“Colloquial” Does Not Have to Equate with “Ignorant”
I’ve written more than one post criticizing non-standard usage on television and will probably write more.
A frequent opinion among the wonderful readers who take the time to comment is that I may have unreasonable expectations regarding the use of standard English on television.
One recent comment especially gave me pause:
…the misuse of pronouns is valid because that’s how people speak. It would sound odd to most people’s ears if a ‘normal’ character in a show spoke correctly rather than with the colloquialisms and oddities that have become intrinsic to spoken English.
Can this be true? Is there some kind of automatic disconnect between correct speech and colloquial speech?
I don’t think so.
Colloquial speech is informal, but it is not of necessity ungrammatical.
Trying to define such terms as “colloquialism” is always dangerous, especially nowadays when anti-authoritarianism is the dominant philosophy.
I think most of us would probably agree with these definitions of colloquialism:
an expression considered more appropriate to familiar conversation than to formal speech or to formal writing –Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary
[words or expressions] characteristic of or only appropriate for ordinary, familiar or informal conversation rather than formal speech or writing. –Wikipedia
It’s not always easy to distinguish between colloquialisms, regionalisms, and slang.
“Y’all” is a common expression in regional dialects, but it can also be considered a colloquialism since it is universally understood by most English speakers.
“Catch you later” may be slang, but if we continue to use it, it will be a colloquialism.
“Me and my mother went to the cabin that summer” is just bad English.
We can relax our speech without trashing conventional grammatical structure.
I grant you that “To whom do you wish to speak?” sounds stilted, but “My mother and I went to the cabin that summer” sounds, well–normal.
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