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Standard English vs. Godd@mn English

August 25, 2014
I don't care what language he's using; if he doesn't have eyes or a nose, I probably can't concentrate on what he's saying. (image via Wikimedia)

I don’t care what language he’s using; if he doesn’t have eyes or a nose, I probably can’t concentrate on what he’s saying. (image via Wikimedia)

English can be a tough language to learn. There are a lot of rules, and when you accidentally break a few of them, there’s often some snarky grammarian who wants to rub your face in your mistake. It’s no wonder that people who move into English-speaking countries sometimes refuse to learn English. Who needs the hassle? I’m no expert, but I’ve heard that people who live in countries that don’t speak English don’t correct each other’s English mistakes. That’s just what I’ve heard.

A couple weeks ago, a formerly famous guitarist for a formerly famous rock band declared that immigrants to the United States should learn “Go&&amn English” . Some people were offended by what they thought were harsh words. Normally, I become annoyed when a famous actor or musician talks about politics or social issues. Their opinions aren’t any more important than mine, but they get a forum that I don’t get just because they’re famous. I’m just as capable of talking about stuff I know nothing about as any famous person. But “Godda#% English” makes sense. After all, standard English is very difficult to learn. But G*dd@mn English? Anbody can learn that.

At first, I wasn’t wild about the term “Go##amn English.” I like standard English because I believe in rules. Rules are what make people civilized. But standard English has a lot of rules, and I don’t want to think about rules every time I speak. I also remembered that Latin had Vulgar Latin, which the common people spoke. If a classic language like Latin can have a Vulgar Latin, then a current language like English can have Go&&amn English.

Honestly, Vulgar Latin was a disappointment. I thought Vulgar Latin would be fun to learn because it’s always fun to learn vulgarities in various languages. Vulgar Latin should have been fun to learn. I had visions of saying stuff like “Screwiticus youticus, you piecuvus crapicus.” But then I was told by some snooty Latin grammarian that adding “iticus” to English words does not make them Latin. You don’t even add the “iticus” to Latin words to make them Vulgar Latin. In other words, I had to learn some actual Latin to learn Vulgar Latin. That ruined Vulgar Latin for me, but it doesn’t ruin G#dd@mn English for me because I already know English.

Maybe I should have a problem with the word “go##@mn.” I was taught decades ago that it was the worst of all profanity, worse even than the “F-word” that rhymes with “duck.” According to my parents, to “damn” something was pretty bad (but not bad enough to censor it in writing), and then to add “God” as a prefix doubles the damn, triples the damn, quadruples the damn, maybe even infinitizes the damn. At any rate, it makes the damn pretty bad.

I’m not even sure how to write “g*dd*mn” without offending readers. I don’t care that much if I offend people I don’t know, but I don’t go out of my way to do it. I’m not trying to shock the world by using the term “G^**amn English.” Maybe the formerly famous rock musician was trying to shock people. I’ve heard that rock musicians like to shock people sometimes. Some even cake their faces in weird makeup to shock people. If a guy would wear makeup to shock people, he’d probably say “G*##@mn” to shock people too. I’ve never worn makeup, but I’ve said “####amn” before, and I think saying “%o##amn” is worse than wearing makeup, so I’m not trying to pretend to be a saint. I’m not.   I just don’t get kicks out of shocking people.

The problem with the term “G*##amn English” is that I don’t know where to put my censorship symbols. None of them look right. I can’t just come out and spell “Godd@mn” because I’m not that kind of blogger. I mean, I don’t mind if you’re reading the word “G^dd@mn English” in your head, but I don’t want you to see “#####amn English” on the page. Maybe I’m a hypocrite for even trying to censor myself.

Despite its name, nobody should correct you when you speak Godda#% English. Nobody gives a flip if you make a mistake. No snooty grammarian will chime in about subject-verb agreement or ending a sentence with a preposition. If anybody corrects you, you just give them the middle finger. Everybody understands the middle finger. Even people who can’t speak Go%%amn English understand the middle finger

If you’re speaking G*%%amn English and ask, “Can I go to the bathroom?” nobody is going to respond with: “I don’t know. CAN you?”

If you’re speaking Godd*** English and say, “I got your text,” nobody will correct you with: “You RECEIVED my text.”

If you’re speaking G#dd@mn English and say, “I’m gonna take a selfie,” nobody will correct you with: “You’re GOING TO take a selfie.”

As long as people understand you, that’s all that matters.

The only real problem with Go##*mn English is that it cannot be spoken everywhere. Speaking it at church or the classroom or in any formal setting isn’t appropriate. But for people who need basic communication skills, Go##@mn English is great. It’s not just great, it’s darn great. It’s really darn great.

*****

Every year dictionaries add words to their lexicon. It probably annoys that powers that be who determine language to add common stuff like “street food” and “double denim” to their dictionaries. Maybe in a few years, “G#dd@mn English” will be a universally accepted compound word. At least then I’d feel okay spelling the whole thing out.

*****

What do you think? Is Go%%amn English something that anybody can learn? Should dictionaries include it in their next volumes? Do I need to censor myself when I write it? Should the opinions of formerly famous musicians who caked their faces with makeup get any attention?

18 Comments
  1. I think G0dd@mn English is something that already exists to the point where I’m not sure that they are teaching real English in school anymore. Also, I would like to point out that technically American English is already a bastardized version of British English, so does G0#d@amn English already exist and we are just expanding it or is this a whole new sect of the language?
    And I would think that while people in non-speaking English countries might not correct each other’s English, they probably correct each other’s (insert language spoken in that country) when necessary, although most likely not as often as American linguists do. “G0dda##” versions of languages probably already exist in every part of the world.
    But I enjoy the rules of the English language, even if I don’t consistently follow them, I usually as least make the effort to do so. Plus how else can we understand all them fancy words that our politicians use in speeches?

  2. I feel quoting My Fair Lady is appropriate here: “..and the French don’t care what you say, as long as you pronounce it properly.”

  3. I think only Americans are offended en masse by g&dd@mm as a term. In UK (where I grew up) and Australia (where I live now), almost no profanities are unacceptable, given the right circumstances. So it seems that Americans are the only ones not speaking go**amn English!

  4. I know English (kind of), but how do I go about learning Go??amn English, if I’m not even sure about the proper spelling of “Go&*@mn”?

  5. Such an entertaining piece! Lol’ed all the way thru. 🙂

  6. Before we worry about immigrants learning any kind of English, how about Americans learn their OWN language? Just saying. Nice piece. Thanks 🙂

  7. I speak English slang but I prefer not to write in it where possible. My knowledge of English isn’t perfect so I make mistakes too. I generally only correct the grammar of people who have pissed me off. For example: if some internet troll tells me ‘your fkin stupid’ I tend to reply with ‘my fkin stupid what?’. I’m not about to correct someone who says something like ‘your so pretty’ though, because they are trying to be nice and a grammar lesson is probably not the best way to thank them. I DO think people living in England should learn to speak English, just as I think English people who move to France or Spain or Germany or whatever should learn the native language of that country too. I don’t correct people unless I am deliberately trying to annoy them, but I am not ashamed of my ability to use the correct ‘your’ or ‘you’re’ and think it is a shame that so many people do get it wrong.

  8. There is not just Go*damned-English, there are Go*damned-Every-language on the earth. What’s worse, they are catching up more than the standard tongues. And, of course, all languages —at least the ones that are not a ‘second language’— are as unfriendly and hard to pick up. Because a language is more than a collection of sounds and squiggles, it incorporates the culture and ethos of the populace which may be alien to begin with.

  9. That was a God£%mn good article! English isn’t a ‘pure’ language which is why it has so many exceptions and rules, making it one of the more difficult languages to learn. Personally if I can understand what the person is trying to say then it’s not a big deal to me. If English isn’t someone’s first language, they are more easily forgiven for mistakes but I do think a native English speaker should at least have the basics down. One love 🙂

  10. This is the story of my life! I’m an English major with a minor in linguistics. While learning the rules of proper English in my English classes, I was simultaneously learning why the rules don’t always work and that we need to observe language from the speaker’s perspective not a rules perspective. Thus a devil and an angel constantly sit on my shoulders. Example of my thoughts when I write:
    Sméagol [representing English major]: No, Precious, we must not split infinitives!
    Gollum [representing linguistics minor]: Why mustn’t we? Saying “to boldly go” has the exact same meaning as “to go boldly.” Why does it matter?
    Sméagol: Rules, Precious, the rules! They must be followed!
    Gollum: But the rule is silly! The rule was created by 17th Century grammarians who based their rules for a Germanic language off of Latin. THAT doesn’t make sense! In Latin, you cannot physically break an infinitive, but in English you can and it doesn’t take away from the meaning. I want to boldly defy the silly rule!
    Sméagol: No! Precious! No. To defy the rules boldly would compromise our language!
    Gollum: But it’s a living language. It’s going to change no matter what. Chaucer’s English changed. Shakespeare’s English changed. Ours will change, too. Embrace it and enjoy the movement toward language progression!
    Sméagol: No! No! We mustn’t, Precious! We’ll look ignorant if we do!
    Me: SHUT UP already! I’ll just change the f****ing sentence so there is no infinitive!
    🙂

  11. Hello! I live in Russia, and I’ve never heared about goddamn english. We learn english in schools and universities. Of course our speech and writing skills isn’t good as native-english-speakers have (you can see it from my comment), because we think as russians in Russian. But we try our best. And if we make mistakes – we’d appreciate other’s help, so next time we will speak it correctly. I think that it’s weird to move to english-speaking countries and not to learn English.

  12. Having been inundated with myriad first-day school forms in both Spanish and English, I don’t think I could take another stack of forms written in Go##amn English, especially the ones about migrant workers and free lunches. I think we’ll stick with Spanglish, which is a combination of language cuss words used on the local soccer fields.

  13. I think people should learn whatever they need. They should learn slang for informal situations and formal English for professional situations. Saying someone is breaking a grammar rule is only true if they’re doing it in the wrong context (in my opinion).

  14. Great blog. Language is a funny old thing, it’s constantly in flux and more words are added everyday. If English is your second language, more power to you! It’s a difficult, ridiculous language with more exceptions than rules because it comes from so many different places. That’s what makes it so interesting. Profanities aside, g*dd*mm English is here. And something else will be here tomorrow.

  15. Freakin awesome !

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