Excellent topic! I'm a bit of a nerd, although I still have much to learn (don't we all?). I would like to be an English teacher someday. Yes, I know this sets me up to be scrutinized all the more. In my defense/defence (I prefer British spelling even though I'm American, you might notice I use both), it is
after midnight, so I'm excused from any and all mistakes in this thread. (Not really, I'm just making a lame attempt to justify any mistakes I might make.
The theory of a change in American English pronunciation is interesting. I once saw a film in which Jacqueline Kennedy was giving a tour of the White House, and I remember thinking to myself, "she pronounces things really weird for an American." But if you go back and look at any movie from... oh, I'd say the 60's or earlier... you'll find they pronounced things differently. Specifically, they used better diction and more clearly pronounced the vowels. There was also a more noticeable difference in regional dialects, from what I can tell, and more of an agreement as to what is the "proper" way to say things. I took an interesting little test on Facebook recently, called "Which North American accent do you have?" It asked how I pronounce certain words, and then told me exactly
where in the country I lived. It was eerily accurate. Obviously people do still speak according to their locale, but I would think that, with all the easy travel and "shrinking of the world" these days, dialects would become more muddled.
One of my pet peeves is the way younger people pronounce things. I'm only 25, and when I was in high school, it was just starting. Now it seems rampant. I'm not really sure how to explain it adequately, especially via text, but they tend to put a lot of "ell" sounds where they don't belong. When I was in school, I knew people who said "ill" instead of "eww" but they pronounced it sort of like "ull." They just seem to talk more with their mouths closed, more muffled, in the back of their throats... I'm not really sure how to describe it, but it annoys me!
I'm sad to admit, I think the decline in quality of American English can also be attributed to one of my vices: the internet. It has gotten much worse with mobile phone "texting." I understand laziness with texting because you've got at least three letters on each button, so if you want to type the word "dear," you need to type d, wait two full seconds (or hit an extra button to skip to the next letter), then type the e, and so on. It's especially annoying with words that have a lot of repeated letters, like "mom." But laziness online is just laziness, in my humble opinion. The standard keyboard Americans use is designed to be as easy to use as possible, with the keys laid out in places where our brains are most likely to go for them, according to their use in our language. I do use the shortened form of phrases when I'm chatting online, such as "brb" for "be right back," but that's about it. I almost never shorten words
. I cringe when I see stuff like "how r u 2day? lol, wutsup? kewl"
Sorry for the side tangent. My point is that these sub-cultures have seeped into mainstream use. Have you seen those commercials for the cell phone? I can't even remember which company it is, but the commercials are hilarious. The lady asks her elderly mother, "who are you
texting?" and the old woman answers, "idk, my bff, Rose!" (translation: I don't know, my best friend forever, Rose!" -- at least, I think
that's what the bff is...) The commercials crack me up because they're true, and believe it or not, I have actually heard people talk that way, out loud. While it's useful for the medium of text messages, it has started to become its own language, with which people are replacing normal English. Anyway, moving on to examples...
The noun use of 'affect' is indeed often used in psychology:Emotion, or the external display of emotion or mood."She showed appropriately sad affect after her father's death." "He seemed completely devoid of affect."
Not to step on any toes, but I would like to make a slight amendment to an earlier post. The word "to" is not actually a modification
of a verb. It is the infinitive form
of a verb. For example, in Spanish, "ar" is a word ending commonly used to denote the infinitive:
Hablar = to talk
Halbo = I talk (first person)
Hablamos = we talk (plural first-and-second person)
I know that probably doesn't make much difference to a native English-speaker, but for those whose native tongue is something else, and who have perhaps taken English courses, this might be more significant."He wanted to swim yesterday, but it was rainy." "I love to take long baths when I want to relax."
Whose and who's:Who's is a contraction."Who's going to buy these shirts? They have holes in them!" "She wanted to know who's planning to attend the party."Whose is a term of posession."Whose muddy boots are these?" "Whose book did you borrow?"
Accept and except:Accept: to receive or admit."I will accept your apology, and I forgive you." "Congratulations, you have been accepted into the university."Except, as a preposition, means "but.""I like all fruits except bananas." "There is nothing left in the old apartment except the bed frame."Except, as a conjunction, is used to indicate an exemption from something previously stated."This song reminds me of my favourite one, except it is faster." "She will accept all students, except those unwilling to learn."Except, as a verb, means to exclude or omit.
This usage is rarer.Examples: "I will except the blue marbles from my collection because I don't like blue." "The diabetic woman has excepted the sugar from her cookie recipe."
Well and good:Well, besides being something from which we draw water, is an adverb. That is, it describes a verb."The artist paints portraits very well." "The song was sung very well."Good is an adjective. That is, it describes a noun."The artist paints good portraits." "This is a good book."
This may be debatable, but also in words starting with "h" with a vowel sound when the "h" is silent: An historic record.
I've never pronounced "historic" without the h, nor have I ever heard anyone else do so, but I've always wondered why it's sometimes preceded with "an" in print.
We also say an f, h, m, n, r, s, and x, but a U.
That's because the letters by themselves start with vowel sounds. I know there are actual spellings for individual letters (aitch is h) but I'm not sure what all of them are. In any case, u starts with a y sound (we wouldn't say "an yellow bird").
If it bothers you, you can always say, "Whenever someone feels sick, he or she can call the attending nurse."
That's what a lot of people do, but I find it to be inefficient. A single word would be more comfortable.