Re: feedback and sharing knowledge

Damien Broderick (
Sat, 27 Sep 1997 11:30:41 +0000

At 02:18 PM 9/26/97 -0700, Lee wrote of:

>> Even when I go abroad and have to speak English,
>> no-one has ever said I had a bad knowledge of the English language,
>> you're the first and I would like to know why.

>You're English is pretty good

Oh, dear, yes, it is to laugh. There seems to be a deeply embedded program
in the brain that ensures that when we comment on the spelling or
grammatical oddities perpetrated by other people we commit one of our own.

> many less educated English speakers
>incorrectly follow the Spanish rule, and so they /will/ say "I don't
>know nothing".

In fact, the propositional structure of English and indeed every natural
language is so flexible and open to arbitrary fashion that the real `error'
or solecism in using `don't know nothing' is its class origins rather than
anything to do with logic. One is marking oneself as insufficiently
middle-class, in reality or aspiration. I suppose anarchists ought to be
opposed to such controlling impositions. On the other hand, normative
English is deeply pleasurable for those of us who have spent many years
learning its quirks and subtleties. So, despite Steven Pinker's populist
strictures in THE LANGUAGE INSTINCT, I can't help myself flying into a rage
when Americans say with a shrug, `I could care less' when they plainly mean
to convey that they could *not* care less, that is, that they already care
nothing about the matter in question. And then there's the errant
apostrophe's that creep into the end's of word's... Sigh.

Damien Broderick