This week, Mothership, our Brit mum based in the US highlights the grammar divide…
I am on a mission.
I have accepted by now that my children are not the same nationality as me and are more likely to play soccer than football, eat fries than chips, and hit the surf than go to the seaside.
I donâ€™t mind that, and I even secretly envy my beautiful, blonde Californian children their complete confidence that every day in their world will be filled with beaches, mountains, and endless rows of perfect white teeth.
I do try to keep some British traditions alive in our household. I am â€˜Mummyâ€™ not â€˜Momâ€™ (at least to my face), we drink tea at the appropriate times, accompanied by imported Digestives bought at unbelievable expense because it feels culturally important. I force-feed them Marmite soldiers with their boiled eggs, and on the rare occasions when it does rain here I make everyone put on wellies and go for a bracing walk in the deluge seeking sodden ducks to feed. Mostly the others indulge me. I think they regard my attempts with a mix of amused fondness â€“ this being just another part of my general eccentricity â€“ and quiet pity; â€œPoor Mother â€“ we must do our best by the old thingâ€ etc.
There is, however, one very important aspect of a British childhood that I am determined my children should not miss.
They will not get this in America.
Not without my intervention and constant vigilance. I consider it to be one of the most crucial gifts that I can impart to my beloved offspring. Itâ€™s one you probably take for granted, but here, it is almost a lost art, like crocheting your own doilies or ironing knickers.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you: Adverbs
Thatâ€™s right, the friendly â€˜-lyâ€™ words.
They just donâ€™t believe in them here. Thatâ€™s why they always say, when you ask them how they are or where they are going;
â€œIâ€™m real goodâ€ or â€œI got to run to the store real quickâ€
This drives me insane. I want to run around correcting everyone, but obviously I canâ€™t do that and have to content myself with just doing it to my children who are already annoyed with me. (Oh, my dears! This is just the beginning of me being annoying!)
Funnily enough, for a time I attended high school in the USA and can vividly recall lessons on adverbs in English class (I was amazed this was happening so late in the game). Extraordinarily, even though almost everyone in the class passed the test, nobody seemed to use them in real life. Not even the teacher.
I find this is true, too, with my daughterâ€™s preschool. Her teacher has a masterâ€™s degree in early childhood education but the woman continually tells Four that sheâ€™s â€œDone real great!â€ when sheâ€™s written her name on a painting or eaten all her lunch. I am aghast that they let the educators get that far in the system and still not know how to speak.
How can this be? I am feeling anxious about Kindergarten, too. Will her teacher be an illiterate? Am I going to have to set myself up as the person who tells Four that her teacher is wrong? That is not going to be a good thing from a role model perspective, although part of me thinks a little individual thinking is not a bad concept to introduce, provided, of course, she doesnâ€™t use that logic on me. Sheâ€™s pretty clever so it wouldnâ€™t be a huge leap for her. Hmm. Tricky.
I have even got to the point where I am ambivalent about library story times which we used to attend religiously every week, because some of the books that they select to read eschew adverbs. Yes, it appears that many American childrenâ€™s book editors also find that the addition of â€˜lyâ€™ to a verb descriptor is no longer necessary and, shockingly, this transgressions slip past the librarians too and into the impressionable minds of young Americans. What is this country coming too?
I see a long, uncomfortable future as a clip-voweled, stern-voiced matron, constantly snapping at my surfer kids to â€œSpeak properLY and with correct grammarâ€ in manner of 1940â€™s schoolmarm.
However, all is not lost. I do note that Barack Obama regularly uses adverbs, so perhaps he and I together can start a new speech revolution? He promised change, I demand it. Perhaps together we can realLY make a difference!
Mothership is a former pop star, singer, composer, and writer from London who was abducted by aliens (a German one who promised chocolates and a cleaning lady) and brought to southern California to live in a small town by the sea with her son ‘One’ and daughter ‘Four’. Keep up with her escapades on her blog, Motherhood: The Final Frontier