Sunday Spelling

concentrate-hard-and-learn-your-spellings_1Spellng? Yes. Spelling. We’re taking this Sunday morning as a flimsy excuse to go off topic and off the reservation, and say a few words about the utility of proper English orthography and such ancillary arts as grammar and composition. Which are actually three different things, but they have one thing in common: young people are not learning them.

Whether you blame video games, unionized teachers, indulgent parents, tee ball and participation trophies, or the temper of the times, if you have any exposure to today’s teens and twenty-somethings you have had more examples of horrid English language expression before you than you care to remember.

The event that occasioned these thoughts was a recent entrepreneurship competition, in which your humble blogger was one of a panel of judges. It goes like this:

  1. Undergraduates at a small state university, which caters to lower-middle-class strivers (often the first in their family’s entire history to attend college), take a single course in entrepreneurship, which is quite new.
  2. The class is taught by two smart professors, who do not have a business background. (One of them is one of the most natively-intelligent people I’ve ever met, I think).
  3. The students come up with an idea if they can, and present it to a panel of judges and to the non-voting retired CEO who initially sponsored the contest, first by writing and then in a personal presentation.
  4. The judges score the students’ planned businesses on several axes: Idea (originality/scalability, etc); Viability (Practicality, likely ROI, etc); Research (did they do their homework on market, competition, financials?); and, Presentation (did it “pop”? Do they think on their feet? Etc.).
  5. Four cash prizes are awarded. All entrepreneur cubs get an encouraging call from the CEO. The judges (themselves all business people with startup experience) and the professors put their heads together on how it can be better next time. Rinse and repeat.

We were ill-prepared this year, and discovered on the morning of that we’d left key parts of business dress 1,500 miles from home at Hogney World. So an old pair of never-worn almost dressy dark-soled Topsiders were found in the closet and the other missing items were bought when stores opened. The shoes were a matter of trepidation — it’s hard to find things you can stuff 9EEEE paddle feet into without problems, and usually we stick to Clark for dress and New Balance for casual — but they worked fine.

Some may blame the public schools...

Some may blame the public schools… er, wait, what schools?

But the written presentations — Gah, what a collection of disasters. In our draft of this post we originally put a couple of samples here, but we took them out lest we crush the poor little dears when they stumble upon their own words — the Intertubes may not be forever, but so far that they bid fair to outlast Ozymandias’s statuary. Suffice it to say that spelling, verb-subject agreement, pronoun use, paragraphing, capitalization, everything involved in effective written communication was as wrong as a pedophile’s picture album.

Although for the record, it was not this university.

Although for the record, it was not this university.

None of these young folk’s works was really good, although there were some gradations of awful. They were like the Five Lee Sisters: Ug, Home, Ghast, Beast and Gnar. Not one but two packets suffered from an absolutely gobsmacking deficiency: the spelling or the name of the business itself was not consistent internally in the document. As it was, it was sad.

One of the best-written presentations of an idea, which was still substandard, came from a young man who’s not a native English speaker. That’s twice as sad.

And the ideas? For a contest intended to produce the next big idea, they were… small. The best presented of all was an idea for a food truck. Not a food truck franchising operation: One. Food. Truck. A couple more were clear attempts at turning hobbies into employment.

Some blame the general decline in the culture....

Some blame the general decline in the culture….

On the plus side, there weren’t any apps this year. Last year everybody had an app… but their spelling was better.

We mentioned this to the profs and to the administrators at the U (there’s one gal in administration who’s key to this whole event happening, a vital connector between the business and admin world). And the profs told us, in some despair, that, “That’s the way kids are today.” Sheesh. But they’re telling the truth; one of them has tried to enforce some kind of spelling and grammar on her undergraduates, and has been savaged for it on

And others keep returning to the baleful influence of education bureaucrats...

And others keep returning to the baleful influence of education bureaucrats…

The judges normally have a conference call to shortlist the packets for presentation. If we were grading these the way VCs would, they’d all go to the shredder unanswered: they were that bad. On the other hand, these were undergraduates. We also remembered that, in the past, there wasn’t a strong correlation between the quality of the written packet and the quality of the presentation. So on all eight of them went to present in an auditorium on campus, in front of a shark tank of real entrepreneurs.

Of course, however bad your spelling error, it could be worse. You could be this guy.

Of course, however bad your spelling error, it could be worse. You could be this guy.

Fortunately, the oral presentations were all stronger than the writtens. And, perhaps because of the efforts of those hard-working professors,  their presentation slides had been purged of any typos or misspellings, and everybody’s business naming was consistent.

Well, the purpose of a University is education, isn’t it? Perhaps we’re helping. But Great Googly Moogly, those written presentations.

Monday, we’ll be back to the usual topics. Later today, we’ll post and backdate a Saturday Matinee (yeah, we said that last week, but only had time to watch half the movie. We suppose we could review them without watching them, like the guy at The New Republic. But we figure you guys deserve a higher level of discourse than that).


It has nothing to do with spelling, but the frustration of this Texas A&M branch campus professor is just one more indicator of the college bubble. Our neighbor’s two sweet, pretty young graduate daughters who are absolutely unemployable with degrees in womens’ studies and nonprofit management is another such sign.

51 thoughts on “Sunday Spelling

  1. Neil E. Wright

    I teach English as a second, or even, in some cases, THIRD language. And some of my lower level students can STILL speak and write in English better than some COLLAGE/UNIVERSITY students I’ve met.

    Back in the early 1980s, when I was attending college working for a degree in Police Science/Criminology, I had several discussions with one of my professors on the subject of the deterioration of standards in public schools that was evident even then.

    And now, after over forty years of “progressive” education, we are graduating students who couldn’t manage a shoe shine stand.

    Sometimes, I just shake my head. Sad.

    1. Hognose Post author

      You know what’s worse? One of the other judges had sat on a panel at MIT’s Sloane School’s Executive MBA program (this is the cash-cow evening part-time MBA for mid-career executives, most B-schools have one, taught by adjuncts and lacking the networking power of the full-time school for twenty-somethings). And she thought, although the writtens were worse, the students’ oral presentations were better than the MIT execs’.

      Shakin’ ma haid, indeed.

      Unrelated subject: can I get some advice? Soon, I expect to be hiring some ESL teachers in the central US (probably Oklahoma, OKC or Muscogee). They’ll have to deal with cross-cultural issues with their students — I’ll be the go-to guy on that and will provide briefings, etc. We don’t want trained and experienced ESL guys because our guy wants to teach them his methodology and pick the best of them for a European Level D (I think that’s what it’s called) cert. I’ll be looking for students with some aviation savvy or technical interest, because that’s what the students will have/want; I’m thinking of recruiting hard among vets and retired NCOs in the area or willing to relocate. Any ideas? Personality types or backgrounds to avoid?

      1. Medic09

        My mother taught ESL to Russian immigrants after she retired from a career as a schoolteacher (English, Social Studies, guidance counselor). I taught Hebrew to English speakers, mostly in HS; but also some adults.

        I would suggest that you want someone who has a sense of the language. By that I mean that they can convey colloquial usages, or in your case – unusual technical usages – as part of the culture of the language. I don’t know how you can ascertain that quality in someone; but they have to enjoy the uses of the language; and not be merely masters of grammar, etc.

        They’ll have to be a bit culturally flexible, experienced, or imaginative themselves; so that they’ll be able to see what may be obstacles to their students and think of ways to explain a correct understanding to their students.

        They will have to be the sort that really wants their students to succeed, for their own sakes. They should enjoy the process of teaching itself.

        They’ll have to be patient, maybe even compassionate. There’s a saying in the Mishnah: ein hakapdan melamed – someone overly pedantic doesn’t (successfully) teach.

        The above may be less of an issue assuming that your students will be disciplined and motivated to learn the material; but it can still be somewhat useful. I found teaching emergency/combat medical knowledge to PJ students (the one time I did so) or my own soldiers much easier because no one needed to convince or motivate them to learn and follow through.

        You know some of the other qualities: they’ll have to be diligent, methodical, responsible. That’s where vets/NCOs will be good. They’ll have to be able to plan a lesson, and a progression of lessons. Not everyone who KNOWS the material is capable of TEACHING it well. In any subject. My wife had a real shock when she studied under some brilliant pathologists, none of whom seemed able to teach what they knew (not far from your native AO, actually).

    2. DAN III

      You Neil,

      “….write in English better than some COLLAGE/UNIVERSITY students I’ve met.”

      You misspelled college, above.

      1. DAN III

        See Neil, in my effort to make you aware of your error, I gave you one in the “You Neil”. I meant for it to be ‘Yo, Neil”.

        See ? None of us are perfect. But we keep on trying.

  2. Trone Abeetin

    Yeah, I dropped out of school in the ninth grade. I’m an auto didact when it comes to most things. In retrospect, I wish I had completed school.
    I don’t regret talking to the recruiter at 15, joining at 16, and a week after my 17th birthday going off to basic.
    That was when they still took HS dropouts. Was an 91b medic, so the ASVAB scores were good in spite of my academic shortcomings.
    The three proudest days of my life were watching my daughters graduate high school.
    The Army taught me a lot of things that didn’t click then, but resonate in my life now. Things like Duty, Honor, Country.

    1. TRX

      If you dropped out before 1975 or so, you didn’t miss anything.

      I made it to the third grade… then, basically, the several schools I went to after that just kept giving us variants of the third grade over and over. Frequently, with the same assignments from the same books.

      When I was told my absentee rate was too high to graduate I walked out and clocked in at work early. In the decades since, NOBODY has ever asked if I graduated from high school, just where I attended. And that includes the college admission registrar.

  3. Expat

    Ken Burns’ work on the Civil War was based on soldiers letters written in the field to their relatives. Many of these soldiers had only a few years of education. I was amazed at how literate they were.
    There are some who suggest people of past eras were more intelligent that those of today.
    There are numerous examples and exceptions to each of course but I would draw attention to just one;
    Kelly Johnson compared to all those who followed. His SR-71 was a 1950’s design. Compare that achievement to the F-35 debacle we have now.

    1. Y.

      There’s no imaginable mechanism for that happening. Dysgenic breeding is/was a thing, but it only started after the advent of industrialization, and has ceased in many places (like the US).

      Furthermore, the effect was so slight that it’s a wonder if a properly designed study even finds one. There was a study which purported to show that reaction times ( a good proxy to IQ) have declined since the late 19th century, however, the original sample was likely all upper class students and people with lots of disposable income.

      Finns though found a slight decrease in reaction times compared to the mid 60’s. (iirc)

      Kelly Johnson compared to all those who followed. His SR-71 was a 1950’s design. Compare that achievement to the F-35 debacle we have now.

      To be fair, SR-71 while a marvel of aeronautical engineering was a single-role machine. F-35 was designed by too many committees to fulfill too many roles, also the business is likely more corrupt today thus it’s allowed to shamble on.

      1. Expat

        As to Dysgenic Breeding, perhaps the Australian Aborigine who’s average IQ now is south of 60. A considerable difference to their ancestors in SW Asia and the current population there.
        Perhaps our more comfortable existence is the mechanism for our current lower levels of average achievement. One imaginable mechanism comes immediately to mind – the modern welfare state. Perhaps I’m thinking more in line of not so much IQ but our ability to use what we have.
        The SR-71 was originally built as an interceptor to escort the B-70 and designated the F-12. SR came later with the cancellation of the B-70 project.
        When I mentioned Kelly Johnson, I was referring also to the team he built at Lockheed as well as the management there and at the Pentagon. The entire process worked. Now the Lockheed/Pentagon team is unable. There may be numerous reasons as you said but the point is they are unable to field an aircraft that can do even one thing well.

        1. Hognose Post author

          Actually, the F-12 was a project that the Air Force hoped to make something of, but its main purpose was a cover for the SR-71 and the preceding A-12 program. (A point defense interceptor that takes many hours to prepare for fight is not very useful). A-12, CIA cryptonym OXCART, was not an SR-71 but was very closely related and they continued to fly alongside the USAF SRs into the early 1970s. The CIA has declassified almost everything about these programs except some aspects of mission payloads and stealth. There’s an excellent OXCART history on the Agency’s public website.

        2. Y.

          As to Dysgenic Breeding, perhaps the Australian Aborigine who’s average IQ now is south of 60. A considerable difference to their ancestors in SW Asia and the current population there.

          We have no idea what was the IQ of their ancestors in SW Asia, as there are likely no populations descended from them, they were all overrun by newcomers.

          Furthermore, the welfare state has been in effect not long enough to have any measurable effect. It has merely relaxed selection somewhat.

          Note that Aborigines are Melanesians, that is people who have the some of the highest recorded admixture, as their ancestors bred with the Denisovan hominins*, about whom we know nothing except that they had big teeth, and that they split from our ancestors about a million years ago.

          60 IQ is about average for hunter-gatherers who are not descended from farmer populations. Kalahari bushmen, who have never had the largesse of the welfare state lavished on them score 54.

          So, the 60 IQ is not all that surprising. You don’t need great abstract or verbal skills to survive as a hunter-gatherer. They have great visual memory, and score over 50% more on whites on tests such as describing what they saw and how it was arranged.

          *supposedly extinct, however the bone fragment held unusually good DNA, couldn’t be really dated, and Siberian woods are vast.

    2. Kirk

      It isn’t that people are becoming less intelligent, it is that we’re not educating them as well. And, more and more people are being educated, as well. Like as not, the knucklehead non-spellers of today would not have become literate in the old days, and if they had managed that feat, they probably had no desire to write anyone. It’s also like the old fallacy–“They built better in the old days…”. No, my friend, it is just that all the poorly-constructed trash has fallen down already. Who the hell would preserve that which could not be easily read?

      Using preserved letters isn’t a definitive survey of literacy, at all. Consider the sort of family that would bother to preserve such things in the first place. You’re going to have a huge bias towards the literate and well-educated, are you not?

  4. MtTopPatriot

    Reason, literacy, fundamental knowledge of history, classical thinking, are essential to the flourishing of social peace, freedom’s of enterprise and prosperity.
    If one can’t spell and or use words, (or even understand their meanings), suitably within the context of writing and expression of ideas, it is rather more difficult to dream or think larger and better. I think one becomes stuck in the narrow confines of the here and now.
    Lot to be said for a classical education. It is the basic tool kit to understanding the world. Of course, common core, victim-ology studies, changing history to fit the narrative and whitewashing history not suitable to the ideology of the ruling elites are the paths to brainwashing entire generations and denying them the truth of history and free will.
    Just saying.

    1. Y.

      Reason, literacy, fundamental knowledge of history, classical thinking, are essential to the flourishing of social peace, freedom’s of enterprise and prosperity.

      All of that led to the enlightenment, which pretty much did in God. At present, about the only populations that are not self-destructing due to the corrosive effects of modernity and market forces are the faith-based ones.

      1. MtTopPatriot

        What your saying, “All of that led to the enlightenment, which pretty much did in God”, is a contradiction in terms to me.
        Faith is an essential component of the great enlightenment leading to the idea and ideals of the creation of liberty. As in God given sovereignty of man and the natural freedoms and rights bestowed upon us in his blessings of happiness, prosperity and flourishing of societal peace and serenity.
        I believe God played an integral part in the divine rights of freedom, and not the “divine rights” of kings. For the first time in 5000 years of human history these ideas became so in the form of very knowledgeable men and woman who seceded from the divine tyranny of a king.

        After all, it was Lenin who stated religion and faith was the opiate of the people and the vital importance of eradicating the little peoples faith in order to successfully impose tyranny in its place.

        Besides, the narrative of the day we see in every legacy media venue always belittles peoples faith, pogroms their belief in God. That has nothing to do with enlightenment.

        1. Y.

          Faith is an essential component of the great enlightenment leading to the idea and ideals of the creation of liberty.

          As to the ideals of liberty, I agree. They require faith, that is, blind, unconditional devotion to certain non-obvious principles.

          A clear-eyed look on mankind reveals that people are neither free nor equal with one another, and giving all of them political and personal freedom merely sets up the lessers ones for failure and exploitation.

          I find it ironic, really. Americans are free to pursue liberty, and the end result is that vices rule supreme, and people are ceasleessly striving to ape each other. And there are such things as ‘lifestyle’ magazines.

          I presume you meant Faith, as in Christian faith. That is, well, silly. Liberal political thought existed as far back as the ancient Greece, and was in essence if not in scope similar to the ideas America was later founded on. (what, suffrage limited to adult males, freedom of expression, etc)

          I believe God played an integral part in the divine rights of freedom, and not the “divine rights” of kings.

          As far as I am concerned, the concept of ‘natural rights’ is as much a crock as that of the ‘divine right ‘of kings. All rights are contingent on being enforced, and concept is only of abstract interest. It’s all rhetorics used to justify or challenge the status quo.

          After all, it was Lenin who stated religion and faith was the opiate of the people..

          It’s considerably older, originates with Marx.

  5. Y.

    Couple of things.

    1) back in the day, +~10% of population attended college. Now it’s far more.

    2) non-native speakers, especially proficient ones usually spell way better, as they are likely to have read a lot in English. In my experience, on online forums, the least spelling errors are made by Finns, Germans, etc. Very few Americans know how to spell definitely, for example.

    1. DAN III

      College has been dumbed down. As long as one can secure a college loan, one can attend the college of one’s choice, earn your basket-weaving (worthless) degree, and be indebted to Goldman Sachs for the rest of your life.

      College ? Yeah, right.

  6. E Garrett Perry

    It’s worse than you think. I spent several years as a Resident Manager in a dormitory at a small private high school. In those years I had the chance to help many’s the student, and while the sample may be skewed by the higher-than-standard fuckup/fuckoff ratio, the aggregate observations were disheartening at best. Kids turned in typed papers written in text-speak and leet-speek, and were genuinely baffled at their abyssmal marks. I had one young man who had made it to the age of 16: he was completely ignorant of the existence of the American Revolution, the Late Unpleasantness, either of the World Wars, or the existence of a thing called ‘Rome.’ After two hours of attempting to remedy this, he came under the impression that the United States secured their independence from Germany in 1919 with the signing of the Gettysburgh Address. He also thought that the FBI, CIA, NCIS, KGB, etc. were fictional entities dreamed up for TV. He’s better now, gainfully employed and a fanatical reader of history. When last I saw him, he was elbow-deep in Eugene Sledge’s memoirs.

    On the other hand, I had any number of kids who just plain saw no reason to improve. They had no designs on careers; neither martial, scholarly, commercial nor clerical. Most seemed to be of the opinion that after four years of paid-for college spent taking easy classes and playing the latest videogames on 72″ tv’s- with occasional time-outs for skirt-chasing*- they would graduate into some form of $100,000/yr job 2hich would amount to more of the same.

    The exceptions, as always, were the foreign kids. The Chinese and Koreans had families back home who were expecting Big Things from their children- one of my kids came from a family who owned a big chunk of Samsung, for instance. But the -real- standouts were the African kids. Talk about hard chargers: they knew an opportunity when they saw one, and they weren’t about to pass up the opportunity for a Western education. One kid before my time was recruited from Senegal for the school’s basketball team: his writeup in USA Today when he was signed to Duke University stated that he’d gone from speaking French, Fanagalo, and several local tongues to speaking all of that plus functional English in THREE MONTHS. As a former TEFL instructor, I call that pretty damned impressive. That was what you could usually expect from the foreign kids- every now and again you’d get a dud, but much, much less often than with the Americans. You never had to explain what ‘blanket party’ meant to the foreigners, either…I had to educate a few daft American white boys on the social punishment which was rapidly approaching their thieving, vandalistic person. Never had one light off, so far as I know, but the fact that these…yoots…had to have this explained to them was a bit of a shocker. (Yes, if you pull the fire alarm at 0320 during Final Exams, your hallmates might just have a few nasty things to say about that, especially the two Moroccan twins on scholarship and that 6’7″ Liberian fella who wants into Notre Dame so bad he can taste it.)

    *And if anything was more horrifying than their academics, it was their treatment of and attitudes towards women.

  7. S

    If you need any German/English translation done I can volunteer my humble abilities, though you’re no slouch yourself and have access to other likely more proficient babelfishes. Still, I’m in Teutonia and beginning to get back into the gun scene here, so throwing me some homework could be of mutual benefit.

    This isn’t the first time I’ve linked to the following site, and while I disagree with certain theories the diagnosis and prognosis are both accurate. The linked page directly addresses the topic at hand.

    OT. A collection of films I stumbled across on the toobz…..actually I was digging around for high-end air rifle stuff, no idea how those paths crossed. Sobering viewing, and I don’t want to harm anyone, since some who were there frequent these pages, so please forgive me for mentioning the place. Vietnam. Six episodes each about 40 min, original footage. Those with televisions may have seen it; I haven’t had one for nigh on 15 years.

  8. DAN III

    Well, Hognose, I have to give you an A+ for this essay. Glad to read you addressing the poor use of English, i.e., grammar AND spelling. However, after many more years on active duty than I care to think of, there are two things I’ve come to abhor:

    1. Acronyms
    2. Abbreviations

    One and two above are nothing more than the lazy man’s use of the language. And it is prevalent everywhere in the non-gov media, the citizen’s sector and the .gov itself. I’ll give you a pet-peeve ‘fer instance…..”:

    While the media will spell out, in it’s entirety, the name of hot dog politician Mister Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious who hails from that illustrious elite upper body of the United States Congress, the Senate. They, the media, and every other American making reference to
    Senator Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, will habitually reference Senator Alphabet as “SEN”. That constant abuse of the language for the simple sake of laziness has driven me to almost scream, more times than I can think of. So, will someone, anyone please explain to me what a “SEN” is ?

    As you know, this misspelling known as abbreviations and acronyms, is in constant use and abuse in the US military by both former and current members. “GEN”, “COL”, “CSM”, “SSG” and so forth. Why ? Why the laziness ? Why, as I believe, the disrespect ?

    To be quite honest with you, I am quite often amazed at your exceptional use of the English language in your many essays. It is one of the reasons I follow your blog most every day. HOWEVER…..just last week, you violated the English language and one of my pet peeves yourself, when, in a essay you referenced General Combs (believe me, I’d rather refer to her as “Inmate” Combs), you used the despicable abbreviated “GEN”. What’s wrong with “General” ? Yet you yourself “misspelled” her (ughhh) rank. I was thinking of addressing it (“GEN”) to you in a posting, however I figured you would have ignored my observation.

    As many readers of your blog can attest to, I am FAR from proper in my use of the English language. Actually, I’m too profane. However, I do attempt to use it without abbreviations and acronyms. That way, as long as someone has gotten beyond 2nd grade, they know what I’m making reference to.

    So, please….PLEASE consider refraining from or eliminating altogether the abbreviations used in titles of professional folks. Hell, I’d even ask you to take it as far as eliminating “Mr.”, “Mrs” and “MS”.

    In the meantime, don’t work too hard. Relax when you can. Keep your powder dry….one never knows. Myself, I just got my first ever chronograph and I’m going to try to make it to the range to check the velocities on a couple different 5.56mm hand loads.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Actually, the Army uses the three-letter caps codes for all ranks. If I called Combs GEN I was wrong because throughout this debacle she has been a BG and then an MG. (Exercise in irritation: A major is quite senior to a lieutenant, but a lieutenant general is one notch senior to a major general. Why? Historic artifact from the British Army). The Army is the only service to use these codes, as far as I know. The Air Force and Marines would call a Lieutenant General Lt. Gen., for instance. The Navy has all-cap abbrevs too, like BMCM (Bosun’s Mate Master Chief) or VADM (Vice Admiral).

      I don’t believe it is disrespectful to refer to an officer or NCO/PO by his or her rank, i.e. MG Combs. It would be disrespectful to call her just “Combs.” I believe it was James Thurber who remarked that only once in his life was he called by his last name alone, and that ceased when he made Corporal. (I dunno what service he was drafted into, so no acronym is safe!)

      Note also that the three-letter caps Army abbreviations are a relatively recent addition. As late as WWII and Korea they still used standard English-language abbreviations for the ranks, as the Marines still do. I think it came in when the Army introduced E-8 and E-9 pay grades, which I think was in the fifties.

      The Marines have their own fads (ably lampooned in the comic, “Terminal Lance”), but they’re much more resistant to fads, trends and the baleful magic of the Good Idea Fairy than the Army is.

      ETA — it’s always a good policy to spell out an acronym the first time it’s used, and if it’s used sparsely in a long document with many other acronyms, every time it’s used. But it’s just good policy to use acronyms to save on space, time, and BS, if the acronyms are likely to be known to the audience. In time, many acronyms have become words in their own right, from adjectives like fubar, to general nouns like quango, to proper nouns like Saab or Fiat.

      The best guide to English usage remains an older (pre-1990s) Strunk and White, The Elements of Style. Has to be an older edition though, the newer ones have been set upon by the militant “gender” activists. That’s why more recent APA Style Guides, AP Stylebooks, etc. are useless for anyone whose goal is communication, not signalling cult membership.

      1. DAN III

        However, when the abbreviation for rank is used only those in that service understand it’s abbreviation. Civilians don’t have a clue. Should not a writer take into consideration his audience ?

        As I asked earlier, why use the abbreviated form of a professional title, i.e., GEN, SEN, et cetera ? The abbreviation serves no useful purpose. It only serves to bastardize the language.

        I rest my case

      2. DAN III


        “….to proper nouns like Saab or Fiat.”

        Or the abbreviations which they are known for:

        SAAB = Swedish Automobile Always Broke


        FIAT = Fix It Again Tony

        Hahahahahahahahahahahaha !

        Sorry Hognose. I couldn’t resist.

  9. MattL

    It’s a shame that the competition didn’t uncover any diamonds in the rough, and that this country’s educational system is failing its charges so badly. On the plus side, though, Common Core will surely fix everything!

    I don’t know how much of a consolation it is to you, Hognose, but I can personally attest that at least one school in this country still holds its students to a high standard in their use of the English language: Hillsdale College. The professors there are, while very helpful, uncompromising in their insistence on quality work. It’s refreshing to see.

  10. Cranky Old Dude

    I suspect a great deal of this is caused by the constant incursions of the Deweyites. Old John Dewey believed that education wasn’t really the end function of the schools but indoctrination was. His aim was that the “education” system would produce “good citizens” who would listen to their government and do as it suggested (or ordered). These folks have been chipping away at the schools for decades and think they may have their goals finally in sight. The current products of these policies would seem to affirm that.

    1. Woodsman

      In one respect the need to conform to the current educational methods removes the ability of students to think outside of the box. The latter in my opinion is the polar opposite of the former. The way I look at this is; students are forced to regurgitate facts from rote memorization, they do not have, nor gain, the ability to think for themselves.

      1. Hognose Post author

        I disagree. I don’t think someone can think outside the box, until he or she has a solid grounding in the basic facts of the matter. I haven’t ever seen anyone become “musclebound with facts.”

        1. Medic09

          I would support Hognose’s assertion by pointing out that most (not all) great musicians have a good grounding in the basics. Learning to jam/improvise for most (not all) musicians comes after the foundations have been laid. The same is true, interestingly, for the more cognitive disciplines, too. I’ve had the distinct and profoundly humbling (sometimes humiliating, in conversation) privilege of knowing a number of serious scientists. ALL of them, without exception, know the basics of hard science and math. ALL of them, today, are important researchers and innovators. I would suggest that there are relatively few exceptions to Hognose’s general assertion. If we want the most people to be able to think creatively, we must teach them to master the basics AND foster their creative thinking. Not ‘either, or’.

          1. Woodsman

            I agree with both you gents. My initial comment was based on what I refer to as “the monkey see, monkey do” syndrome.

            While performing occasional instructional duties thru a past affiliation with a university a constant process noted was; the students needed to accept the material as presented, however the time frame was too limited to allow them to develop the understanding of the relationships inherent in the presented material.

            This is the basis of the earlier comment. Having seen this in other venues led me to believe it is prevalent condition.

            Without doubt the need to have a firm grounding in the basics is a fundamental requirement. From that point, the need to be actively involved for a period of time of 10,000 hours plus certainly helps.

            Coupling this, with new and unique situations in need of a solution is where I felt the out of the box thinking came into play.

  11. S

    John Taylor Gatto is interesting to read, though the subject is depressing. It is no surprise that the poor mental cripples emerging from the concentration camps of our young cannot think….it has been Verboten, lest they veer from the path chosen for them.

    1. Y.

      So who does Gatto blames? Ze Germans?

      He’s the guy who discovered warm water, really.

  12. Tim Canty

    I blame texting and twitter for the shorthand that passes for proper English. By the way, I believe the reason that a Major General is a lesser rank than Lt. General is due to the British practice of abbreviating Sergeant Major simply to Major.

    1. DAN III


      The educators have certainly dumbed down the education system in this country. That’s for certain. Here are three examples:

      1. I had occasion to photocopy the high school diploma of a recent graduate. I noticed him middle name, Jonathan, was misspelled. I showed him the error. He replied “That’s how I spell it”. I had a copy of his birth certificate. It had the correct spelling. I showed it to Einstein asking him which document was correct. His reply ? Dead silence.

      2. One day, without going into detail, I had occasion to ask a college sophmore at a private college to tell me what 12 x 5 equaled. The young, female college student looked at me dumbfounded. I repeated my question to here slowly….”What does 12 x 5 equal ?” She looked at me sheepishly and replied “I don’t know”.

      3. One day I provided a pair of new boots to a second year collegiate engineering student. Several moments later I observed the young Isaac Newton putting the new, unlaced boots on his feet. Shortly after that I had the entertaining experience of watching him trying to lace the boots….from the top to the bottom ! ! !

      There you have it. Three examples of what the American education system and it’s co-conspirators known as parents, are providing this nation’s future with. Fucking imbeciles !

      Young Americans can’t spell their own names. They can’t do simple mathematics. And they cannot even dress themselves. We are in extremely deep doo in this declining country. Is it any wonder how Barry Soetoro aka barack hussein obama was anointed not once but twice to the highest office in the land ?

      We are in very, very, very deep, dark trouble.

      Verify your zero. Keep your powder dry.

  13. John Distai


    I have a question about another tidbit in your blog post. The 9EEEE feet. How was that accommodated in the Army during your time? I know “wide width” boots seems like an obvious answer. However, as a youth afflicted with wide feet, finding footwear that would accommodate them was next to impossible. Activities such as roller skating, ice skating, biking and bowling were excruciatingly painful since nobody had shoes to accommodate wide feet. I stopped participating in those activities due to the pain that came with the footwear.

    I entertained entering the Army during high school (in the 80’s), but declined pursuing it since I believed my foot width would not be accommodated and I’d be in constant agony because of it. Please enlighten me on how you or the Army handled that.

    In regards to the declining grammar, I find the now longstanding trend of using “z” instead of “s” for plural bothersome. When I see a business that does this, I automatically think it caters primarily to the specific racial demographic that popularized its (or itz) use many years ago.

    1. Hognose Post author

      John, My feet weren’t that big, then, and I was able to get them into issue 9W, 9 1/2W, or 10W boots during my time in service. Obviously an oversize boot is not optimal, but I had very tough feet.

      I also broke with gout at this time — a very severe case, apparently hereditary, exacerbated by diet and exercise (in this case, by high levels of exercise). That’s what’s caused the change in shape of my feet.

      The Army did accommodate odd-sized feet in SF, although not in Basic. After he complained about ill-fitting boots, my friend Todd who wore about Size 15 (and he was 5’8″ or so tall!) wound up getting the doctors to prescribe custom boots. A workshop somewhere in the Army made him, and others, perfectly fitting combat, jungle, and cold weather boots for his feet, including the SOF-only Chippewa boots. The docs said that this was available to all soldiers, but few knew about it or took advantage of it.

      Nowadays, I thank Divine Providence practically daily for New Balance and its wide sizes.

      1. John Distai

        Thanks. I toyed with ROTC for a bit in high school. They gave me a pair of brand general issue boots. I was never given the option of wide. They did size up for me, but they still didn’t fit right and became fairly painful.

        I’m very thankful that the shoe industry has become a bit more enlightened these days and now provides wide widths, even for children.

      2. John Distai

        Thanks. I toyed with ROTC for a bit in high school. They gave me a pair of brand new general issue boots. I asked for wide, and was told that wasn’t an option. They did size up for me, but they still didn’t fit right and became fairly painful. No ROTC for me.

        I’m very thankful that the shoe industry has become a bit more enlightened these days and now provides wide widths, even for children.

  14. Dienekes

    Ditto on Gatto–when he describes how far back all this nonsense goes and how it came to be, you want to weep.

    Two of the worst moment of my life were church-related. The first, well over ten years ago, was when one of the star high school graduates took the pulpit to give a short speech on the meaning of life–or some such. Then he used the word, “conscience”. Except that he pronounced it as “con-science” (as in ‘settled science”! Obviously he had NO idea of what the word meant. Seventeen or eighteen years of school and church, and that was the result.

    Another kid, in the 6th grade, asked me about a picture in his religion textbook showing the Virgin Mary greeting her cousin Elizabeth (the Visitation). He asked me if they were lesbians.

    The chickens are in the landing pattern, and the pattern is full.

  15. Fury

    I went back to college a few years ago. What I saw was unbelievable.

    Students could not read. In one class, we read from History of the Peloponnesian War. Students could not read worth crap. I’m not talking about Greek names of cities or tribes, I’m talking common words of three or more syllables. It was awful. I was one of the older students in the class. I remember the professor looking at me and shrugging his shoulders with a resignation of “see what I have to work with”!

    Or write. In our research methods class, students would review and evaluate papers of other students in the class. I remember getting my paper back with no marks or comments. I said my paper was not even close to perfect, and I would appreciate a honest appraisal of my work and that I would not take any offense to a critique of my work. The student replied they were “afraid to hurt my feelings”. What. The. Fuck.

    I, on the other hand, wielded a red pen when I reviewed/marked up other student’s papers. That was the purpose – to help each other become better technical writers on a constructive manner. I thought one student was going to cry when she read my note on avoiding the use of passive voice.

    The sad and scary part was that most of the students in our research methods class were going to college to be – teachers!

    I left college concluding that based on what I saw:
    1) On average, Students can’t read or write as well versus when I was in school 30 years ago
    2) Students think they can read and write just fine
    3) Most of the students going to college to be teachers will hopefully never have that opportunity

  16. S

    My father forced me to be different. TV was Verboten before school and limited any other time. Homework took priority after school, so I learned to get the unpleasantness over so I could go play, usually shooting, fishing, or tinkering. Spelling was hammered in by writing out the words. A good thing I became addicted to books early. I regret to this day that I didn’t buckle down in mathematics, and pay closer attention in the workshop. An annual Cool Thing was promised, and delivered, on good results. I still have a few of these treasures. On the downside (at the time), being different at school attracted certain unwanted attention from the herd types, students and staff. More good prep for life. One learns how to run from the bully pack, and how to snap up the careless ones that expose themselves in their enthusiasm for the chase. Sometimes, the pack wins anyway, and one learns how to take a beasting, and develop an elephant’s memory.

  17. Aesop

    A friend of mine, former snake-eater, and current professor of political history, swung by the shop one day with a mitt-full of term reports. The absolute prize-winner was from a native-born American with parents of foreign ancestry, which was such a gobsmackingly awful compendium of linguistic and thematic retardation that my friend had succeeded, only after taking the matter all the way to the dean of students, in being allowed to award it a final grade of “F”. (Mustn’t upset the Protected Snowflakes, after all.)
    Somewhere, I have my Xerox copy of it with the lad’s name redacted; suffice it to say there are certified retards and some species of fungus that could do a better job of managing the written form of English, and this was from an upperclassman in an upper-division course within the major.

    A neighbor turned in his notice of intent to retire from a major metro PD at the point when he received a memo from HQ directing field supervisory officers to complete all police reports, when some bright young Affirmative Actions hires were noted in reports requesting “Toe Trucks”.

    And I still run into grammatical morons at work, among professional people with bachelor’s degrees and more.

    Ridicule such grammatical Visigoths mercilessly, wantonly, boldly and unceasingly.
    The culture demands no less.
    It’s great sport, legal, and it’s fun.

Comments are closed.