Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Argot Atrocity








Ok, I've resorted to pilfering my comments on other blogs as fodder for my own posts. I actually have been meaning to post a few things lately, but haven't taken the time.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this little diversion (via Joe.My.God.) this morning. Especially since a client recently tried to tell me to correct my spelling of "complimentary" meaning "free"; she actually said it was a pet peeve of hers when people didn't write "complementary." I gently corrected her.

In any case, I wrote the following in response to the "definitely" site, and it really does perfectly sum up my attitude. Stick that in your Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.
=============
I love that site. However, it appears there's a glut of commenters whose true callings in life must have been to be copy editors. I say go for it and following your calling.

But unless you're trying to adopt the posture of an uptight ninth grade teacher, there's hardly anything more futile and unattractive as trying to be the language police. (Ooooh, I just started that sentence with "but"!)

Certain things irk me -- or more likely, make me giggle -- but I like to think of language as the living and evolving concept that it is. I have little doubt that within a couple of centuries, "your" may be standard for all forms of the word, and maybe "definately" will too, considering the frequency of the misspelling.

To paraphrase a minor female character in Serial Mom: "Language has CHANGED!" -- and keeps changing. (Of course, that's right before Kathleen Turner bludgeons her, saying, "NO it hasn't!").

20 comments:

Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

I've tried to repress my copy editing urge since I know it is my way of projecting my own guilt about my malapropisms onto others. (How's that for merging bad New Age feel good thought with grammar suppression?) However, misuse of the word till as a replacement of until will always irk me. I also bristle at the occasional person asking me, "Could you be a little more Pacific instead of being so general?"

Huntington said...

Now that I'm being paid to edit copy for the first time in my life, I have to agree that it's all subjective, contextual, fluid and every edit is just a suggestion. But the world isn't a reasonable place, and there are still standards by which we will be judged. As long as we live in such a world, having an anything-goes attitude towards the writing we put out there doesn't serve us very well.

Fashion is a great metaphor, actually. Does it matter whether you wear a suit of a particular style to a job interview, that your shoes are shined, your hair is cut, and you have B.O. and bad breath under control? All of these qualities are arbitrary, but it behooves you to pay attention to them.

Hell is other people. We are all in hell. Don't split infinitive unless you have a good reason.

Salty Miss Jill said...

I agree-language is evolving, fluid, and subjective. One's use of language is a reflection of one's culture and background as expressed in dialect. Most criticisms of language use stem from a need to feel superior, anyhow. If I want my grammar or speech evaluated, I'll ask a professional.
Who is anyone to judge?

Huntington said...

I meant "infinitives," of course. Maybe one day the letter "s" will no longer be the standard plural marker in English.

joe said...

ladron: I hate to break it to you, but "till" is perfectly ok. And don't even start with the pronunciation differences/errors -- a friend and I started a little game at work a few years ago to see if we could put all our 'pet peeve' errors into one sentence. The faves included "irregardless," "I could care less,"... and 'pacifically' regarding pronunciation, we wanted to have a sign made that said something like "There's no 'x' in 'especially' or 'espresso'."

huntington: Obviously we can't have an anything goes attitude in certain types of professional writing (though that obviously evolves as well, even in journalism). I think your infinitives issues border on some kind of pathology. For reals. You should try to boldly go where no man has gone before.

smj: agreed, with the caveats alluded to in huntington's response that it sucks if your language use could cost you a job or have other negative impacts.

huntington: you don't have to worry about the plural 's' if you don't mind having some people assume that English is not your L1. But then you might want to drop definite and indefinite article also. I think might be fun to start write everything like sweet Chinese lady.

Stash said...

the day an English teacher accepts expressions like "LOL" and "u" in place of real words in a composition assignment is the day I keel over in my grave.

That might be what Generation Y does when they text each other but it's not standard English the way I was taught.

Sorry.

This hobbit is proud to be a fossil trapped in amber.

Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

The next time you're (or should I say your or yur?) in the Mission, drop by with a Sharpie and we can have a field day correcting the signs in this 'hood.

Papagayo said...

You bring up a good point, Joe. Correct not, lest you be corrected. No one around here uses "fewer" at all, even the NYTimes, which will use "less" in its place as though less was used for countable nouns. (!!!) Really, as outraging as this is, I'm trying to let go.

TigerYogiji said...

I LIVE for that scene in Serial Mom, as I have been known to tell people that they CANNOT wear white shoes after Labor Day!!! :)

Mike said...

Few things bother me as far as usage is concerned, but when people start talking about basic "tenants" of a religion that does irk me somewhat.

copp3rr3d said...

Kathleen Turner bludgeons her, saying, "NO it hasn't!"
I've always said the bitch had it coming to her.

The poor writing skills of a particular co-worker of mine drive me to distraction. He ends every sentence with a four dot ellipsis, which is wrong in at least 2 ways.

I know I'm testy when I get a message on facebook from a guy who has for all intents and purposes (not in tents and porpoises) has stolen a jacket of mine and umbrella which I left at his place. He said "growing the organization." ARGH. WTF is wrong with expanding, nurturing, increasing the size of?

SubtleKnife said...

I try not to correct people - especially not in English, because it's my second language and it embarrasses them - and I know I make plenty of mistakes myself, but sometimes I just let it slip. For example last week when (in Dutch) I chided a waiter for handing someone an "expresso".

As a former copy editor I have chosen to let mistakes slide because they were either in keeping with the story (stylistically or on content), or the alternative would've sounded clumsy.

Andy said...

The problem is that when you consider language "fluid" that usually means it is being destroyed. Correct grammar and spelling are a method of preservation - and can be very nice when spoken and written. Why do we have to dumb down the entire world?
Please, correct me when I err!

joe said...

Andy: You probably won't make your way back to this comment thread, but: PFFFFT! Do you consider the language you speak and write to be "dumbed down" compared to what Shakespeare was writing in the 16th Century? The truth is that language changes over time: words are added, lost, change spellings, and grammar, syntax, and pronunciation ARE "fluid" when looked at historically. "Being destroyed" couldn't be further from the truth -- language is as vibrant as ever. Note again that I'm not saying "anything goes, anywhere, anytime", but the invention of new usage is what makes language exciting... and, yes, challenging. Try reading James Joyce or Gertrude Stein with an eye toward "correcting" their language and you'll have an apopleptic fit -- and you'll also miss out on something more sublime than whether the punctuation is properly placed.

rptrcub said...

Try telling my vp over my academic department (who swears to the FSM that she doesn't like to edit) who insists on magazines that are nearly all text, and uses AP/Chicago rules that went out the door 50 years ago....

rptrcub said...

Oops, I meant "talking to." I haz teh Dumb.

joe said...

Cub, I must confess that I actually LOVE the Chicago Manual; everyone should probably own one (even though I don't yet). Of course, I don't bash people over the head with it if their emails don't conform.

Papagayo said...

It is all about the CMS, Joe, you're so right about that. Did you notice that the new edition advises on ONE space after a full stop and not two? Still finding that hard habit hard to break.

joe said...

Hey papagayo.... I got out of the habit (from 10th grade Typing class) of two spaces after a period almost 20 years ago, when I worked in publishing. It's always been standard in typesetting, but not typing, but should have gone out of fashion as soon as computerized wordprocessing came on the scene.

I'd have to say that two spaces after periods and colons is one of my pet peeves -- I have colleagues (some much younger than I) who still do it.

Papagayo said...

I had no idea! My father (who can't type) always told me two. I just had to consult the CMS and was just reminded of what a fascinating beast it is.