In Defense of Bad Language

You may have seen a headline or two floating around your Facebook or Twitter feed lately declaring that “People Who Swear Are Smart.” Maybe you smiled because you swear and darn it, you’re smart! But no, really, it’s true!

In the article “Taboo Word Fluency and Knowledge of Slurs and General Pejoratives: Deconstructing the Poverty-of-Vocabulary Myth” published in the November 2015 issue of Language Sciences, authors Kristin L. Jay and Timothy B. Jay do in fact find that “taboo word fluency is correlated with general fluency.” Those with a large curse word vocabulary have a large vocabulary period. This may be the best scholarly article ever published, and not just because they use the word “taboo” to describe swear words. [Note: they also include other types of inappropriate slurs and language in the study–not just curse words–which is why they describe them as “taboo.”]

But wait! Before you go patting yourself on the back for your large bank of curse words, consider the rest of the findings: “taboo fluency is correlated with neuroticism and openness.” So thumbs down and thumbs up?

If you love your swears as much as I do, you might want to check out our awesome t-shirts:

fuck-mensmartass-menbucket-men

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for men’s and women’s: “I actually have an extensive vocabulary; F*CK just happens to be my favorite word.”

Click here for men’s and women’s: “Smart a*&”

Click here for men’s and women’s: “F*ck It Bucket”

P.S. We also have all of these available as prints!

I wanted to end this with something clever, but f*ck it.

Language Evolution, Emoji Revolution

I’m emoji obsessed. I use them as much as possible, anywhere possible. This is probably a sign that I’m old, but I already knew that.

I wrote a post recently about the evolution of the period and whether or not it’s necessary to keep using it in a digital age. Natalie wrote one last week about the word (or non-word) “flustrated,” a word that smashes together flustered and frustrated … we guess? Along these lines, I’ve been thinking about my love of all emojis and how they may impact the written word.

Coming soon to a phone near you is a new round of 72 emojis including the face palm, bacon, and a selfie arm. I can’t help but think of these additions as something akin to the words that Merriam-Webster adds each year. They’re an evolution of how we need and want to be able to communicate with each other. Sometimes, there are absolutely no words better than this guy:

emoji

 

After all, aren’t emojis the more sophisticated version of emoticons? Cute though they were, the standard keyboard is somewhat limiting in expressing feelings.

Communicating so much through the written word can be frustrating sometimes. Emails and texts are super efficient, but not always the most effective way to convey more complex thoughts and feelings. When we talk face to face, we’re using more than words of course, there’s the drop of the brow, a crooked smile, arms crossed. We’re saying so much more than we’re saying. For me, that’s what the gap the emojis help to close between written communication and face-to-face. It’s also an opportunity to be less misunderstood because you can send along a near picture of what you want to convey along with the words.

I’m here to say, I’m all for it. I’m in favor of this evolution. I think it’s fascinating and fabulous and what a cool way that we’ve come up with to help make our digital communication more like sitting down to coffee with a friend. I won’t say it’s a replacement for that by any means, but it sure does help.

I have some friends who also text a ton of gifs to help express what they’re trying to say, and let’s not downplay the fun of Bitmoji. What do you think the next evolution of emojis will be? Are they here to stay or a passing fad? Are they ruining the way we text and talk? Any old school emoticon users out there? 😉

Flustrated

Flustrated is not a word. Period.

I am alarmed that my spell checker isn’t picking that up; I think I am going to have to fire my spell checker.

Flustrated truly is a weird hybridization of “flustered” and “frustrated.” I get that we can all misspeak–I am not immune to this–but it really isn’t a word and I don’t know why people continue to use it. Is it being used because you truly think it is a word? Is this a regional thing or is it more widespread? I ask this because it’s a misused word I commonly heard whilst living in Ohio and Michigan. I don’t hear it as much in Arizona, so that goes back to my regional question: Is it a midwest thing?

When I discussed this pet peeve with a friend from South Carolina, she told me that “flustrated” is used as well as “fustrated” there. Wait, what? I literally hadn’t heard anyone use this word and my friend was reporting that this is a very common word used there. Great, now we have two made-up words and people across the country seem to be using them. This makes me think that it could be more prevalent in a region, but it’s not a regional misused word.

Why should we care about these made-up words? At Phoenix Comicon earlier this month, I was able to have a lovely discussion with a customer who was questioning the whole premise of my shop. His viewpoint was that language is meant to be a fluid, ever-changing and evolving thing. These rigid rules are ridiculous and one of the more influential dictionary fathers, Samuel Johnson, believed he was writing a dictionary to capture the current state of language now and that it would continue to change. The point being that dictionaries and grammar books are meant to show us what we are using now, but it can change. Maybe I agree, to a point.

I will never, ever give up my punctuation. Jess wrote an awesome blog post last week about the period disappearing in language. Losing the period would be a devastating blow to how we clearly and concisely communicate. I could see how missing it in a quick text isn’t that big of a worry, but if it were a long paragraph sans periods, the reader would be confused by what you were trying to say and he or she would spend exponentially more time reading your message than it would have taken for you to hit that period key. So I am saying I won’t crucify you for missing a period in a quick text to me, but if you make me read and reread a long exchange because you couldn’t be bothered to hit the period key, our texting friendship will probably come to an end. I’m not budging on that. Having periods makes us better language communicators.

That’s where I am on this “flustrated” thing right now. I don’t see how adding this word to the dictionary adds to or clarifies our language. We already have words that mean what you think this made-up word means. We have flustered and we have frustrated. I am for adding words to our dictionaries where we don’t have words to describe or express what we are trying to say. Does “flustrated” do this? Does it add clarity to your sentence or express that you have an amplified frustration? I think not and that’s why I vote for people to stop using it. Now.

flustrated

Punctuation Evolution

We’ve all been there: staring at an email sent by a work colleague that is rife with tension. We agonize over every short sentence, turn of phrase, and use of punctuation. Are they angry? Frustrated? Why is that word in all caps? Trying to understand someone’s hidden subtext in an email is maddening.

Text messages seem to bring that issue to the doorstep of friendships and marriages. My own husband worries if he writes, “I love you!” in a text and I reply, “Love you, too.” God forbid I omit an exclamation point. If I do, I’m clearly trying to tell him that I’m mad at him and love him a little less than normal.

Instant messenger (oh AIM, remember those days?) and texting have already made capitalization optional. If you’re friends with me, you get annoyingly grammatically correct texts–come on, guys, look at where I work–that are proofread. Seriously. But I’m old-fashioned and a stickler for making sure people understand exactly what I’m saying. I take my punctuation and capitalization seriously.

The New York Times article “Period. Full Stop. Point. Whatever It’s Called, It’s Going Out of Style” suggests that the period is becoming irrelevant and is more frequently a type of emoticon used “to show irony, syntactic snark, insincerity, even aggression.” >:-o Just ask my husband!

The article goes on to point out that British teens are already giving up some emoticons and abbreviations like “LOL” and “ROTFL” because they’re used by their parents’ generation and thirty-somethings like me. I’m sure American teens are right there with them. My good friend texted me not long ago that her middle school students told her that only old people use emoticons. Ouch.

Check out The Times article above to ponder this some more. And also pay attention to how author Dan Bilefsky uses (or doesn’t) the period in the article.

So, what say you? Is capitalization irrelevant? Do we need periods anymore? Do you heart emoticons? What do you think is the next punctuation mark to go?

Book Review: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

We’re trying out lots of different topics for our Grammatical Art blog, so I’m bringing you a book reivew. That’s right, the resident librarian is talking about books. How could I not?

Though Jon Ronson is most known for The Psychopath Test and The Men Who Stare at Goats, I was originally introduced to him through his collection of essays, Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries. The title essay is about people going missing from cruise ships and it haunts me to this day.

In Ronson’s latest, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, he explores recent, public, often ruthless shamings, many of which you probably saw on Twitter or heard people weighing in.

Ronson sets out to interview the subjects of the shaming, uncovering the stories from their point of view. Sometimes, it seems they may have been rightfully judged by society at large (as was the case of Jonah Lehrer who was outed as a plagiarist), but that’s not really Ronson’s point. He shows us how they’ve handled their ridicule, their intentions, and how they got caught up in their situation.

He also talks with Justine Sacco who tweeted before boarding a flight to South Africa, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” When she landed, she was branded a racist and her life has been forever altered. It’s interesting to consider what happened to her post-tweet and the price she paid. Most of us read or heard about the tweet, rolled our eyes, muttered “Racist,” and moved on.

Then there’s the story of Adria Richards who tweeted a photo and called out two males at a tech conference she was attending who were making jokes about dongles (use your imagination there). They all lost their jobs (yes, including Richards), but how it ultimately shook out might surprise you. I found the story complicated and fascinating, and can remember getting into a heated discussion about it with a group of friends. Was she right to post a picture of total strangers without their permission? Did the men have a right to talk and joke about whatever they wanted when they thought they were having a private conversation? Did she have the right to not be subjected to dongle jokes while at a work conference?

Overall, Ronson digs into these so-called public shamings in a way that makes his book a fast, surprisingly compelling read. When you stop to think about the fact that literal public shamings were banned back in the days of old because they were considered a more severe punishment than even jail, it makes public shaming the age of Twitter, Facebook, and gorilla mom feel a lot different. A great, quick read for a trip on a plane or poolside this summer.

Don’t forget you can borrow books, audiobooks, and ebooks for free from your local library. Click here to find the book at a library close to you!

Macey’s Got Heart

For us here at Grammatical Art, it’s pretty exciting when someone sends a picture of themselves wearing our garb. We’ve seen recent grads donning our graduated cylinder shirt and Chris Hardwick wearing our whom shirt, but nothing tugs at the old heart strings (pun intended) quite like Macey and her family wearing our heart shirt.

wright family

Macey is 13. She’s an aspiring gymnast who dances, plays guitar, and sings.

Macey needs a heart transplant.

She was born with severe aortic stenosis and mitral stenosis, heart conditions that required surgery as an infant and again at age 11. At this point, her left ventricle is failing and she needs a brand new heart.

Macey’s mom, Patrice, reached out to us on Etsy asking if she could purchase some of our heart shirts to auction at a fundraiser to help offset Macey’s medical bills. She also wanted to buy some for her family to wear in support of Macey. How could we turn down the offer to be part of such an awesome cause? Natalie sent the shirts to the Wright family free of charge.

We were proud to be able to support Macey and her family as they continue the difficult wait for a new heart.

Please check out Macey’s Facebook page to learn more about her, her family, and how you can support her journey to a new heart.

 

Grammatical Art is at Phoenix Comicon!

After being on the waiting list for two years, I will finally be at the Phoenix Comicon!

I run an online business and the majority of my sales and interactions with customers are done online. While I have great exchanges with my customers, it’s all done behind a screen. Doing in-person shows is a way that I actually get to meet my customers in person and I love it.

I LOVE doing comic cons because I get to meet all kinds of people who have different interests and a myriad of backgrounds and careers, but they also love grammatical puns and scientific formulas. I feel like I am among my kind at the cons and I enjoy every minute of it.

In person, I have the chance to sell things that are cost-prohibitive and a challenge to ship, like framed prints. (I really love how my prints look in a snazzy frame and I wish I could ship them all over the world, but alas, they arrive shattered and destroyed. So that’s another bonus of shopping in person with me.) I will also be debuting a couple new designs this weekend at the show!

If you haven’t grabbed tickets yet, make sure you get them! Stop over at booth 122 and say hello; if you buy a t-shirt, even better.

We’ll be at the show at the Phoenix Convention Center (100 N 3rd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004) this weekend:
Thursday, June 2nd: 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Friday, June 3rd: 10:00AM – 7:00PM
Saturday, June 4th: 10:00AM – 7:00PM
Sunday, June 5th: 10:00AM – 5:00PM

You can see more programming and ticket info here.

WonderCon 2016

Less Is More, Not Fewer

My mom is an awesome woman. She’s funny, sarcastic, smart as heck, super well read, relentlessly dedicated to her kids, and definitely knows her grammar.

Like my mom, I pride myself on my attention to detail and grammar skills. I was a writing and teaching assistant in college, so it was my actual job to edit grammar and help people write better. Living the dream, guys.

Imagine my horror when my mom corrected my grammar.

Me: There were a lot less people there than I was expecting!
Mom: Fewer.
Me: …
Mom: You mean fewer.
Me: …
Mom: There were fewer people there than you were expecting.
Me: No, I meant less.
Mom: Well, you’re wrong. It’s fewer.

She was right. Turns out, even top level grammar nerds such as myself can fall victim to spoken grammatical errors.

So, if you haven’t fallen in love with my mom already, you should. Turns out, I fell even more in love with her after I became a mom myself. The instant my son was born this past December, I wanted to call her all those times I hadn’t, send her more pictures, be a better daughter. Mostly, I just realized that there was a tiny human that belonged to me and I never wanted him to leave me. How had my mom felt when I went off to college? Moved away and got married?

I wanted to soak up every minute of my time with my son, so I decided to quit my full time job and stay home with him. When my son was about two months old, my awesome friend from college texted me, “Hey. Any interest in a part-time job from home with flexible hours?” Why yes, Natalie, yes I am interested. Home with the kiddo and something to keep me challenged and making some money? Working for an awesome company using my skills as a grammar enthusiast and librarian? Sign me up!

So that’s how I got here. I’ll be blogging for Grammatical Art (don’t worry, it won’t always be about moms and kids), and I’ll be helping manage things on the customer side of the company. I can’t wait to work with you and keep you in style with the best grammar wear out there!

Grammar Be Damned

My first blog post is surprisingly a very personal one. My daughter was diagnosed as autistic this week. After a year of doctor, therapy, and other specialist appointments, it is a good feeling to finally have an answer as to what’s going on with her. Having the answer will help us formulate a plan moving forward to get her the educational and therapeutic assistance she needs, so this is actually great news. In all honesty though, it sucks.

No one dreams of their child growing up with any sort of disability or challenge in life. I certainly never thought I would have to worry about having a child who couldn’t talk to me. (I’m long-winded and love to talk to anyone about anything, so it only makes sense that I would have a talker.) However, that’s exactly what happened. I am the lady who loves proper grammar so much that I created a business around it and now my daughter cannot string together a noun with a verb. I would give ANYTHING for my daughter to do so, proper grammar be damned. I don’t care what tense her verb is in, just give me a verb, kid.

Having an almost four year old who has daily meltdowns because she can’t tell you what she needs or is feeling is a big challenge. We are working on using other communication methods like sign language and pictograms to overcome this, but it’s still incredibly frustrating for us, the parents, and the adorable little human.

I wish I could wave my magic grammatical wand and make it all better for her. Poof! You are now able to speak in perfectly structured sentences. Love, The Grammatical Fairy Godmother.

Alas, it isn’t that easy.

Over time, I have the utmost faith in her gaining better communication abilities. At her new preschool (that actually specializes in the education of autistic children), she makes incredible strides daily and her speech therapist works her hard every single session. It’s just going to happen on her own timeline and in her own way. She may end up learning proper grammar along the way and she may not; I honestly don’t care at this point. It’s also not important right now; getting her to communicate in any way is important right now, grammar be damned.


Fundraiser for the School

My daughter is fortunate enough to go to an all-inclusive preschool where the educators tailor their teaching style and the lesson content to each kid’s needs and where the kids can have all of their therapies at the school. Educating and treating a child with autism is very costly. This is because staff to student ratios in programs like this are much smaller than that of a conventional school; they also have very qualified staffers educating and treating the children. Thanks to the school that she attends, it is affordable and we will be forever grateful for having access to the much needed early intervention our autistic child requires.

They cover the majority of the educational costs through grants and state funding, but a large portion is donated by ordinary people and businesses. I would like to assist in raising money for the school for many reasons, but the main ones are that I’d love the school to be around through the decades to come and I want more families to have access to their programs.

I am selling autism awareness t-shirts, sweatshirts, and totes in the shop to raise money for the school. 100% of the proceeds will go to the school that has changed our lives (Grammatical Art is donating all of the materials and labor). Please consider purchasing an item here:

Grammatical Art Autism Awareness Fundraiser

puzzle GA hoodie vneck tote

Why don’t we communicate properly?

I recently blew through the entire first two and-a-half seasons of Orange Is the New Black. In one episode the inmates wrote pieces for a prison newspaper. One wrote in an editorial, “I could care less.” Another inmate explained that her peer ought to have written, “I couldn’t care less,” as the former suggests a sense of care whereas the intent was that the issue was entirely inconsequential. Another inmate interjected that colloquial use trumps proper syntax. To support her argument she then sited use of the word “literally.”

My world crashed down on me.

Not literally.

Language and all of its rules matter. This would be way better if right now I were to provide data and empirical evidence, but I have neither. I couldn’t think of any solid reasons aside from my mild superiority complex; I communicate well, therefore I belong to a greater breed of humans.

As awesome as that would be were it true, I don’t think I like the idea. It’s too judgmental and degrading for a human as kind and tolerant as I am.

We should all communicate properly because we can. Everyone communicates and everyone uses language, i.e., a body of common words and systems, to do it, be it English, Spanish, sign language, clicks and whistles, or Mandarin. Everyone learns and uses language to convey thoughts to others. Why, if we all demonstrate that we have learned language, do we not all use it properly? Apathy? Defiance? Insufficient education?

I am going to passively contemplate it while I binge watch more OITNB and probably for the rest of my life. Side note: Ever since the aforementioned episode I have fought hard to not totally resent Piper Chapman. In the meantime, share where you stand. Why do some of us communicate improperly? Further, when and how should we correct our not-so-well-spoken brethren? And just because I’m curious, have you caught yourself using a word like “literally” the wrong way?