English: Rihanna at the 2009 American Music Award Red Carpet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today’s New York Times Magazine had a blurb about a school in São Paulo, Brazil that has a novel way of teaching English. Here’s the article in its entirety:
TWITTER AS A SECOND LANGUAGE, by Hope Reeves
“Hi, @rihanna. I love your songs. My name is Carolina. I’m 11 years old,” began the tweet, which went on to correct Rihanna’s grammar. “It’s not to she, it’s to her,” Carolina wrote. Her tweet was part of an initiative at the Red Balloon School in São Paulo to teach English by correcting celebrities’ sloppy Twitterish. “So far no celeb has replied,” the school has said. “Hopefully they’re busy learning English.”
I could be a pedant and point out that the person who wrote that message for the school used “Hopefully” incorrectly. As written, it means that the celebrities are hopeful when, in fact, it is the school’s participants in this program who hope they will get a reply. But I have given up on this use of “hopefully”; common usage has emerged victorious.
It’s not that uncommon to hear language mavens complain that others are using words incorrectly. If you say a movie is “terrific” or “awesome,” they will ask you if you really thought the movie caused terror or awe. Both meanings of those two words are accurate today, only because language changes according to common usage. It wasn’t that long ago that “twitter” and “tweet” were sounds made only by birds.
I do think both “terrific” and “awesome” are annoyingly overused, however. It’s a good idea to look for fresh ways to express clichés.
In my next few posts I’ll come up with some more words that have come to be used differently than originally intended.