A Modest Proposal

August 10, 2008
By Kaili Doud, Kalamazoo, MI


It is a painful and surprisingly difficult feat in today’s society to tune the radio to your preferred station and hear an artist who pleasantly sings to you in the voice of a good, educated English grammar school graduate. Likewise, certain television commercials for new and seemingly-necessary cervical cancer prevention vaccines have recently displayed their first-rate knowledge of the difference between the terms ‘few’ and ‘less.’ Proper grammar and correctness in the usage of everyday words, in our admirable American culture, is regrettably becoming a thing of the past. Our English language is rapidly evolving into what we will soon refer to as the American tongue, and, God love them, the Filipinos are laughing at us. It seems that the size of our country and the number of citizens exposed to its horridly incorrect media make hope appear slim in the prevention of negligent speech. I however, have formulated a plan.

For several hours now, I have ruminated said plan during every living second of my spare time, and at last I have eliminated any negative consequences that had existed prior to its perfection. Because I surely cannot be the only member of the educated public who sees poor grammar in the so-called ‘popular’ culture as being a demeaning (if not merely aggravating) issue, I propose that all media of any nature must, under severe penalty of law, be proofread and approved before ever reaching America’s (for lack of a better word) ‘virgin’ ears.*

The days of listening to the Backstreet Boys croon “does his friends get all your time?” and T-Pain offering to “buy you a drank” will no longer exist. The slogan-writer for Gardasil® will have been thrown out and replaced by a woman who says “I want to be one fewer!” We won’t even feel the slightest bit obligated to listen to our very own George W. Bush inform us that “our childrens do learn” because he will have been kicked out of office and sentenced to ten years behind the lovely metal bars. Imagine a world where no one has to bite his or her tongue to keep from correcting a friend who says “Me and him went to the store,” or who must resist the urge to add an apostrophe to the non-possessive “its” on the email they just received from their less-than-commendable employer, because any such language-offender will have been swiftly carted off. This world seems like an unreachable utopia, but with time and brutal discipline, I believe it can happen.

While a few examples of the countless advantages to my scheme have been pointed out, the greatest of them include these: A more intellectual and finer example for the public; a better appreciation for the beauty of the English language; a greater nationalistic sentiment among learned American citizens; a more serious reputation for the speech, media, and administration of our country; and finally, the harsh chastisement of those grammatically lethargic people who have driven you insane up to the current point in time.

Despite this proposal’s sardonic view of the matter, I truly do see the laxness in the use of the English language as being a staid present issue. The usage of language and the ability to communicate in a professional, appropriate manner is extremely important in today’s world, and it seems that soon the country’s idea of “professional” will be very different. Perhaps bringing attention to the matter will encourage a better awareness of what we are saying and hearing. Unfortunately it’s too late for The Doors to find a better solution to “…till the stars fall from the sky / for you and I,” but perhaps a certain pop star can find a way to include an adequate number of syllables in his lyrics without announcing that his heart bleeded.

* ‘Media,’ in its most basic definition, includes all music and televised, written, web-posted, or auditory broadcastings, as well as any political figures intended for exposure to the general public.

The author's comments:
This piece was inspired by "A Modest Proposal" by Johnathan Swift, who, in 1729, proposed that the impoverished Irish sell their children as food in order to solve their economic burdens and make them useful to the public. It is meant to be satirical, but at the same time bring to the surface an issue in today's society.

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