LANGUAGE OLIO 3: our are

“’All the things they used to turn to our gone,’ said … a[n] … emergency services worker.”

‘Abuse victims in Joplin struggle to find housing’, Iowa City Press-Citizen  Friday 23 December 2011

In this article rightly deploring the lack of public services in Joplin MO after the 22 May tornado that devastated the town earlier this year, the statement above addresses the social chaos and dysfunction still existing in that community, especially among abused women.  The phonetic (?) spelling ‘our’ for ‘are’ can hardly be imputed to the worker cited, since she did not spell but merely pronounced the word.  The fault here lies entirely with the writer, the editor, or the copy-editor (or all three) for letting something like that slip through.

Again, one might wonder, “So what?  You understand what was meant, right?”  Conceded!  “Hvr hbawt z n?” Or, “However, how about this one?”  OK, I am pushing the envelope here, I admit it, and language does undergo diachronic (i.e, historical, over time) change – otherwise we’d all be speaking proto-Indo-European (or proto-Cro-Magnon, maybe even proto-Neanderthal?).

But where do you draw the line?

If we assume that this kind of linguistic/orthographic  ‘drift’ were to persist, would someone growing up speaking San Diego English be able to read something written by someone growing up in rural Georgia?  how about British Columbia English and East End Cockney?  and so on?  True, orthography is very much a very tardy late-comer to human language, and a formalized-standardized orthography even more so a late-comer, but today at least the written English language is clear to all English speakers [such trivial differences as e.g. labor/labour aside — cf. here] – a far milder version of what exists in today’s China with its one standard written language anchoring numerous mutually unintelligible spoken dialects.

Whatever lies behind the above ‘our’ for ‘are’ – ignorance, sloppiness, indifference – I would not favor encouraging this kind of thing in mindless obeisance to a political correctness about something like ‘integrity of personal expression’ or some similar drivel of that ilk:  ‘our’ ≠ ‘are’ and ‘are’ ≠ ‘our’ – at least not quite yet!

Monday 26 December 2011



Language OLIO
1: Introduction       2: than 

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5 Responses to LANGUAGE OLIO 3: our are

  1. That is a pretty big mistake!

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