Letter to the Editor: I seen it

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION – Whenever there is an accident, crime, fire, shooting or other newsworthy event the TV reporter invariably chooses to interview the dimmest person present. And what do they say as soon as the microphone is thrust in their face? “I seen it, or I seen him, or I seen them, or, I seen her, I seen the kids, or I seen the guy with the gun.”

Give me a break! Not only does it sound wrong, it is grammatically incorrect. The correct usage is, “I saw it,” whatever it was. You don’t have to be a teacher, writer, or linguist to figure this out. And nobody ever corrects these morons. They don’t know or care if they speak like an idiot.

Why does this phenomenon exist? I’m not sure, but it is probably the same syndrome that makes aliens land out in the country. That way a farmer, hunter or fisherman is the only one who sees the UFO. And what does he or she say, “I seen it, It come down out the sky glowing like a fire cracker lit on both ends and spewin’ out the middle.” There is one other guy who can confirm the above, but he’s a poacher and won’t admit he was there.

So we are stuck with these clueless eyewitnesses. Sometimes they’re humorous but most often they just sound stupid. Maybe the reporter should say, ‘Describe what you saw.” Then they would probably say, “What I seen is this.” I know it’s nitpicky but it is a pet peeve of mine. Like people confusing there, their, and they’re. This is something you have to see in writing to ascertain the right word. A person who writes, “It was there gun cuz I new he was gonna shoot it,” probably seen it happen.

So why be so holier than thou? Because there is a right and wrong way to speak and write our language. That’s why this whole text vocabulary and things like spell-check really bother me. If a little old lady writes LOL she means lots of love, not laugh out loud. That could be funny or cause serious misunderstandings. Millions of people are texting WTF when they have probably never said it during their lifetime.

We have an entire generation of young people who can’t spell. They just use spellcheck and move on. That doesn’t take into account the use of the word, homonyms, or homographs. These same people can’t tell time or tie their shoes. They can read time on a digital readout or connect the Velcro strips on their shoes. True, they can program our VCR for us, but that’s different.

England and America are two countries separated by a common language. It shouldn’t be the same for us and our youngsters.

Take a minute to ponder the following. What if the crime took place in front of the Harvard Law School and the alien landed at MIT? Then we might be faced with, “The alleged perpetrator, a Caucasian of medium build, brown hair and eyes, no distinguishing marks or tattoos was seen fleeing the scene.” Compare that with, “I seen a small white guy book.” Take your pick. Would you rather hear,”The creature, short in stature with an almond shaped head and encompassing green aura apparently tried to communicate in a tonal manner,” OR, “This strange little green dude made some weird noises and disappeared, I seen it.”

If the proper response is perhaps somewhere in between the two extremes mentioned above, it could be stated thusly, “I saw a little white guy run away or the funny sounding alien vanished.”

Maybe I have been too hard on our “seen” people. What prompted the above rambling rant was a rainstorm at Sun River. I was at the pool when it began to thunder and I saw several lightning strikes. I barely got home in time before I was drenched driving my golf cart. Along the way to my house I saw people standing in their garage or by the front door watching the deluge. It was as if they had never experienced rain before. It was the first time I saw it rain at my new home but not in my life. People ran out to look in the gulch or gully. It was a real frog strangler! The water was cascading down the street and over the rocks. A guy came walking back up the street when things had quieted down. “There was whitewater down there, I seen it,” he said. How did he know I was a reporter, I wondered.

Submitted by Larry Harris

Larry Harris is a Vietnam veteran and a retired teacher. He participates in a creative writing group at SunRiver St. George. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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24 Comments

  • llbigwave August 25, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Mr. Harris,

    I feel your pain. The main problem is one of perception. Most of us tend to see ourselves as average – even those who are well above average in literacy and education, such as yourself. When you listen to someone who has so much less command of the language than you do, you tend to see them as far below average. Then you wonder how there can possibly be so many of them. The real answer is that you are far above average, and those you see as being so far below average are actually closer to the real average, which is a sad state of affairs in its own right.

  • Nana August 25, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Amen. I have been trying to educate people as well. Another one that needs working on is “I done that”

    • EL JEFE August 25, 2014 at 1:05 pm

      And yet another one is when someone says, “it prolly was” instead of “it probably was”.
      I really hate this one…..

  • iseenthemwarshtherethingys August 25, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Language is constantly evolving, and it will forever be this way. Why would you base the intelligence of a person on how they speak. Book smarts are not the only way to gauge a persons knowledge. Yes to some it sounds silly, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t jump in to save the idiot reporter that was standing next to the edge of the water, as it gave way. We pass by so many smart people who would have been better for the job just because they don’t have a degree in sitting on their tushie and spending their hard earned cash to listen to a professor tell them he or she knows better. I understand your rant to a point, but I disagree with you attacking their intelligence. I use spell check all the time. The difference is I learn from my mistakes, and I am grateful for it. I’ve even looked up words on Google to learn what they mean again. Does that make me stupid? Maybe, but don’t you think it’s time we stop tearing each other apart, and become more accepting and supportive of what we can accomplish with each others strengths. For the record, I’m not saying there aren’t stupid people,

    • My Evil Twin August 25, 2014 at 8:53 am

      The thing is, that you are judged by the way you speak and write. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to agree with it. But I guarantee you that two resumes from job candidates who have the same experience and qualifications, are going to be looked at closely. And the better resume writer, will be interviewed first. It is just a fact of life. At least in any job worth taking your time to do.

  • My Evil Twin August 25, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Obviously Larry, you and I are both of a generation that was raised when usage of the English language mattered. Quite obviously, it no longer does, at least to the majority of people.
    You were talking about numbskulls talking to reporters. Unfortunately, I am talking about reporters, magazine and book editors and all entertainment media. It just drives me up a wall, to read this stuff. Now I’ve worked in enough barrios and ghettos to not be so bothered by what comes out of peoples mouths.
    But to see a newspaper article, or read a magazine or book, that has incorrect usage and grammar, written and edited by people who are supposed to be educated, is just sad. Talk about the “dumbing down of the American public!”
    I also see it on forums and comments, but that doesn’t bother me quite so much as many of those posts are written by uneducated people, and sometimes at least on this one, but mental deficients.
    Of course, the English language is a fluent things, and meanings change every day. New words are invented for applications that you and I couldn’t even begin to imagine, when we were in high school and college.
    As an example, I have no problem with “texting language” when folks are texting. Or particular language as written between two professionals of the same type of work.
    But for general usage, particularly written usage, keep the meanings so that everyone can understand what you are saying. And if you don’t have the education or the mental capacity to do it, then please ST…U! 🙂
    Ed. ellipsis.

  • Randy August 25, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Mr. Harris,
    I also feel you pain. Recently, I’ve noticed and new problem that appears to be gaining some momentum, as well. It is the confusion, by some people, of the words, “then” and “than.” An example would be, “I liked the concert better then my cousin did.” It only seems to involve substituting “then” for “than,” not vice versa. Feel free to add it to your list of grammatical irritants!

    • Just Ben August 25, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      I seen that one all the time. (Sorry, couldn’t resist). The then/than thing really rubs my hair the wrong way, though.

  • Randy August 25, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Dear moderator,

    Please correct a spelling error on my comment currently under review. I didn’t notice that I tped “and” instead of “an” in my second sentence. I hate when that happens!
    Thanks, Randy, email address [email protected]

    • Dave August 25, 2014 at 1:03 pm

      Randy, your “and” should rather have been simply “a”. Also, your 1st sentence should have read: “your pain”, instead of “you pain”… Typographical errors suck, especially when using a smartphone.

  • Dana August 25, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Well, if everyone had an education from Columbia Law School or Harvard, they could sound like this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZT8G6Qf7Ngo
    or this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1s6ld271Dk

  • bobber August 25, 2014 at 11:29 am

    hurr durr. welcome to ‘murica

  • Rick August 25, 2014 at 11:30 am

    It don’t get no better’n that ! Thanks Larry!

  • Ron August 25, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Okay, how about “Me and him are going to the store”? Ruins my day everytime I hear it.

  • EL JEFE August 25, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Hard to imagine that a story about this was written and published…..but I seen it and I red it. 😉

  • Dave August 25, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Is a “homonym” any word that is a synonym for the world “homosexual”??? And is a “homograph” something that shows how many gay men are in a certain area???

  • Roycie August 25, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    I’m still cringing with “they was” or “we was” or “them trees”.

  • I_Drive August 25, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    I seen this opinonion peace, I red it, and I LOL’d! Best $40k Berkeley ever gotted outta me and my parunts!

  • The Rest Of The Story August 25, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Not only are you a pedantic whiner but you clearly know nothing about linguistics. The word is “dialect”. It may be different than the way you speak/read/write but it is not “incorrect” as you assert. If it were, then we as Americans would all be guilty of error since we do not speak the same dialects of English that are spoken elsewhere and no dialect is superior to the other. The only question to ask of language is–does it get the job done? If it conveys meaning that is understood by both speaker and listener, then that is what matters.

  • Markymark August 25, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Really? This is worthy of an article? Who cares if they say I seen it? I don’t like it, but really? This is the depth of your problems? They sometimes talk like their parents and grandparents before them. The longer I live here, the less it bothers me. People are being beheaded in this world and persecuted for their beliefs and this is what gets under your skin? That’s really sad. How pathetic are we?

  • J Jackson August 26, 2014 at 9:02 am

    It’s Ben my belivffs. Becuz of da whittte cockcazan man a disconnect inaction between folks. I sawed da woooorld as a plaace thada peoples could become one unto each other as one peoples. Furthermore I’d saw the seen of peoples hold them there hands together and singing to each utter. Piece feeled the air as love growed in hour heardths. Peace lub a whoremoney to all of these us people. Raise yo hands and praise how you be praisen. Hope all you educated can follow if not you will be able to some day.

  • Phil Miller August 26, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    Don’t forget the over used “new” baby and “dead” body reports.

  • kat August 31, 2014 at 8:43 am

    I am concerned about all the bad grammar.. My pet peeve is THESE ONES… Its just these we know which ones,, and take the work LIKE out of the english language and none of our young people could communicate… What is happening in the schools that they permit such sloppiness… sloppy dress and sloppy language is a sign of the times I guess.. Not such a good sign I think

  • bishpoul October 27, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    We need someone to fix the Washington County Assessor office. They are guilty of
    abusing their authority. Please somone step up and stop the bullying.

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