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I recently recognized the existence of a very strong prejudice in myself: a prejudice against those who misuse language. And by 'misuse', I mean breaking the commonly accepted rules of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the like. People who do this PISS ME OFF. I get the same feeling of disgust from seeing their writing as I would from having someone burn two pieces of bread, plop some not-quite-moldy cheese on it, and get upset when I don't like their “grilled cheese sandwich.”

At some point in my brain there was established a very strong connection between people who knew how to use language correctly and people who were actually reasonably intelligent, interesting, and worth talking to. I have found plenty of counterexamples – but not enough to sway that first gut reaction to “cum on giveme a BReak ppl Im new hear???”

I'm not asking for Oxford-grade English. I'm talking third-grade competency here. Things like Not Capitalizing Every Word In A Sentence Unless It's A Newspaper Headline. Things like not sticking random apostrophe's in plural noun's (*shudder* it hurt to write that). It'd be nice if more people knew what the subjunctive was - but I'll settle for them knowing the difference between a statement and a question.

I've tried to be more forgiving of bad spelling; especially in informal fora like IM and LiveJournal. Hell, I often dispense with capitals on LJ - I'm sure I've made the occasional spelling error, and I misuse "hopefully" all the time. I'm not exactly sure where the line is, but I know there's a point where the medium is being abused so badly that I will barely notice the content. And don't get me started on hAx0r. Ye gods. It's communication, not a cryptogram!

There's always the functionalist argument: as long as the meaning is conveyed, what does it matter if the grammar and spelling don't strictly abide by a system of rules which is inherently inconsistent and dynamic anyway? Given that I use the same argument in many other contexts, I find this one hard to combat directly, but I think I come down to this:

Before you break the rules, know what they are and why they're there. Language is a medium of communication; and if you follow rules that everyone knows (or at least can look up somewhere) then the communication is much more efficient, with less room for misinterpretation. I'm all for chaos – but let's have it be intelligent and educated chaos, shall we?


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 18th, 2003 11:03 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear! (err, or is that "Here, here!"?)

People that insist on hyper-abbreviating words are my particular nemeses. U and r are not words, they're letters. They are not complete concepts, they are not even complete sounds.

And thanks to my mother, I grimace every time I hear anyone mispronounce nuclear and temperature. I have to actually sit and think a bit how to mispronounce those words, her indoctrination was so severe.

Now, this is not to say that I'm not guilty of fabricating words and otherwise abusing the language. I'm an engineer, and sometimes there just isn't a good word to describe what I want to convey. So I take the closest approximation, and add appropriate suffixes or prefixes or use a normally illegal conjugation. I verbify words. But that's somehow different from the bastardizations so many internet d00dz seem to love.

Oh, how I long for the days when everyone actually chooses to properly use the English language, with all of its wonderfully inconsistent uses of apostrophes and thoroughly complicated spellings; but I'm not holding my breathe.
Mar. 19th, 2003 08:02 am (UTC)
but I'm not holding my breathe.

Good thing. :)
Mar. 19th, 2003 02:52 pm (UTC)
And here I thought he was doing that deliberately, to play up his point...
Mar. 19th, 2003 02:12 am (UTC)

You love me. I'm ka-yoooooooot! :)
Mar. 19th, 2003 05:11 am (UTC)
Bad grammar and spelling
Honestly, as one who has had proper pronunciations drilled into her by her parents I can completely understand about this type of problem. There are so many times when people will actually ask me "Are you really from Pittsburgh?" The reason for this is because I have been taught to pronounce things with the proper emphasis. I still remember back to one of my speeches in my highschool speech class where the teacher commended me for saying the word "often" properly. Before that I had never really noticed how many high school students did not pronounce that word all the way through. It amazed me to realize that.

My problem with the terrible grammar and spelling of the internet is that fact that most kids don't even try any more. They are so used to spell checkers and grammar checkers in their word processor programs that they don't care. I've seen it in my own family. Even my dad who had fought to learn his spelling even though he has had a hard time of it while growing up seems to have fallen prey to the spell checker demons.

I try my hardest and yes sometimes my own live journal has a ton of elipses. The reason being that when I'm thinking I tend to pause and then I type ... I've gotten much better about this and even my emails refrain from this sort of writing now for the most part.

I agree with you on one thing though. The more I see bad grammar and bad spelling, the less I want to talk to that person. I will avoid them like the plague. I have one guy who insists on messaging me on AOL and I keep forgetting to block him. He's just annoying and he does that whole "Wuz ^" Ok I understand the whole smiley thing. I understand the whole abbreviation thing every once in a while. But that sort of writing just annoys the me to no end.
Mar. 19th, 2003 09:42 am (UTC)
My0wn ™ chaos
Mar. 19th, 2003 10:01 am (UTC)
I'm a terrible typist, and somewhat dysgraphic, (it took me a good bit of time just to debug the first 7 words of this post) which makes me wanna smack myself when I read my stuff - I DO know better.

Several thoughts:

1. My mom used to pound into me the difference between bring and take. When people screw this up, I still wince internally. I think most speakers in the US have given up on using take.

2. I know many people who've only come across words in text, not in speech, and do some atrocious things with them. I get it if you repeat a bad pronunciation you've heard, but, especially if you're try to sound intelligent by using these words, you should LOOK THEM UP!

3. Having said #2, I notice that we all have our different levels of anal-ness, and our different pet peeves (I was going to use bete noire here, but I didn't wanna sound snooty). I have many books on proper usage, spelling, and pronunciation, and I've had to make some informed decisions whether or not to be THAT DAMN ANAL.

    a. I have a very good book on "proper" pronunciation, but I don't think any of us would REALLY use dy-KEE-ree for daiquiri (the drink), or KYOO-dose for kudos, but I am a big fan of con-SUME-ate for consummate and FORT for forte (as in strength, for-TAY is the musical term)
    ...and, of course, the PROPER U.S. pronunciation of aunt is ANT, not AWNT :-)

    b. While I'd say I have a pretty good concept of grammar and syntax, I have to say I'm a bit lost to the more esoteric points of punctuation. I try and use a parallel, logical system (for example, in a list of "a, b, and c", while you don't have to put the comma after b, it gives equal weight to all the parts - "a, b and c" shows a closer relationship between b and c, as if a is as important as b and c together). I don't think that a quote should have the final punctuation for the sentence in it . It's the equivalent of a direct object. I probably misuse dashes and semi-colons, though I know the difference between an em-dash and an en-dash. I use parentheses too much.

    c. There are certain conventions in U.S. English that are not the same as British English. While "one" is a perfectly valid subject for a sentence, "you" fits better with the directness of U.S. English. I do tend to use the British way to compound words (anal-ness instead of analness), just because it makes it easier to scan text quickly. It took me a long time to come to this decision, but I think that spellings like "grey", although found in dictionaries, are just a little too pompous for the U.S. palate - I know, I used to like them too, but I've mellowed in my old age and want to feel like I can still sound smart, without distancing myself from my intended audience as much.

Realistically, you're going to have to draw your own line in the sand. Let it be an informed line, and be willing to make it better as time goes on.
Mar. 19th, 2003 10:03 am (UTC)
...resubmitted 5 times, and you can STILL count the errors. I give up.
Mar. 19th, 2003 12:27 pm (UTC)
Hmm, what comes up for me is, do you have issues around your use of language? The reason I ask is that usually when something is this frustrating to me, it is because I have issues around it in myself.

I find that I am now feeling a wee bit self conscious about my writing. I wonder (and suspect strongly) that I do many of those cardinal sins. See, most folks with ADD actually have a cluster of learning deficits. Three of the most common are math, grammer and syntax, with the latter two being related to convergence issues and dyslexia. It might well be that the math issues are related to those same issues. So, while I likely have a genius IQ, and use complex sentences both in speaking and writing, I know I have convergence issues and I know I can't keep those little rules memorized and they don't always stick. It's part of the faulty wiring of ADD. So, while I'm feeling a touch self conscious right about now, it is unlikely that I will take out The Elements of Style or if I do, that I will remember much of what is in there. Diagramming sentences and remembering the (somewhat idiosyncratic, BTW)rules, was, is , and likely, never will be one of my strengths. I write from an intuitive feel, rather than rules.

And given how much I just wrote, I do believe you've landed on one of my landmines. I will muse on this and get back to you.
Mar. 19th, 2003 02:38 pm (UTC)
Hmm. The problem when responding to a question like this is that if you say you don't have the problem, you're in denial; and if you say you do - well, in this case I'd be lying. Language and the use thereof has always come very easily to me, at least in written form. And in spoken form, it's not grammar or vocabulary I have trouble with, but just turning the thoughts into words at all.

(And for what it's worth, you've never tripped my language-abuser wire :) )
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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