Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Hope-You-Remembered-Your-Pill Day! (Also: An Open Letter to Grammarians)

Unless you're me, who is writing this on a Tuesday, someone in the future who's reading this on another day, or someone who's installed a keylogger on my computer, in which case this is also a Tuesday, today is the 15th of February; the day after Valentines day. I've never been one to make a big deal out of Valentines, even when I've got a person to celebrate it with. This is largely because St. Valentine is generally believed to be a guy in the third century who tried to convert the wrong emperor and was subsequently beaten and beheaded. Yeah.

So, um, yeah. Enjoy your candy.

So in the respective spirits of Ambivalence and Cynicism, I'd like to propose a new holiday today; the day after Valentines day. Ladies and Gentlemen: Reflect Upon Your Poor Decisions Day! Or RUYPD if you're crunched for time and have a tongue that placed in Olympic gymnastics. Today we'll reflect on all the poor decisions that you've made in a last-ditch effort to not spend V-day alone. If you put an extra V in your V-day, then you're doing it right. 

And now, for an awkward segue.

Source: fannypackantics.wordpress.com
Get it? GET IT?

This week's topic was chosen by a difference of one vote. That is to say; only one person voted. More than one person visited the site and read the blog; in fact, all of the posts got double-digit pageviews, but only one of you voted. Now, I'd like to thank that brave soul for saving me from being plunged into the scary world of making my own decisions, but come on people! That's the point. But this week, the mysterious person who voted has you covered. I bet it was that person from Germany. War es dir, mein Deutsch Freund? War es?

This Week's Topic:
"An Open Letter to Grammarians, Grammar Nazis, and otherwise Language People"

Now, I consider myself pretty nonconformist. I'm so nonconformist that I can't even conform to other nonconformists and conform with the rest of society just to spite them. Usually. If I WAS enough of a human sheep to have a people though, my people would be the language people. I love me some language. I actually have a list of languages to learn that basically starts in western Europe and moves east. I edit stuff. For fun. When my friends complain that they've got an essay due, I jump on them like a lioness on a gazelle. "Can I edit it for you? Can I? WELL CAN I?!"

"I'll kill this cat, if you don't."

And it's no secret that I let my love of language bleed over into my everyday life. More than one of my friends and/or family has had to sit through me excitedly explaining that the dominant language in England was once a form of French, I text in complete sentences, I triple-check Facebook posts for errors before I post them. I love my language and I love some other languages, too (I just nailed the French/German 'r' sound and I am so stoked). 

So it is that, as a language person; as a lover of language; and, seemingly most importantly, as someone who can distinguish your/you're, to/too/two, and there/they're/their, I come to you with a message. Not even a message, really more of a polite suggestion. 

Chill the fuck out, dudes.

No seriously, that wasn't a throwaway caption joke, that is the central message of this post. Chill out. 

Now don't get me wrong; I, too, can't stand chatspeak. I loathe ppl who cant pnctuate spell or hav an avrsion 2 vowels. I think the u for you substitution should be punishable by digit amputation and, if only for clarity's sake, everyone should be properly educated on uses of punctuation and the differences between the various homophones. That's not the problem, your hearts are in the right place. Much like most attempts to curb software piracy, your goal isn't the issue; it's the execution.


I'm not going to lie; a lot of you are kind of gynormous whale dicks when it comes to this sort of thing. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not exempt from this charge. I, too, have been a gynormous whale dick. I've been rude about it, I've been mean about it, and looking back, there's probably a few instances I could have handled better. Or at least less dickishly. 

Don't lie to yourselves; it's a pride thing. Maybe you don't have much else to hold up for yourself, maybe you're grasping at straws in an argument, or maybe you're just the kind of person who really just likes to be right. No matter how you slice it; if you're being a dick about grammar, it's a pride thing. It's about making yourself seem smarter or better than someone else and doing it in a public to semi-public manner. You want an example? Fine, You get an example.

This image is too big to fit in the margins, but the text is too small for the image to be any smaller. The Designer's Dilemma.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this message board, green text equals quotes. 

Now, to be fair, I don't know the context for this post, but that's not what we're examining here. The poster says "Next time you try to insult somebody who is clearly only putting insight into your post, you might want to try to spell better." This being in reference to use of the word "opining." I take two issues with this. Firstly, he's using implied language superiority to create an ad hominem attack, that is; attacking the person, not the point. He (or she) is using his correction to subvert whatever the other person had to say, without actually bothering to refute it. In the discourse business, we like to refer to that as "a real dick move, man."

Secondly; opining is in fact, a word. Google that shit. 


Which actually transitions quite nicely into my next point; correcting someone can  bring quite a pleasant feeling. The vague superiority, the smugness, the imaginary fights you're going to have when they totally get so upset by how right you are, it's just about the most fun you can have by effectively doing nothing at all. Thing is though, you can't always count on someone to mess up. After so long, a person will eventually get their their's straight from their they're's and that's good; that's the whole point of this dealie, right? Except not, because you didn't do it to make them a better person, you did it to be right, and like a junkie whose dealer just moved out of town, your supply of being right just ran out. That's when you start really nitpicking. You start correcting them for stuff that isn't "wrong" per se, as much as it's just not very well said. It's not nearly as good a rush as the old stuff, but it'll have to do until you can find a new tween to deal to you.

Grammar and Cocaine; surprisingly similar!

And that's where, as a writer, you start stepping on my toes. It's one thing to recognize the rules and politely nudge people towards them, it's another thing to tell them that their application of those rules is wrong. 
In writing, you don't really ever do anything wrong, so long as you don't shit down grammar's neck. English in particular is great for this, because I can get across the same information in dozens of different ways, each with their own connotations, depending on my word choice and order. Every combination has its own significance and use, and none of them are wrong. Not only would you be wronging whoever you correct here, by effectively shutting down their experimentation with language, you're wronging me (and, I guess, you, as well. Not that anyone cares. Jerk) by giving credence to the idea that just because it doesn't entirely follow the rules, it's wrong. You know what you have when that's true? A dead language. 

Here lies English; starved to death by elitist jerks.

Language is like sex; you have to know the rules before you can start to bend and break them. First, you go to health classes, learn about condoms and STDs and dangling modifiers, then, later, when you're experienced, you've had a few goes, and you know what you're doing, you can start breaking out the whips and handcuffs. It's not in the playbook, but it sure is an awful lot of fun. 

But I can see through my magical future internet see-u-o-scope that you're not totally convinced. Fine, that's fine. It's not like I put a lot of work into writing this or anything. I'll just pull out the mother of all precedents. I give you; The Eternal Bard

Googling 'William Fucking Shakespeare' has easily been the best part of my day, so far.

William Shakespeare, Bill to his friends, "that jerk who stole my girl" to his enemies, added more than 1,700 words to the English language. Just straight up added them. They weren't in the dictionary (granted, I'm pretty sure that wasn't a thing, yet), they weren't in the generally accepted vernacular, he just made up a bunch of words and the ones he didn't make up, he borrowed from other languages and classical literature. He perfected the art of turning nouns into verbs, something I thank him for verbally, out loud, every week when I start blogging. On my blog. 

So in conclusion, internet, chill out. Good grammar's nice and all; by all means, make sure everyone's got their apostrophes in the right places, that they all know how to use commas and so on, but really, I mean it. Be nice about it. You never know when you'll be on the wrong end of that very same equation.

This week, I don't leave you with a picture of an adorable kitten. Instead, I leave you with a video in which an adorable Englishman agrees with everything I've just said. Thank you, goodnight. If you enjoyed this week's post, then by all means, share it with your friends. Especially if your friends are grammar Nazis.


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