I WILL not forget my first encounter with the use of the word “proven”.
It came in a script from a female American lecturer. I was working at a tertiary educational institution at the time and edited teaching materials as part of my job.
Upon spotting the word, I promptly corrected it to “proved”. The lecturer almost gave me the evil eye and insisted that the word “proven” be retained.
I remember trying to explain to the lecturer that the word she really wanted was “proved”.
What we had learnt in school had been “prove, proved, proved”, never “prove, proved, proven”.
But I got nowhere so I gritted my teeth and left the offending word in her script.
The incident occurred in the 80’s but even today, well into the 21st century, I have found it difficult to use the word “proven”.
However, when you find the word being thrown so often in your face, sometimes you end up using it too.
Just watch a court session on television and you will find a lawyer insisting a client is innocent unless proven guilty.
You see, English is a living language (as opposed to Latin which is called a dead one and thus, does not change).
Like other living things, it grows and evolves. And here, I am not talking about evolvement into unacceptable Manglish.
I am referring to basically correct English but “variations” which never existed when I was in school or at university.
My cousin Pauline talked to me recently and I pointed out a few examples.
Do you know, I asked her, that many Americans use the pronoun “that” instead of “who”?
They would say, “the man that won the contest” or “the president that cares”.
Do the speakers mean to dehumanise the man or the president they have in mind?
And when they drop the hyphen, for example, in stockmarket, antisocial, antioxidant, antiapartheid and the like, does it mean that they are lazy to use the symbol?
Pauline is perturbed. She uses me as a sounding board to check what is correct or otherwise in English usage because her granddaughter (my grandniece) is sometimes taken to task for using words or expressions that her teacher says are incorrect.
The teacher says (incorrectly), “Let the games begins. Let the curtain falls.”
The teacher marked my grandniece down when she said that so-and-so was frightened that “he almost jumped out of his skin”.
Now I ask you, what would this teacher say should she be told that many Americans are replacing “that” for “who” as a personal pronoun for people? Obviously, Pauline has more issues to look out for.
My grandniece’s English will improve by leaps and bounds as she is still only a little girl in primary school. The question is: how about her teacher?