Still learning English

Published 7:31 pm Saturday, July 24, 2010

For the life of me I cannot remember who told me that learning was something you do your entire life, thus the word learning. If it was something you only accomplished in your youth it would be called something else. Maybe you would call it “learn’t,” short for “learned it.”

Aside from my apparent mastery of contractions — thus the word “learn’t” above — my battle with the English language has been one I am sure will go on for the rest of my life. In fact, I am almost certain I am destined to have something misspelled on my headstone.

Based on the number of both grammatical and spelling mistakes I have made in both my personal and professional life, it’s a given that either the date of my birth or the date of my death will be in error, or there will be something along the lines of “Here lays Timothy Reeves.” Yep, it should have said “lies.” Where was the little paper clip guy in Word when we needed him?

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My ongoing battle, as I have coined it, with the English language goes all the way back to my youth, riding in the car going to school and back home each and every day with two English teachers, my parents. For more than 30 years each, these two helped beat in the ridiculous rules of the high school students who were bound and determined to avoid learning just about anything.

They would discuss such things as literature, argue about prepositional phrases and sentence structure. “Hey dad! Turn up the radio,” I would often say on the ride home.

That battle raged all the way through school, through college and even into my career in journalism. To this day, I am still trying to win the argument that there should be such word as “swum” in the English language. “I had swum across the pool,” is both a ridiculous and correct phrase.

In fact, during my high school career I chose to not chase after the advanced diploma, simply because I did not want to tie up my extracurricular time with foreign language classes. I argued I had taken four years of high school English classes while attending high school in South Alabama. That in itself should stand for some kind of foreign language credit.

And I chuckle each time I hear a politician make the absurd statement that foreigners need to learn English before they can become a citizen. If we were smart we probably would start making sure current American citizens learn English before we moved on to anyone else.

But, regardless of my poor results in correcting an uncorrectable language, it appears I am destined to wage this battle for much longer.

If you catch a mistake in one of my stories or columns, please understand the effort put forth on my part and those who worked tirelessly to teach me, or even catch those mistakes. I’ll just go ahead and attribute it to the fact that I just hadn’t “learn’t” well enough.