Friday, July 10, 2015

Speech is more than words, words, words

“How embarrassing it is to try our knowledge of a foreign language in the land where it belongs, and to discover that the natives seem not to be saying any of the individual words we got out of the dictionary. Our impression is correct; the man who speaks his own tongue is talking less in words than in a tune. But since the tune can't be written down, we can't find it outside of the spoken word.”

-- John Erskine, “Do Americans Speak English?,” 70 Nation 409 (15 Apr. 1925) (as quoted in The Ordeal of American English 8, 9 (C. Merton Babcock ed., 1961)). (Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day)

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