Proper Grammar And Pidgin Pride

There's something about a colloquial language that can make one feel unruffled. I'm glad pidgin will always be a part of my DNA … just enjoy! Jayna McClaran photo

There’s something about a colloquial language that can make one feel unruffled. I’m glad pidgin will always be a part of my DNA … just enjoy! Jayna McClaran photo

The other day, someone asked me why I say “fruits.” According to this savvy person, the proper word always is “fruit,” since it is both a singular and plural noun. Which means that even when used in the plural, there is no “s.”

Well, I have a pet peeve. When someone questions my grammar, yeah, I get ruffled.

My annoyance is not immediately evident because I first have to ask myself whether I’m right and they’re wrong. OK, whether they’re right and I’m wrong. It’s a serious accusation. If I’m right, then maybe I get to keep my job. If I’m wrong, then I question my very existence. Because I don’t do much except write a little.

And, of course, because there’s pride.

It’s not that I graduated from some Ivy League school. On the contrary, let’s face it, I barely got into a state university. Oops, now I’ll really lose my job. It’s just that it’s not easy for a Japanese kid growing up in backcountry Kauai with ESL parents and speaking Pidgin English to communicate with others outside that circle who think it’s a bastard language. Hey, don’t swear at us.

It’s actually a very complex language of its own, if anyone will allow me to call it a language. After all, it is a “method of human communication.” Actually, it is more than a method. It is rich, infused with the culture and words of Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese and every ethnicity around us at the time we grew up. It also is conveyed with a very sophisticated, swaggering, perhaps New York-like accent that becomes a part of your DNA whether you like it or not. Don’t knock it.

My point is, I tried to get rid of it to fit into the outside “circle.” So I worked hard at it. I majored in journalism, I worked for a national newspaper, I co-created our own newspaper — I even once taught an English class post-Hurricane Iniki, when Waimea Canyon School probably thought my English was better than that of most people in the area.

Along the way, I learned about subject-verb agreements, prepositional phrases and other rules of grammar. But it wasn’t a language I had heard and spoken all my life, so I had to think technically or bank on my recollection of the English I had read in books. In other words, it didn’t come naturally to me as it does for people who hear it and speak it every day.

But more recently, I notice that my spoken English isn’t so bad compared to some who supposedly are more educated and cultured than I. This makes it more confusing in my effort to speak properly unless I think of grammar in a technical manner. But there are no excuses. So I researched the word “fruit.”

I could go into detail about my discovery, but it’s hard to know which reference source to believe or to not get utterly confused by the same source. Some say fruit sometimes, others say fruits other times. Perhaps the proper usage of the word would be dependent on the specific context in which it is employed. But there are so many contexts!

Ahh, Pidgin English would be much simpler: “Dat bugga sweet, yeah?”

janeesaki@gmail.com

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