It's nothing but a `G' thing

Column by Craig Marshall Smith

Posted

I have had it up to here with anyone who drops the “g” off of an “ing” word. I am fed up with G-droppers. That's what they're called.

Take Sarah Palin (no, YOU take her). Have you ever heard her “speechin'”? She is a G-dropper from way back.

I am convinced her name is Sarah Paling. But “Palin” is as far as she can get.

Dropping the “g” is fine and dandy if you are a folk singer. But for you and me, it's not.

I am staying alive, I am not stayin' alive, and neither are you.

Give me the King's English. Other people might be Kingin', but I am definitely Kinging it, man.

Absolutely nothing escapes the Internet. There is site after site about G-dropping, and most of the content is beyond my grasp.

“G-dropping now appears medially and finally in stressed and unstressed syllables, as in `singing,'” Barbara Strang's “A History of English” says. “Its extension to unstressed syllables is quite recent, and has spread from middle class into general usage under the influence of spelling (or so the expression `dropping the g,' for the older pronunciation, indicates).”

I'm not exactly singin' in the rain about this. Here's more.

“It is currently a feature of colloquial and non-standard speech of all regions, and stereotypically of Southern American English, African American Vernacular English, and Cockney,” a Wikipedia entry says.

“Prevalent among some Alaskan vice presidential nominees.”

Where would Bob Dylan be without it? Fixing, blowing, waiting, changing and dreaming, instead of fixin', blowin', waitin', changin' and dreamin' is where. This makes my spell checker go nuts.

There are two contributing factors that are not mentioned on any of these sites. The Cool Factor, and the Lazy Factor.

G-droppers are cooler than those of us who do not G-drop. Check out who is doing it. You didn't hear Alastair Cooke dropping no “g's” on “Masterpiece Theatre,” did you? But show me a rapper who isn't a G-dropper and I will show you a rapper in the cut-out bin.

We're lazy. We're all lazy-minded, even if we don't g-drop. We speak and write in overused words, filler words, we hem and haw. We overuse idioms like “hem and haw” instead of coming up with something better, something unique.

So sawing off the end of an “ing” word is just one more opportunity to be English-lazy.

If you speak too smart, you might be observed with suspicion, or simply beaten up.

Try listening to a few athletes talk. Most of the time it's painful. Not always. Arthur Ashe was very eloquent. Bill Bradley, former Princeton basketball star and U.S. senator, is very eloquent. Lars Skulnick, Northwestern punter, was class valedictorian. His commencement address is still being quoted.

Try listening, I said. Try listening to yourself.

Most people don't.

I no longer have lunch with anyone who doesn't care about words. I sit there and wince without wincing. I know I am nitpicking and that sometimes I look at form rather than content. Ultimately it's content that carries a conversation.

How much better is it to say, “I experienced a regurgitation on Lenny Dykstra,” than it is to say, “I, uh, like threw up on Lenny Dykstra”? The point is, you had an embarrassing moment, and a direct thought, unfiltered by a college degree, is sometimes the ticket.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net