Oprah Speaks


Delbert H. Rhodes, Op-Ed

Story, “Oprah lets loose on Ferguson and Eric Garner: ‘People are awake’ -Ann Tripp and WBLS News

On the stage of social regard, the main character is financial worth. Monetary value, riches in dollars and cents, however, never replace respectability as anointed by the spoken and written word. Billionaire or pauper, garbage man or Wall Street Broker, abilities of speech and writing raise the eyebrows of Kings, Queens, dignitaries, and certainly the common folk.

During an interview, Oprah Winfrey speaks about the shootings of unarmed black men by the police, especially mentioning the current cases of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. If the writer and /or interviewer accurately quoted Oprah, then this non-authoritative discussion demonstrates how richness in dollars and cents never assures abundances in the abilities of speech.

Oprah, quoted: “Life is always there to teach, enlighten, and open you up to the greater possibilities of what can be done.. if your willing to be awake, and see it. What’s exciting to me is that people are awake. If it took Eric Garner and it took Michael Brown and other instances to do than then… that’s where we are in our evolvement as human beings.”

  • Direct Object: “…open you….” The term “you,” the subject of the sentence and direct object of the verb open, is the second person pronoun, someone spoken to, speakers commonly, incorrectly, use the term, alluding to first person (person speaking).

Unless the speaker intends that the person to whom he or she speaks receives the action of the verb, second person, whenever the speaker refers to him or herself, the first person pronouns, I, we are used; or as a direct object, object to the preposition, the objective pronouns me, us; was Oprah directing the comment to the interviewer when she said, “…open you up to greater possibilities….” although absent the interview, this writer thinks not.

Consider: “Life is always there to teach, enlighten, and open ‘me’….” perhaps a better clause, merges speaker and populace: “Life is always there to open ‘us’….”

In either scenario, the speaker clearly refers to and/or includes her or him, takes ownership of the statement. Improper use of the second person pronoun, even unconsciously, releases, negates, and denies responsibility and ownership of the comment.

  • Possessive Case Pronoun: “…If your willing….” Did Oprah intend the possessive case pronoun, your (ownership), rather than the contraction you’re (you are).
  • Strange term: “evolvement”: The writer studies grammar daily, and is unaware of the term, evolvement.
  • Misplaced conjunction/preposition: Than, as used in Oprah’s quote, “…and other instances to do than then….” is incorrect.

Than connects opposing thoughts and ideas, it demonstrates contrasts and comparisons. As used in Oprah’s quote, than indicates neither contrasts nor comparisons, it fails to complete two differentiating thoughts or ideas. The insertion of than is misstated, egregiously incorrect, and even vulgar.

  • Quote: “…If it took Eric Garner and it took Michael Brown and other instances to do than then…that’s where we are in our evolvement as human beings.”- (?) Confusing.

Consider: If doing it took Eric Garner and Michael Brown and other instances then…that’s where we are, evolving as human beings. Or, “…that’s where we are in evolution, as human beings.” Here, the strange term “evolvement” is replaced by the standardized verb and noun forms (evolve/evolution), respectively, and the misplaced conjunction/preposition, than, removed.

Literally, grammatically, either construct is correct and preferable to Oprah’s original quote.

Daily: the most influential of us misuse language; writers, news professionals, celebrities and even educators demonstrate subordinate comprehension, illiteracy-or simply lazy speech.

Assuming that the writer and interviewer is the same person, errors abound; should possible misrepresentations by the writer shine poor light on Oprah. No. Writers err, after all, they too are humans; and therefore, we hold them to higher standards, what they write we read, and sometimes without question.

That said, Oprah possibly was correctly, accurately quoted, and if so, then she alone bears responsibility for her appalling diction. Accordingly, the woman assists various literacy programs, and if true, then, respectfully, even billionaires benefit from home schooling, private tutors.

Colloquialism: common use reduces speech from standardized to non-standardized forms, rendering expressions as unattractive, less interesting and even vulgar. Figurative, metaphorical dialogue has its place in speech, but should never inundate language.

Perpetuating improper speech/writing negatively affects all it touches. “If one desires serious consideration then one seriously considers.”

As people, “evolving humans,” we should more aspire to the formalities of speech, recognizing, albeit respecting, the duel of standard vs. non-standard constructs, embracing literal rather than colloquial expressiveness… it speaks well of us.

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