Sunday, April 17, 2016

Rando Grammo

Look, even people who are skilled with the rules and conventions of language will acknowledge that "grammar nazis" are, for the most part, insufferable twats. This does not absolve the gaggle of maroons who think they are above having to learn what are, if one is passably literate and reads or writes with any frequency, mostly simple and consistent rules. Even English, which has more irregularities than most other major Indo-European languages, has plenty of consistent rules that are easily internalized with, again, regular infusions of these things called books.

"This ideology of standardness and correctness — seeing everything that is not standard as deviant — is constantly confronting [the] linguistic reality which is of a lot of [language] diversity, so I would imagine that personality traits would correlate with language attitudes," Guy told Mashable.

Impressionistically, I could imagine that a more fastidious personality type would be inclined to have a more judgmental view of deviance from perceived linguistic norms."
Uh, excuse you? "Impressionistically"? A douchebag says what? This is about the most back-handed, clunky, prolix way to point the finger at those darned uptight jerks who have a working knowledge of the existing conventions of usage. We're not talking about typos, nor stylistic preferences, nor new coinages, nor even slang. We're talking about simple shit, like knowing how common words are spelled and what they mean, how apostrophes work, what "literally" means, why saying "the point is, is that" is fucking stupid when you actually mean the point is that.

I've been a language nerd since I was very young, and enjoy the rhythms and creativity offered both within and without the conventions we were taught in school. Just as I learned the conventions of music theory for no better reason than to understand where the lines were and how to cross them, I firmly believe that it's important to know the rules, if only so you can then go out and break them.

And it's not like you have to sit there and memorize the rule book. I learned the rules of music by playing what I wanted to play, and I learned the rules of language by reading what I wanted to read. Not that complicated, not that much actual work. Really, it's nothing more than repetition and observation. The real test is whether what you produce sounds like music or not, with all the subjectivity implicit in such a phrase.

Apparently this sort of thing infringes on some people's reality-teevee viewing or something. So they produce these indignant screeds about how onerous these basic expectations are, like they're being beaten for their infractions.

But we all know the difference between someone who's being creative with language, and someone who just didn't bother to pay attention in school, or hasn't read anything with a hard cover in at least a decade. Frankly, I don't even bother with them, because it isn't worth the effort -- they just get butt-hurt about it and go back to what they were doing anyway. There's no percentage in going around correcting people on their malaprops and linguistic ineptitude.

It's kind of like arguing whether the current century / millennium began on January 1, 2000 or January 1, 2001. What I recall most from that time was being pre-emptively "corrected" by dopey think-pieces from self-righteous "2000-ers, " if you will (and as always, you just might). Personally, I couldn't care less if someone wanted to celebrate the new millennium on June 6th, 2006; what was off-putting was the preening insistence that something that was empirically, objectively knowable was so simply because enough people said it was so. Fine, good. Whatever. It's an ipse dixit world, we're all just trying to get by in it.

I strongly believe that this dynamic is part of a larger post-modern epistemology, one plainly evident in political discussion, where people believe with utmost sincerity that the tautological bafflegab they half-heard and incompetently cribbed from Fox and Friends is "equal" in value to an opposing argument that is empirically verifiable and logically consistent. They can no longer do simple arithmetic computations without assistance, they no longer know where things are or who people are (in the larger geopolitical sense), they don't nothin' 'bout history.

And yet they refuse to fuck off already, free to drown in a sea of useless, unnecessary apostrophes.

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