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?

Tell Them from the Start

I’m writing this with the presidential debates in the background. I won’t get political here, but I will say that as a woman who as a girl didn’t even know that a woman could run for president, it’s pretty darn cool to see a woman on that stage.

I have two sisters. Growing up, it was always a girls’ club. We loved all of the same toys, music, movies, games, you name it. Even though we’re so similar and grew up in the same household, I’m different. I’m the sister with no science gene. None. Zip. Nada. I muddled through science classes in high school, and in college I took geology for my graduation requirement, y’all. Geology. (It’s worth noting that my boss took just about every advanced science class offered at our alma mater, and I took geology.)

My sisters are scientists. Claire just finished her PhD and is a post doc for a lab at Children’s National Hospital in DC. Kate double-majored in Biology and Creative Writing. I’m constantly in awe of these women in science. And though I don’t know what they deal with as women who work in a male-dominated field, I know it’s not always easy. I know people make assumptions about their roles in the lab or their level of knowledge. I know that they’re working subtly, quietly every day to change the roles of women in science.

So, even though I’m not a scientist or even remotely science-minded, I want more women to find a home in STEM fields. I want girls to become science literate and science confident, even if they don’t want to be scientists.

Science: girls do it better. Tell them from the start.

toddler-sciencegirls-hot-pink

The Autism Spectrum

Whenever someone hears that my daughter is on the autism spectrum, he or she typically asks me, “How autistic is she?”

They seem to be asking how severe the autism is. Is she really autistic or is she just a little autistic?

Well, it’s not that simple.

I admit that I used to think of the autism spectrum as a linear being: You could be severely affected or maybe a little and maybe somewhere in between. That’s also typically how it is described, even by professionals.

When my daughter was initially diagnosed last year by a developmental pediatrician, there were symptoms and behaviors checked off a list during the evaluation; if you met so many of the criteria, you were considered to be on the spectrum. In my daughter’s evaluation, if she met 4 of these areas, she made the spectrum. My daughter met 12 out of 13. So if you were to think about the spectrum as a lineal chart, 4 would be a little autistic and 13 would be severe, right? This meant my daughter was categorized as severely autistic with severe developmental delays.

This type of diagnosis shaped how I thought about my daughter’s autism: My one and only child has autism and on a scale of 1-10, it is a 9+. I thought she was severely autistic. Then Rebecca Burgess came out with a phenomenal comic and my entire perspective changed.

The spectrum isn’t linear, it’s more like a circle. You can be on-target or advanced in one area, but struggle with another. This not only shows areas in which a person can struggle, but it also shows their strengths; it’s a really great way to look at the spectrum. Also, it shows how each person isn’t just a number on a lineal scale; they fit somewhere on a very complex chart. Since this chart is a much larger space than a 1-10 lineal chart, one can also see how people on the autism spectrum can be so different from one another. The saying goes, “When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” That’s because each person is so unique.

Now that we’ve completed story time, I will get to the point of this post. This is a great way to look at the spectrum and I want to get the idea of this better spectrum out there. That’s why I am going to sell shirts and totes with this exceptional visualization of the spectrum. I have been fortunate enough to be able to work with Rebecca Burgess to bring this idea to life.

As you may know, I designed and printed autism awareness shirts last year and 100% of the proceeds went to a non-profit school that specializes in the education of children with autism (and other developmental delays). Since it was a great success and we were able to raise $2,000 in a very short time, I would like to do the same thing this year. I want to sell these tees and donate all of the profits to this amazing school that continues to change my daughter’s life for the better every day.

You can get the products here:

autism spectrum new men's autism spectrum new women's v neck autism spectrum new tote

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.

 

When Bad Grammar Happens to Good (Grammar) People

I proofread text messages. Most of the time. I absolutely proofread emails. Big, heavy, important emails I proofread by reading them out loud just as I was taught to do in my college writing class. Sometimes, if they’re really important, I have someone else proofread them. This is how obsessed neurotic careful I am about my grammar.

It’s always been important to me to be sure I’m communicating as clearly as possible. There’s nothing more confusing or frustrating than muddling through someone’s ill-written, typo-ridden email, text message, Facebook post.

But, hey, everyone’s busy. Sometimes, you’re jotting off a text quickly and autocorrect gets the better of you. You’re typing a response to a simple email and there are more than one or two typos. Stuff happens!

But then there’s the time that you post something for all to see on a blog, website, even your social media. You think it looks great, and then you go back and notice a mistake. And there’s a pit in your stomach. You think to yourself, How could I have done that? I proofread that! I don’t make grammar mistakes.

Well, bad grammar happens, even to people with good grammar skills.

I wonder if it’s gotten worse. Editing is so easy, even on social media! That is, unless you screw up a tweet, and then your only option is to delete it and re-type it. Did people take grammar more seriously when they were using typewriters? Quill pens? The dread you feel when realizing you’ve made an error in pen in a thank you note to your grandmother is way worse than realizing you made a mistake on your blog. What do you do in the thank you note? Cross it out and rewrite it so that it looks like scribble art? Maybe we’re lazier about checking our writing beforehand because we have a lot of ways to check it after the fact.

Trust and believe, even though you can edit a blog post, the feeling of dread is still there when you catch a grammatical error. It’s even worse when you work for a company called Grammatical Art and you have a glaring typo on a blog post you wrote for said company. I mean, I didn’t do that, but a friend of mine may have.

So, even though sometimes bad grammar happens to good (grammar) people, you’re still allowed to wear this shirt.

grammar queen

 

One Year Later

It’s now been a year since my daughter was diagnosed with autism. It was a diagnosis met with mixed emotions because while I finally had answers to why she wasn’t talking and why she wasn’t developing the way we expected her to be, I would be lying if I told you it wasn’t devastating to hear this news. It means that she won’t just outgrow this non-speaking phase; she may never communicate in a traditional verbal way. It was a difficult blow to take.

I am the grammar lady; it’s my thing. I love to talk; that’s also my thing. Over the past year, I’ve had to learn how to communicate with a little human in non-traditional ways. We use pictures, gestures, some sign language, and I’ve had to learn how to decipher different pitches of screams in order to communicate with her. It’s been an arduous adventure in patience and perseverance I didn’t know I needed.

Over the past year, we have been very fortunate to go through this with a team of professionals: special educators, paraprofessionals, pediatricians, developmental pediatricians, psychologists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, and an amazing team of behavioral therapists. I am grateful to these amazingly patient and kind people who are helping her grow every day. While her journey may appear to be a slow one to outsiders, I know she is making incredible strides to be the best person she can be. She has taught me to cherish and value these small steps and to celebrate them as the huge victories they are.

I am impressed by my daughter’s inability to speak in complete sentences, yet being able to tell me what she needs now. She uses color names to describe most things. As I’m sitting here typing this, she’s telling me she wants “juice” and wants the “red” one–the juice box in the red container is what she’s seeking. I would love for her to say, “Mommy, I want an apple juice, please.” However, that’s not our life. Maybe that will change one day and maybe it won’t. That’s what I’ve had to get used to: the unknown development future and being okay with that.

Sadly, ensuring my daughter’s progressive development hasn’t been the only battle I’ve had to encounter this year. I’ve also been battling the loss of insurance where I live. This summer, I found out my daughter’s health insurer would be leaving my state. That in and of itself didn’t alarm me too much as there were other insurers. Then I found out they were leaving, too. Now I am stuck in a county that has no health insurance options that cover my daughter’s very necessary therapies. This is the first place it’s happened in the country and no one knows what to do about it or how to fix it. You can read more about it here: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/the-county-obamacare-forgot-227251

I don’t want to get into a debate about the politics of health care laws and how we got here, but I will be very clear about my factual position: My daughter would not be insured and would not have the access to the care she requires to thrive without the Affordable Care Act and the insurance provided through the federal marketplace. It’s not perfect, but it’s the only option I have to gain access to the health care she needs at this time.

I have spent months writing letters to every politician I can from the mayor of my city to the President of the United States and as of today, September 1, 2016, I have zero solutions or options to fully insure my daughter in 2017. The solution I basically have at this point is to move my family and business to another county or state and hope that it doesn’t happen there next year. That sounds like an asinine non-solution if you ask me.

I still don’t know what I am going to do. I am working every day to come up with an actual solution to help cover my daughter, the other 10,000 Pinal County residents who rely on the same insurance options, and also the other people across the country who will need insurance when they face the same challenge my county is. I am writing letters, I am visiting lawmakers, I am calling US Senators, I am contacting insurance companies to try to find coverage; I am doing a lot of work to ensure my daughter’s development isn’t hindered by a political battle.

I am partially writing this as an update to last year’s post to let you know my daughter is doing great and she’s thriving at her school and in all of her therapies. I am also writing this to explain why I may not be creating as many new products as you’re used to seeing in Grammatical Art. I absolutely love creating and it pains me to not be doing it as often right now. Between my demanding day job, my daughter’s packed schedule, running the business day-to-day, and fighting a political battle for insurance, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything. Creating has definitely taken a backseat. I will get back to it, I just need to get through all of this stuff first.

I truly appreciate your support over the years and I (and my daughter) would not be where I am without you. I look forward to returning to creating soon, but I need some people in Washington to cooperate first. Until then, you can still rely on all of the awesome existing products in the shop.

Resilience is a word I thought I knew. My daughter has taught me what it truly is at the young age of four. I must persevere as she does and get this done.

One Year Later

Book Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill

I can’t help it. I was an English major; I’m a librarian. I have to talk about books, guys. If your “to read” list looks anything like mine, it will take you years to finish reading everything you want to. I get it. I really do. But here’s another for your consideration: The Fireman by Joe Hill.

Joe Hill has been getting buzz not only for his best-selling Heart-Shaped Box, but also as Stephen and Tabitha King’s son. Deliberately choosing not to use his birth name in full, Hill started writing as anonymously as possible with the aim that his work be read and treated as something other than “that book Stephen King’s kid wrote.” Well, The Fireman is that book Stephen King’s kid wrote, and ain’t no shame in his game, it’s pretty good.

The book opens on a not-too-distant future where society has begun to crumble thanks to a sweeping epidemic called Dragonscale. When a person gets Dragonscale, their body slowly becomes covered in thin, tattoo-like swirls, but what’s worse is most who are infected slowly burn until they catch fire and combust. The world is in a permanent state of fire and smoke. No one knows for sure how you “catch” Dragonscale, but it seems to be coming for everyone.

We follow Harper through the story, and she’s possibly one of the best parts of the book. She’s capable and strong, and really doesn’t discover just how much so until she is infected with Dragonscale and becomes pregnant.

Hill does a great job of navigating a realistic, non-zombie apocalypse. The beginning of the book feels exactly how you would imagine the world beginning to end if this did in fact happen tomorrow. Things fall apart slowly with people clinging to society as they knew it. Firefighters, police officers, and doctors are in high demand. People try to keep things going (go to work, send kids to school) until it becomes nearly impossible. There is denial and confusion and a slowly permeating fear, one that reveals the type of person really living inside each of us.

As my friend Amberly points out, there is a lot of heavy-handed foreshadowing (and boy is there), but mostly it’s okay with me. I found the story to be suspenseful and engaging. The middle drags a bit through some clunky and awkward action scenes, and the end is a bit puzzling (sorry, I won’t spoil it for you!) and maybe mildly disappointing, but I’d still recommend checking it out. There’s some truly great writing and, well, all the drama of fire you could ask for. The concept is smart, and while I have no idea whether or not the science holds up, I’m willing to suspend disbelief, so kudos to Hill on that.

Not sure if I’d read a sequel, but I’m definitely interested in reading Heart-Shaped Box. Hill’s a good storyteller, and I’m looking forward to more from him.

If you’re really into fire, then you might want to check out this Fire Triangle print on our website. Science: it’s everywhere. Even in your fiction.

Happy reading!

Don’t be a milquetoast!

I decided to share the story of one of my most favorite designs in our shop. Meet milquetoast!

milquetoast2

Cute, right?

Yeah, super cute, but you might be scratching your head. What the heck is milquetoast?

Simply, a milquetoast is someone who is meek, timid, and easily intimidated. It’s such a strange word that I started wondering where it came from. “Toast” as in toast you eat?

Turns out, the word originates from the 1924 comic strip character Casper Milquetoast by H.T. Webster. He’s known as “the man who speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick.” His name “Milquetoast” is a deliberate misspelling of the food “milk toast,” a bland breakfast food made of toasted bread in warm milk. In other words, something bland and inoffensive. Much like a timid person.

So there you have it! Milquetoast is a fairly recent addition to the American English dictionary (it’s worth noting that it doesn’t usually appear in non-American English dictionaries). Celebrate the etymology of milquetoast with our awesome and adorable t-shirt and see how many of your friends are in on the joke!

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? 😉