“He played aggressive.”
“She ran good.”
The question is not so much, where in the world have people who describe events or activities in such a fashion, been educated? It is more, why has has our education and teaching produced such deplorable grammar?
What has happened to the good old adverb, which qualifies another word, such as an adjective or verb and which, of course, in the examples given should have been ‘aggressively’ and ‘well’?
What has happened to our teachers who have failed to produce students who can speak the English language properly? In my research, I have found that Canadian education standards are pretty high – far higher than those in our friends to the south.
eudemic is a site dedicated to providing teachers and all involved in educating our children and with a mission “Create awesome students”. From time to time it rates educational systems around the world. Unfortunately, I could find only its last available report for 2014. Fortunately for us, Canada ranked 7th, right under Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland and the UK. The USA ranked well below at 14th place.
Another site, WorldKnowing.com ranks, among many categories ranging from olive oil to prostitution, levels of education and students. Here is a table showing the 2017 rankings:
|Rank||Country Name||System Index|
In yet another site, it’s interesting to see that in the 2017 WhichCountry.co rankings, Canada is also at seventh place and USA also at fourteenth. The other rankings are:
1. South Korea
4. Hong Kong
Many years ago, when I was young and charming (credit Gilbert & Sullivan’s Butterfly in HMS Pinnafore), I was working as the risk manager for a large international multi-integrated company which built an airport in Sri Lanka, a number of hydro-dams and other large projects in Canada. As part of my job, I was to review the plans, specifications and blueprints for all the projects. In doing my research, I would interview the engineers and ask them to provide me with details in written form as well.
I was astounded.
Virtually all the engineers coming out of university could not write sentences completely. Verbs would be left out. Elementary grammar and spelling errors occurred almost on every line. I could not believe what I was reading. Otherwise well-educated young people who could not complete a simple sentence in English without error.
At the time, I was chair of a school board in metro Winnipeg and I obtained an interview with the Dean of Engineering, University of Manitoba, the object of which was to try to get English as part of the Engineering degree course, and I offered examples of recent graduates’ descriptions of what their part in a current project entailed. I cannot remember anything of the interview from fifty plus years ago, but I do believe I was at the very least instrumental in getting English in as a course in Engineering.
So, although our country is quite well-regarded in educational circles, I still hear many local kids and, worse yet, sportscasters and sports people ignoring the common ly at the end of many adjectives.
Here is a quote from a CAA site: Use your CAA membership to save big. Of course, no-one in today’s world would know that the correct adverb is bigly. And it would sound very strange to most people’s ears. But it could have been written more precisely with still the punch, Use your CAA membership to get big savings.
Recently, I was reading a recipe in which pork was slow-roasted. To me, that gives the end before the process. Surely, it would be more appealing to write, the pork was roasted slowly in the oven. I can almost imagine the smell as the pork is becoming more and more succulent as it spends time in the oven. Slow-roasted is inadequate. It just doesn’t imply smelling and juiciness.
Take a look at the chalkboards on Argyle Street or Spring Garden Road the next time you walk down one of those streets or some such restaurant row in your city. See how many fresh-squeezed orange juices, or fresh-caught haddock you can spot. And writing about food, how about the term eat healthy, which is very frequently used these days. What does it really and literally mean? We know the verb eat and what it means, but healthy can only mean whatever we are talking about is healthy in itself. You may be a healthy person, you can eat apples, but you cannot eat healthy. Healthy is not a noun. Your trainer is healthy. So is your bank account – hopefully. Healthy, a pure adjective describes nothing in the term eat healthy. Advertisers really mean to say eat healthily or healthfully, not healthy.
In my estimation, written purely from a lay point of view, for I am neither a teacher nor an educator, although I admit to being a volunteer Chair of an adult literacy network, our governments and school administrators have endeavoured to even the playing field for all children attending public schools. Note that I say, public schools, for private schools, in my estimation, frequently produce a far more rounded personality and a more complexly educated person because they allow for more gifted children advancing at their own pace and giving them latitude to experiment and explore rather than holding them back with the rest of the students in the crowded classrooms. Can that be an explanation – or are the teachers just not as well practised in the English language as they should be?
Whatever the answer, adverbs are disappearing and leaving some of us reading descriptions of scenes or activities directly, head-on crash, not with the wholesomeness of description that adverbs can describe. Would you want a love scene to be described in the same manner as a news item might describe a crime scene. In the latter, a blood-spattered wall, the victim in a body bag with furniture upset all around demonstrating a frightening struggle. The former might be seen as two lovers sitting quietly, gently stroking each others’ cheeks in the faintly shining moonlight. In the crime scene, there are no adverbs: in the lovers’ scene, there are several, softening and amplifying the evening.
So, we lexophiles, philologists and grammarians will continue to use words wisely, correctly, hopefully befittingly and, sadly, perhaps wistfully, as we witness the describing adverb disappearing slowly.