Friday, February 04, 2011

I Can Haz Grammar Back?

On Monday I talked about words that are worth saving. Today I'm thinking of the exact opposite. No, I do not mean to remove words from the English language. As you all know, I am a lover of words. What I do want to remove - banish forever and ever - are the non-words that seem to have been embedded in the way we now speak. I'm talking about Twitter-speak, YA-speak, and the like. Then I saw this brief article yesterday that raised the question of where the "future of English" is headed. The fact that this question had to be raised made me consider all of the misspellings and fake words I see all the time in the online world that are used by adults in the name of brevity, irony, or both.

I understand that there is a need for abbrev. certain words to keep your tweets under 140 characters. Even so, I implore you to dial down the intentional misspellings and the I Can Haz Cheezburger-ness of your writing. Maybe I'm being schoolmarm-esque about this, and usually I'm a huge proponent of "once you know the rules, you can break them." (I mean, look how many sentences I begin with conjunctions and how many infinitives I split!) Still, this is just getting out of hand. Like my ongoing "Please Stop Misusing & Overusing Literally, Random, and Awkward" campaign, I must share this recent grievance with you all as well.

To anyone who has written "kittehs," "teh," "sekrit," or "haz," or have even just intentionally used child-level grammar in a blog post or tweet, I ask you - please stop. What was once cute or ironic or done in the name of fun has now gotten to the point where it's infiltrating actual speech. People with higher education degrees and knowledge of the written word have regressed to the intellectual capacity of a first grader, and for what? To sound adorable? It's not adorable. It is the linguistic equivalent of using Comic Sans in a business email. Put another way, it's like dating someone who insists on using baby talk. No one wants to be likened to an infant and no one should want to come across as one either. We are all adults here, and apparently we're still responsible for setting the standard in this "next wave" of the English language. So, let's keep it alive, well, and as correct as it can be when used in informal places.

What's on your list of words that need to go away? Share your grammar-related complaints and begin your weekends free of annoyance!

24 comments:

  1. I remember I once used "ppl" in a paper I wrote-entirely by accident! It's scary when slang replaces the actual word. English is an ever-evolving language, but that doesn't mean that a writer can get away with anything.

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  2. As a former seventh grade teacher, it was always fun to explain to students why U was not a word, but a letter, especially when their parents were texting it to them. Fun fun! I have no idea how to make mathematical symbols on my keyboard, but letters are inequal to words. This is probably my biggest pet peeve with text lingo.

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  3. "Utilization" when "use" will do.

    I can haz a chezburger can stay the way it is, but I think you're right -- this type of talk is turning into Comic Sans where we find ourselves using it.

    We're already dealing with u, ur and other texting shortcuts that have found its way into emails out of habit.

    There's no stopping the avalanche of the kittehs. It's going to continue until new cutesy words come out and the others forgotten.

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  4. "It is the linguistic equivalent of using Comic Sans in a business email."

    That made me laugh! I totally agree! Abbreviating things because you need to make it fit the 140 rule is one thing. Using 'haz' instead of 'has' is another. Good post! :)

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  5. I recently received a call from a young woman who was trying to sell me on an idea. She said, "We want to pub this idea." I had no idea if she meant publish or publicize. Either way, I turned her down.

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  6. little "i's" on blog posts and e-mails. What? Does that tell me that you think of yourself as little? Drives me crazy!

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  7. Good post. I'm bugged by "like," and I don't even mean the meaningless "like" that peppers tweens, teens, and even adults speech. I'm talking about the "like" that replaces "said." As in, "He told me I couldn't park there and I'm like 'Get out of my face.'" What I hate about this is that it's usually subconsciously employed as a cheat. Because in this context "I'm like" can replace both "I said" and "I thought to myself." Nine times out of ten, the intended effect is to make you believe the person actually SAID something that he or she only thought about saying (usually afterwards). So it's not only a grammatical disaster, it's also sort of deceptive and cowardly. Whew, felt good to get that off my chest :)

    Oh, and on the subject of Comic Sans, I hope you've all seen this: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/monologues/15comicsans.html

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  8. DITTO. (Still trying to figure out what "kitteh" even means...)

    WORD VERIFICATION: dicart. How tweeters spell the name of that one philosopher?

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  9. I'm not on twitter so didn't know about much of this - like "sekrit" - what is that?! But one of my favorite things is to make fun of text language by using it in speech (which I do exclusively with my bf). Stuff like "OMG, that's so LOL, but they're BFFs so WTF?"

    Language by its nature evolves, since it's the ultimate user-owned commodity - I find it more fascinating than annoying.

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  10. I absolutely loathe the word "vajayjay." I know it's supposed to be cute and non-threatening like "sekrit" and "kitteh," but why the hell can't we just use the real word for things? Also, what is so threatening in the first place about the word "vagina," anyway?

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  11. My linguistics professor maintained that written and spoken English were different languages. I never took him seriously. Now I dearly hope he was right.

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  12. I love when people text or even type this word:any is changed to ne- First time i saw this nebody- I was like what? Then the person called me a texting retard, because they have to explain it. Is it really that difficult to use the A-N-Y? I am just curious.

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  13. @Roza - I agree. It takes me longer to text when I have to think about shortcuts. The right way to spell things comes more naturally to me, so that's what I type.

    @Feliza - I also loathe the word of "vajayjay," yet I use the word "peen" and find it hilarious. Maybe no one else does.

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  14. Ugh, this is so true! I'm a stickler for typing.

    Although I have to admit I break more grammar rules when I'm speaking than typing. Especially the "likes". Yes, I am 31 years old and I still say "like" when I'm trying to think. Maybe I should visit a hypnotist. ;)

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  15. @Mark Trainer ... loved the link to Comic Sans... I couldn't agree more.

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  16. This is somewhat subjective but I SEVERELY dislike seeing the words "yep" or "yup" written/typed out.

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  17. How about a post to follow this one up on the fact that some school districts are not teaching cursive writing due to "current technology trends"?

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  18. Great post! My boyfriend uses the word vajayjay -never heard it before. He said it was from some movie. I hate it. Makes no sense to me anyway. I also admit that I am more casual in my speaking than I am with my writing - especially with those "likes." Hard to break those habits! I taught a social media/PR class at a university last spring and it was amazing how much test-talk came through in assigned blog posts. It killed me. I get abbreviating things for the same of quick communication. But, I still won't abbreviate things in emails or texts to coworkers. I was just talking about this topic this weekend while with friends in Boston. One friend got a text from a friend about someone who recently passed away. He wrote this--I'm not joking--"they are doing an odd top see on him." We died. Just died. Now that we see people writing more, we can make better judgment calls about who we date. She briefly saw this guy - I don't thinks she would have is she had seen that first.

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  19. Ouch. Sorry about those typos. I just drove for seven hours. = )

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  20. I wonder how they handle it in the Philippines? They are so text crazy over there that my friend couldn't even read the text her aunt had written her. It was like reading Cyrillic.

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  21. The thing that drives me crazy is something that has become the norm even by people with college degrees; newscasters, writers of commercials, and more (even Presidents): THERE'S. Often correct? Of course. Just as often incorrect? Agghhhh, yes! Harvard graduates saying things like, "There's dozens of reasons why ..." whatever. There IS dozens of reasons? IS? Really? Sure you don't mean there ARE dozens? Sigh. It's everywhere.

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  22. As a current novelist and an ex-radio air talent, it breaks my heart to hear current radio DJ's use not only non-words but incorrect grammar so casually that I can only shake my head. If I hear "I HAD WENT" once more I may scream! It seems to me that both Internet shorthand and the culture of devolving language are combining to create future generations who will lack most communications skills--they're already losing the ability to write longhand--which is where thoughts become language--N'est-ce pas vrai?
    Just sayin'...

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  23. I'm inclined to think that there is more passion and creativity for language in people who coin phrases like 'I can haz cheezeburger' than there is in most of the linguistic stuckists. I think Shakespeare would have approved of the extreme playfulness with language that is evident online - he mangled the language more than most and as a result, coined more words than most.

    You might not want to use the freshly minted phrases and bastardisations in a business letter - but I can't see any language-loving reason that in casual online conversation one cannot be full of win, or boarding the failboat, keeping sekrits or announcing "cheeseburger? I haz one!"

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  24. My only real pet peeve is when "i" is used in place of "I." Something about it gets under my skin.

    One thing is certain. Strunk and White would be so disappointed in this generation.

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