Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Situation in Which

A situation is an occurance, a happening, an event.
It's a setting of sorts, but not a locale.
It's not a "where".

This past year I've been acutely aware of how often I hear the phrase:
"A situation where..."

I cringe.

I hear this from NPR djs and interviewees, noted authorities on various subjects, CNN news anchors, talk show hosts, politicians, and, of course, those I'm personally in contact with in my daily life: friends, family, colleagues, acquaintences.

The fact is, the phrase, "A situation where", is ubiquitous!

Why? Perhaps because the fine art of grammatical instruction has fallen by the wayside. I shudder to think that perhaps we all learn this horrid way of speaking in our classrooms. I give credit to teachers everywhere in the hope that they work in earnest to help us develop more than adequate communication skills, including the ability to construct a proper sentence, both in writing and speaking.

Perhaps, it's in the home and the school hallway, the social gatherings and even (now) online conversations that induce and allow us to make a muck of our fine language,and thus, make very little sense.

I've always thought that the beauty of a language is in the moment that it gives reality a definition. The way words, syntactically structured into groupings of linguistic meaning, have the ability to connect subjective (and perhaps objective, as in female, or day, or wood) meaning to the perceived world of experience through symbol, sound, and thought.

Language influences perception.

And, to that extent, when I hear the utterance, "A situation where", I feel seriously worried about the level of consciousness of the speaker. It makes me feel alienated. I suppose because I'm in a state of judgment. But, perhaps, it is because in the misuse of the English language, I discern a certain careless unconsciousness about what we are all doing here and why.

Yes, at some level I'm offended by the grammatical error. But at a deeper level I'm knocked into some state of existential despair as to the meaning of it all. And hearing someone say something like "a situation where" dismantles some delicate part of me that depends on the belief, or perhaps dire hope, that design, symmetry, and purpose hold us all together.
And grammatical structures, and the rules which hold them together, help me feel a sense of control and power over my experience of reality.

Who knows...

I just know that I wish I could hear, just once, on NPR, or out of Barak Obama's mouth, "A situation in which", rather than, "a situation where".

That would be a situation in which I am a happy Leila!

No comments: