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On the Bard's Birthday, Who Wrote It: Shakespeare or a Rapper?

Shakespeare or Big Daddy Kane? According to "Bad English" author Ammon Shea, slang and informal English is usually "much older than we think."

It's happened to all of us: just when you're ready to deliver the perfect rebuttal,  last word or final point, your tongue trips up and you slaughter your English.

Don't fret about it, says author Ammon Shea. The man who spent a year reading the Oxford English Dictionary is taking on grammarians and nitpickers alike.

Shea's new book "Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation" (out this June) is an eye-opening look at how language mistakes have become accepted as correct usage.

"Most of the things that we are correcting either used to be totally fine, or they're really much older than we think," Shea says.

For instance, OMG – text shorthand for oh my God – originally dates back to approximately 1911, being first found in a letter to Winston Churchill.

Listen to the interview to hear Texas Standard host David Brown slaughter some English of his own and take a test. Who authored the following lines: Shakespeare or a rapper?

  • "But if you don’t, I'll unsheathe my Excalibur like a noble knight" (Answer)
  • "This is the proper way man should choose ink" (Answer)
  • "Let's beat him before his whore" (Answer)
  • "Welcome ass. Now let's have a catch" (Answer)
  • "I live by the sword; I take my boys everywhere I go" (Answer)
David entered radio journalism thanks to a love of storytelling, an obsession with news, and a desire to keep his hair long and play in rock bands. An inveterate political junkie with a passion for pop culture and the romance of radio, David has reported from bases in Washington, London, Los Angeles, and Boston for Monitor Radio and for NPR, and has anchored in-depth public radio documentaries from India, Brazil, and points across the United States and Europe. He is, perhaps, known most widely for his work as host of public radio's Marketplace. Fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to Texas full-time in 2005, Brown joined the staff of KUT, launching the award-winning cultural journalism unit "Texas Music Matters."
Emily Donahue is a former grants writer for KUT. She previously served as news director and helped launch KUT’s news department in 2001.
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