Grammar for All

It has become a (sad) game to find bad grammar out in the world. Items found can be as innocuous as a sign on a bathroom door to a piece of art that you are meant to hang in your kitchen that says, “Mom’s are the best chefs.”

Nope.

Of course, it’s all over social media, blogs, websites, The Interwebs. But that doesn’t stop me from smiling a little when I see something like this:

tricker treating

Ah yes, the timeless tradition of “tricker treating.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about grammar and how the ways we use it reflect back on us. In one of my Facebook groups, someone posted a question about hiring a photographer who had used poor grammar in a message exchange. My first reaction was I absolutely would not hire someone who has poor grammar. When I was planning my wedding, I dismissed vendors who had websites or advertisements riddled with grammatical errors.

But this post gave me pause. Grammar is complex. Some schools teach it thoroughly, intensely. Some don’t. Some people have a mind for all of the rules (many of which confuse and evade me). Some don’t. The mode of communication matters. Is it bad grammar on a website or is it bad grammar in a casual text message?

What fascinates me is that everyone has a relationship with grammar, whether they want to or not. We all write, even if it’s only in text messages and on social media. Some people don’t have a clue that what they’re written is at all grammatically incorrect. And does it really matter if it is so long as it’s understood? If I moved to Spain and attempted to speak in Spanish and misspoke here or there or with my thick American accent, would anyone criticize me so long as I could be understood? Probably not. Grammar is a language that belongs to all of us. Maybe common grammatical errors are sort of like written slang. It’s an evolution.

And while some grammatical errors make me shudder (the abuse of the apostrophe chief among them), I totally know what tricker treat is. I might be committing grammatical suicide, but is it a big deal if it’s spelled that way on Facebook?

Hey Biatches, the OED Added New Words

OMG, y’all. The Oxford English Dictionary added new words. More than 1,000 entries have been updated and some 1,200 words or meanings added, according to an article on the updates by NPR. The editors of the OED typically wait years before they ultimately decide what words and meanings to add, making the “newness” of some of these words sort of silly. Once we start writing down and spelling out words that may only have been spoken or used jokingly, the editors start to take notice. The process of legitimizing and recording a word begins.

Some of the best additions for this go-around include:

  • cheese eater (n.): a person who eats cheese; a person who appreciates or routinely consumes cheese
  • ‘Merica (n.): America. Note: Originally and chiefly in representations of nonstandard speech. Now frequently also in ironic or self-conscious use, emphasizing emblematic or stereotypical qualities of American traditions, institutions and national ideals.
  • moobs (n.): unusually prominent breasts on a man, typically as a result of excess pectoral fat.
  • uptalk (n.): a manner of speaking in which declarative sentences are uttered with rising intonation at the end, a type of intonation more typically associated with questions.
  • YOLO (int.): “You only live once”; used to express the view that one should make the most of the present moment without worrying about the future (often as a rationale for impulsive or reckless behavior).

YOLO cracks me up in particular because it’s grammatically incorrect to say “you only live once” (it should really be “you live only once,” so YLOO). But hey, so goes the evolution of language.

There are also some racy, NSFW ones like biatch and jagoff. I might be most proud to see jagoff in the OED as a Pittsburgher (it’s a classic work of Pittsburghese). I’ll let you use your imagination on the actual definition or look that one up yourself. 😉

What’s coolest about all of this to me is that it demonstrates how fluid and flexible language is, which is one of my favorite things about it. We are, all of us, allowed to own it, bend it, tweak it, use it how we need to. There is certainly a difference between a creative evolution of a word and the bastardization of a word, to be clear. And I know there are purists among us, but I am a huge fan of this malleability. I once had a professor spend an entire class lamenting the misuse of impact. What was once a noun has now also become a verb, likely because people wanted to avoid misusing affect/effect. I for one say, “So what? Who cares?” Documentation adds validity, so now that it’s in the OED, go ahead, use it. YOLO, after all.

 

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