted by minority students who seemed unable or unwilling to conform to grammatical convention, were faced with a difficult choice. If they demanded proper grammar from their students they looked like whitey imposing his standards on the black man by trying to make him "talk white." This would surely be seen as racist and oppressive and no self-respecting liberal white person wanted to be tarnished with that brush. But what to do?

The answer was simple in a relativistic world: abandon traditional grammatical rules and just let everyone decide for himself what was proper speech. Rather than maintain one standard for whites and a different one for blacks it was easier to just relax standards for both.

As with morals in the post-modern world so with everything, what's right is whatever works for you ... and he.


They Walk Among Us

Now we read that teams of Taliban suicide bombers have been dispatched to the U.S. to kill as many of us as possible. Makes you wish there was a fence in place along our southern border:

Large teams of newly trained suicide bombers are being sent to the United States and Europe, according to evidence contained on a new videotape obtained by the Blotter on

Teams assigned to carry out attacks in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Germany were introduced at an al Qaeda/Taliban training camp graduation ceremony held June 9.

A Pakistani journalist was invited to attend and take pictures as some 300 recruits, including boys as young as 12, were supposedly sent off on their suicide missions.

"It doesn't take too many who are willing to actually do it and be able to slip through the net and get into the United States or England and cause a lot of damage," said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism official.

No, it doesn't take too many, especially when the net is as porous as our border and those whose responsibility it is to protect us see no urgency in securing that border.


Israel Prepares for War

The London Times Online reports that war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is inevitable:

Israel's new defence minister Ehud Barak is planning an attack on Gaza within weeks to crush the Hamas militants who have seized power there. According to senior Israeli military sources, the plan calls for 20,000 troops to destroy much of Hamas's military capability in days.

The raid would be triggered by Hamas rocket attacks against Israel or a resumption of suicide bombings.

Barak, who is expected to become defence minister tomorrow, has already demanded detailed plans to deploy two armoured divisions and an infantry division, accompanied by assault drones and F-16 jets, against Hamas.

The Israeli forces would expect to be confronted by about 12,000 Hamas fighters with arms confiscated from the Fatah faction that they defeated in last week's three-day civil war in Gaza.

Israeli officials believe their forces would face even tougher resistance in Gaza than they encountered during last summer's war against Hezbollah in south Lebanon.

A source close to Barak said that Israel could not tolerate an aggressive "Hamastan" on its border and an attack seemed unavoidable. "The question is not if but how and when," he said.

Presumably, the Israelis will fight this war more aggressively than they fought Hezbollah last summer. The question is, assuming they defeat Hamas, what do they do then with Gaza? None of the options seem appealing. They could reoccupy it, or they could turn it over to Fatah, or they could set up a government more congenial to Israeli interests. Unfortunately, such a government is not likely to be popular with the masses.

Israel may rid itself of Hamas but they're not likely to rid themselves of the problems indigenous to Gaza.