One of the beauties, often overlooked, in the English language is the creativity that already exists in modern day writing. America is given endless recognition by countries worldwide for its movie production abilities and talented music. But writing is the center of both of these major institutions. A successful movie needs a creative writer to produce a screenplay, and a respected song needs an inspirational musician, or poet, to compose lyrics. Anne Curzan’s ability to encourage a more individualistic style of writing by questioning the rules of grammar sounds like a great idea upon first thought. Further, critical thinking should never be suppressed, or discouraged, even regarding language use. However, the degree to which she pushes for change is radical and unnecessary, and would produce changes that simply fail to add any value to an already successful and accomplished system.
My first thought that challenges Anne Curzan’s opinion is the ability for people to learn English. English is hard language to learn already, due to all the exceptions in the rules. As a melting pot, we welcome people from all over the world, with many different backgrounds and values. We want people to learn English. Our language is one of the finer points that tie our country together. The more specific we are with our rules, including our ability to create and follow one set, makes the communication that much clearer, ultimately bringing our country closer together. It’s a shared success. Additionally, it is like a tradition. The English language has been created and perfected throughout time. Inspirational writers and well-respected individuals added and changed rules throughout time. The general population may not be the best critical thinkers, but I believe that if an individual said “do this in your writing” people would not just listen to them. If someone has the ability to make a rule, state why, and get people throughout the country to use and apply that rule, then I feel it deserves to be a rule. Essentially, Curzan can question the authors of many grammar books, and find reason not to follow them, but I think that if they make an informed decision that the country as a whole agrees enough to follow, then it deserves to be a rule.
Curzan delves deep into the specifics of language: the use of words such as “ain’t” and “hopefully” for example. In reality I think that a few words here and there are not making a difference in her overall argument. She’s saying that people should use these words as they want, regardless of whether they follow the rules. My standpoint is someone said “two negatives make a positive” and people agreed enough to follow it, so what would it achieve aside from confusion to change it back? There’s a natural way in which English evolves, and while we can think about it critically and influence it, it doesn’t bring us any value, or good to change things back. I think at this point we should keep the grammar rules as they are, and add to them for the future. It’s one thing to make a phrase, or statement clearer, but it’s another to reverse something that’s already there. Why fix something that’s not wrong? Additionally, many people take pride in these fundamental rules of the English language, so the fact that Anne Curzan doesn’t is more of an opinion than a call for change.
Another specific phrase that she addresses is “You and I” instead of “Me and You.” Further, she addresses our tendency to ‘judge’ those who say things like “aks” for “asks,” people who speak like that at their home. First of all, I do not think we’re ignorant or judgmental. Second, I do believe that there is a correlation between people who use proper English with those who demonstrate high levels of achievement in school. When you hear someone speak in their own version of the English language, it is, more often than not, coming from unmotivated people with a negative attitude. Again, I do not say this to be judgmental, but the people who speak in proper English simply carry themselves differently due to the long-term stigma associated with it. I think if we can teach these people proper English it would give them more pride, and surprise themselves with their capabilities. Further, it may inspire them to continue to write since their work will be more respected. Anne could argue that this type of school writing would not be more respected if everyone wrote in their own style, but there is a point where something is ingrained and unless it proves to be extremely harmful or disruptive, it’s not going to change. For example, genetically modified organisms, or genetically engineered chemicals are known to be harmful and cause disease, but they are still in the foods many people eat day to day because once the business took off there was not enough resistance to turn it around. The current ways of our English language will essentially stay the way they are also because it is not a topic people (generally) are self-motivated in to research and change.
America is composed of smart people, who I think can handle a challenge. So my challenge would be to be creative while still playing by the rules of the game. Curzan presents her article as if there is no room left for creativity, but my overall point is to argue there is. If anyone can make a statement that sticks enough to be spread throughout the country, than it deserves to be a part of the English language. You can follow the grammar rules and still have plenty of rules in academic papers for other forms of creativity. Moreover, creative word choice has a time and place, whether with friends or the Internet, and even more in poetry and music. I personally think schools should read more poetty, and spend more time analyzing song lyrics. I think that would be a better, and more realistic route for Curzan to follow. That pushes people’s minds to write and interpret creatively, but in an area that those choices are more appropriate. Curzan mentions the questioning of certain words due to their ambiguity. In my opinion, ambiguity should not be present in academic or formal documents whereby specific interpretation is key, but is best fit and better used in songs and poetry.
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