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[P]
Internet == Grammar-Free Zone

By Whizard in Op-Ed
Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:51:02 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Why is it that when perfectly intelligent people get their fingers on a keyboard and an e-mail or usenet client, 95% of the time what comes out looks and sounds like it was written by a baboon on crack?

This is something I've been unable to figure out for nearly as long as I've been writing e-mail ... why people don't bother to use proper english, proper spelling, capitalization, punctuation, or anything else when they sit down to write an e-mail or usenet post. Why is the excuse "oh, it's just e-mail" a perfect justification for their presenting themselves as incompetent boobs in a public forum?


The saddest part is when I know it's someone who knows perfectly well how to put together a coherent sentence, a properly-formatted paragraph, and how to run a spell-checker. Why does no one want to acknowledge that that usenet post might be the valuable first impression they make on a future employer? Or that the manager that they need to request some money from next week might just be a member of that mailing list to which they just dashed off an e-mail with seven misspelled words and no capitalization.

It's not like it takes that much extra time to hit the shift key on the first letter of each sentence, or tap that comma key once in a while. Running a spell-checker isn't that big of a thing most of the time. Most news- and mail-readers support them. So why does it seem so hard?

(And yes, I'm sure, since this is an English-language rant, that I've made some typoes. Murphy, and all that. Mistakes are acceptable. Laziness isn't.)

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Poll
The __________ peel was the yellowest in the bunch of __________.
o banana's, banana's 0%
o bananas, banana's 2%
o banana's, bananas 82%
o bananas', banana's 1%
o rusty's, Inoshiros. 13%

Votes: 138
Results | Other Polls

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Internet == Grammar-Free Zone | 60 comments (60 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
fuk u (2.66 / 12) (#1)
by fluffy grue on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 03:47:09 PM EST

u r a stuped nubie lamr & u shuldnt say stuf liek that & u r a dum troll & go bac to slashdot u lamer!!!!
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Non-native speakers on k5 (3.66 / 3) (#2)
by recursive on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 03:54:45 PM EST

According to this k5 poll about voting many k5 readers are not US citizens and thus might be no native speakers. A spell checker should find their spelling errors nonetheless.

-- My other car is a cdr.


Re: Non-native speakers on k5 (3.66 / 3) (#7)
by Whizard on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:11:29 PM EST

See my above response. (Or below, depending on how things get moderated.) One interesting question, though, would be whether other languages see the same sort of problem -- people who don't take the time to write e-mails that use proper grammer, etc, when they're perfectly capable of doing it -- or if it's a problem that's also Anglo-centric. I'm willing to bet they do, my question is still "Why?".


--
So Lawrence Lessig, John Perry Barlow, Rusty, and Prince are having dinner...
[ Parent ]
Re: Non-native speakers on k5 (3.50 / 2) (#17)
by recursive on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:33:42 PM EST

Sure, the problem is universal. But especially grammatical errors are hard to spot if you are writing in a foreign language (like me). You could argue on the other hand, that this would keep an author's focus on the problem because she/he knows it.

-- My other car is a cdr.


[ Parent ]
Re: Non-native speakers on k5 (4.50 / 2) (#22)
by beergut on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 05:07:48 PM EST

s/grammer/grammar/

You're speeling is artoscious.

I think that the problem you see on Usenet, in email, on weblogs, and in pretty much any public forum, is that people truly are lazy. (And I should know, as I am a master in the art of laziness (including the leading "And" in the outer level of nesting of this (nested) parenthetical thought.).) I have read the semi-literate rantings of diseased minds put down on paper, and they read much like the semi-literate spewings of idiots on the Internet.

You see, it takes a modicum of intelligence to properly express yourself in any written language. People who don't possess that attribute are doomed to make themselves look foolish in public, and leave even those with whom they communicate privately shaking their heads from time to time.

Verbal communication is a more free-flowing medium, wherein a speaker can choose his words artfully based upon the reactions he senses from those listening to his verbal diarrhea. Written communications offer no such instant feedback. Unfortunately, someone who can speak prosaically, forcefully, and thoughtfully; someone whose words seem specifically and specially chosen for communicating some idea verbally, can fall flat on his face when asked to write a simple sentence. You know that this person is intelligent, has a good grasp on the use of his language, and has a good vocabulary. Unfortunately, he never learned to use the written equivalent of verbal pause. He is, therefore, not as educated as he would first seem, or simply lazy as the day is long.

I won't claim that my spelling is always correct, nor that my punctuation skills are at all adequate, but I do at least try to capitalize the beginnings of sentences. I know what I think of the author of messages that I see that do not follow even the most basic rules of proper written language (and I am only fluent in English - though I know a tiny bit of very spotty Spanish). I don't want people to think that of me, as it would lessen the impact of the content of my writing.

There used to be a thing called "netiquette" which, if I recall correctly, included statements that amounted to, "Think THEN post."

Unfortunately, with the influx of everyone and his Grandma on to the Internet, the unwashed masses are a-comin' to a forum near and dear to you.

--BeerGut

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

Re: Non-native speakers on k5 (3.50 / 2) (#25)
by maketo on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 05:24:18 PM EST

note that this sentence does not start with a capital letter. Many of my professors correspond with me in e-mail and care not for spelling or capitalization. There are times and places where I will watch my spelling and grammar and there are times and places where I will write a comment on K5 that intends to communicate a thought, not my grammar, netiquette and style knowledge. I was under the impression that what is said is more important than who and how something is said. Now, on a friendly note - be anal and check your capitalization but do not request others to do so as long as their thoughts are understandable to you. Adhering so strictly to the rules will only make you unhappy.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
[ Parent ]
Re: Non-native speakers on k5 (4.75 / 4) (#31)
by beergut on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 05:39:48 PM EST

I was under the impression that what is said is more important than who and how something is said.

That point would be correct, but for a problem in its application.

If I have to spend time parsing what you've said, I can spend less time understanding what you've said, and what you've said simply loses impact.

--BeerGut.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

Re: Non-native speakers on k5 (4.40 / 5) (#35)
by trhurler on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 06:22:35 PM EST

Those who write well are often well received even when their ideas are not. Those who write poorly are often poorly received, even when their ideas are well respected. If it is worth communicating, it is worth communicating properly. Everyone makes mistakes, and some will slip through. That doesn't mean it isn't worth trying; a modest effort applied uniformly and consistently produces excellent results. I can't tell you the rules of grammar, because I never learned them "properly," but troubles in reading what I say are not due to grammar or usage; you don't have to be the Grammar Nazi[tm] in order to write reasonably well.

Frankly, I think the big reason people fail to use English in email and so on is that they can't type; if you can't type, then using English correctly is a major pain, but if you can, then it is trivial. These days, nobody should be allowed to graduate from high school who cannot type at least 40 words a minute using proper techniques; there is nobody in a reasonably well developed part of the world today under the age of 18 to whom that skill will be any less important than handwriting.


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Re: Non-native speakers on k5 (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by Whizard on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 05:40:01 PM EST

Ack. I think that just proves the law that says, "If you're complaining about grammar, you'll make a really embarrassing mistake in the process." *sighs*


--
So Lawrence Lessig, John Perry Barlow, Rusty, and Prince are having dinner...
[ Parent ]
Re: Non-native speakers on k5 (3.80 / 5) (#11)
by puzzlingevidence on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:18:47 PM EST

According to this k5 poll about voting many k5 readers are not US citizens and thus might be no native speakers. A spell checker should find their spelling errors nonetheless.

I would hazard a guess that the 32% of non-US readers are, in fact, native speakers of English: Canadians, British and Australians will make up the bulk of that segment (and they aren't the only nations with English as the most common native language).

---
A man may build a throne of bayonets, but he can not sit on it. --Inge
[ Parent ]

Re: Non-native speakers on k5 (4.75 / 4) (#40)
by Delirium on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 08:18:49 PM EST

Oddly enough, most non-native English speakers I know online don't make these sorts of mistakes. They use -'s to form possessives, and -s to form plurals. They don't use "they're" when "there" should be used. It's the Americans (mostly) who do stupid things like that.

The mistakes I see most commonly among non-native English speakers are fairly easily distinguishable - odd word order due to the different word ordering in their native language, strange (but not incorrect) choices of words, etc. They tend not to do things that are really wrong, just things that sound funny.

[ Parent ]

Re: Non-native speakers on k5 (none / 0) (#49)
by odaiwai on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 02:41:13 AM EST

I have to second this. Most non-native speakers of English seem to use it better than us natives. Frequently you'll see a collection of Swedes, Norwegians, Germans and Dutch posting in perfect English while the actual English and Americans look like they shouldn't be allowed to have any sharp objects. :)
And[1] it's nearly always the native speakers who respond to grammar flames by mentioning the 'non-native speaker' thing.

dave
[1] It's a style thing, ok?
-- "They're chefs! Chefs with chainsaws!"
[ Parent ]
Re: Non-native speakers on k5 (4.00 / 1) (#54)
by Gndlf on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 12:57:13 PM EST

Frequently you'll see a collection of Swedes, Norwegians, Germans and Dutch posting in perfect English while the actual English and Americans look like they shouldn't be allowed to have any sharp objects. :)
<joke> Of course! We have soo much better education than you! </joke>

Seriously: I think this is because we have to concentrate a lot more when we're writing in a foreign language. Speaking or writing your own language is "automatic" and doesn't require much thinking, but when writing a foreign language you have to translate your thoughts, giving you more time to spell. And when you write in forums such as this, where most of the readers are native English speakers and the other "foreigners" seems like English majors, you don't want to make the impresssion that you can't write proper English. (Ouch, that sentence stinks. But I think you see what I mean.)



[ Parent ]
Anglo-centric... (2.71 / 7) (#3)
by maketo on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 03:57:12 PM EST

Maybe because not everyone thinks English is the only language in the world. Maybe because not everyone thinks that being anal about a spelling error is most important. Or maybe because people think within the model of another, different language and then translate to English - I was told the other day that a reader could not understand what I meant by "acting like a dog let off a chain" -> this is perfectly normal in my language and denotes a person that has been sitting in their room for far to long under parental (or other) control and now sees/gets freedom for the first time (e.g. being in another city on their own) so they try different, often stupid things.

I, for one, am against the world domination of English as a language just because it happens that Americans right now dominate the world and have Hollywood and the money. There are languages far better, more expressive and hell, better sounding than ugly English.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
Re: Anglo-centric... (3.00 / 2) (#5)
by Whizard on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:02:15 PM EST

That's a completely valid point, and I guess one I didn't make clear -- the exception for non-native English speakers. The people I'm referring to, however, are the ones that are capable of writing perfect english, and do, all the time, except when it comes to the internet. If they're writing a letter, or even a note to a friend, their english is great. But when they type an e-mail, it might as well be another language.


--
So Lawrence Lessig, John Perry Barlow, Rusty, and Prince are having dinner...
[ Parent ]
Re: Anglo-centric... (4.00 / 3) (#14)
by trhurler on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:26:48 PM EST

Maybe because not everyone thinks English is the only language in the world.
Most native speakers of English are no better in their use of grammar in email than anyone else. It is perfectly understandable if someone doesn't know English well; it is not perfectly understandable for a native speaker to bang out messages that look like line noise run through uuencode.
I was told the other day that a reader could not understand what I meant by "acting like a dog let off a chain"
That is perfectly intelligible to me. I'm assuming you probably ran into a victim of our wonderful "educational" system, because any ability to think at all makes the meaning quite transparent. There -are- idioms of other languages that do not make sense in English, but this is not one of them. Similarly we have idioms that don't translate well from English. Usually this is because the idiom in question really doesn't make much sense in the first place or is tied to some non-language-related cultural reference.
There are languages far better, more expressive and hell, better sounding than ugly English.
I could agree with better sounding, although I can't say that English is nearly as bad as most languages. However, it is unlikely that any language is "better" in any sense other than that you happen to prefer it. As for more expressive, you're on crack. The English language has a vocabulary bigger than that of most groups of ten languages, and a grammar as flexible as any in existence. This doesn't mean it should dominate the world, but if you're going to criticize, criticize what is actually wrong with English, like the nonstandard rules with many exceptions. Meanwhile, I'll criticize the massively overcomplicated grammars, pitifully poor vocabularies, and massively over-subtle semantics that go with just about every language except English, and we'll all have a big happy natural language flamefest :)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Bigger vocabulary ? (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by camadas on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:54:15 PM EST

Can you point some links to support that the English language has a vocabulary bigger than that of most groups of ten languages ? I have serious doubts about that point, but I could be wrong.

[ Parent ]
Re: Bigger vocabulary ? (4.50 / 2) (#28)
by Parity on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 05:33:02 PM EST

FWIW, this page, http://softrat.home.mindspring.com/germanic.html describes the Germanic family of languages, and characterizes English with 'a very large vocabulary', a distinction not applied to many languages.
I have also heard, and I believe read in some college text or another, that English has the largest vocabulary in the world. The reason for this is we have the remnants of the saxon vocabulary, plus a nearly full germanic vocabulary, plus a nearly full romantic vocabulary, plus an assortment of 'recent' loan words and manufactured terms. Most other languages in the world stick to their own family much more closely.
Also, FWIW, several pages listed in 'size of population' for languages that Mandarin is first, Spanish is second, and English is third... so... English hasn't taken over just yet!
As a closing note, a list of English Words... cafe, spaghetti, crepe, debut, fiance, adios, sheik, czar, saurkraut, sayonara, kindergarten, pyramid, mummy, obelisk, oasis, adobe, toreador, ... well... you get the idea.
(Gratuitous parenthetical digression: Of course, my favorite loan word is Anime, from the Japanese, which in turn borrowed it from the French. The english Animation was also borrowed as Animeshion, and of course -all- of these go back to the latin animus... I'm waiting now for the japanese to re-borrow Anime as aniimei (because Americans don't pronounce it like the Japanese do, imagine that... ) or maybe through several other languages... )

Parity Odd

[ Parent ]
Re: Bigger vocabulary ? (none / 0) (#45)
by aphrael on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 10:55:17 PM EST

The reason for this is we have the remnants of the saxon vocabulary, plus a nearly full germanic vocabulary, plus a nearly full romantic vocabulary, plus an assortment of 'recent' loan words and manufactured terms. Most other languages in the world stick to their own family much more closely.

This is largely a result of the history of England --- the population spoke something largely Germanic in the early middle ages (see Beowulf, as an example), but after the Normans invaded in 1066, the upper classes were all French, and the language was gradually romanized. This is also the reason that English has such an unstructured grammer (compared with other germanic languages); most of the inflections dropped out as the French and Germanic populations intertwined.



[ Parent ]
Re: Bigger vocabulary ? (none / 0) (#48)
by SpiderBoris on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 11:43:38 PM EST

And, of course, you also have the Latin influence from both Norman French and the Roman conquest of Britain (1st Century AD?) by Claudius...

I guess that's what happens when everyone and their dog invades your country! :)

English also prefers to create new words, or to absorb them from other sources, rather than compounding them from existing words, as happens in German, which leads to a larger vocabulary.

FWIW, I learned all the Grammar I know from learning foreign languages - but I still forget to capitalize nouns when I write in German. That's beside the point, however.

Just my 2 cents - which isn't even a currency I use!


-- Cut off my head to email me...
[ Parent ]
Re: Bigger vocabulary ? (4.00 / 2) (#29)
by trhurler on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 05:35:03 PM EST

I don't have a source at the moment, but last I heard, most languages had fewer than 200,000 words, and quite a few barely break 100,000(Russian, for instance.) The Oxford Unabridged is somewhere between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 words the last time I looked, which was several years back. Your average person doesn't even use 100,000 in a lifetime. I hope someone provides some useful source info here, because unfortunately, while I have read about the topic before, I really don't know where to look to find this sort of information; who even keeps it around?


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Re: Bigger vocabulary ? (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by camadas on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 06:04:19 PM EST

It seems you're right, but my native language (one ten more spoken, sixth according to the ethnologue has a fame for being very difficult to learn and having a big vocabulary. A check to one the online dictionaries shows a word count of 600.000, wich at least is far more than russian.

[ Parent ]
Re: Anglo-centric... (none / 0) (#44)
by aphrael on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 10:51:18 PM EST

As for more expressive, you're on crack

What he probably meant is "capable of expressing things not expressable in English

, which is perfectly reasonable and easy to believe. :)



[ Parent ]
Re: Anglo-centric... (3.00 / 3) (#15)
by uweber on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:31:05 PM EST

Well put. I can only agree with maketo since it is not easy to formulate a coherent English sentence if you are not a native speaker, espeacially if somebody just pissed you of like Whizard just did.
It is really sad that most Americans think that the whole world knows English. I would really like to see how mangeled Whizard's posts, comments, etc. would look if he had to write them in German.
By thre way as far as I know you are not supposed to use abbreviations in writen texts so you shold have used "it is" instead of "it's", and so on (see I can be a jerk, too).

[ Parent ]
Re: Anglo-centric... (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by Whizard on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 05:08:26 PM EST

Actually, no, I don't believe the whole world knows English -- one of my biggest gripes about living in the US is that so few people here make an effort to learn a language other than English. My fiancee is a German teacher, and one of the things that struck me most about the time she spent studying in Austria was her complaint that she didn't get a chance to practice her German because all the Austrian students wanted to practice their English. The inverse of that would almost never happen, (German-speaking student coming to the US to study English and everyone wanting to speak German with them), because, sadly, most Americans do assume that English is the only language "worth knowing." I disagree strongly, and I hope to find time to go back and study languages more than I got the opportunity to in school.

If you'll read my other posts in the comments here, I think you'll see that this post was absolutely not aimed at non-native English speakers, and I'm incredibly sorry it came across that way to you and anyone else. My issue is not with those who have a reason for not being able to write in English well, be it not being a native English speaker, or dyslexia, or anything else, but with those who are simply just too lazy to spend the few extra seconds it would take to use proper English on the internet when they seem to be able to do so everywhere else.


--
So Lawrence Lessig, John Perry Barlow, Rusty, and Prince are having dinner...
[ Parent ]

Re: Anglo-centric... (none / 0) (#50)
by odaiwai on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 02:48:11 AM EST

Contractions (not abbreviations in this case) are perfectly acceptable in written text as long as the style is intended to be casual.

"It's my opinion and I'm gonna stick to it." is ok, as it gives a sense of the way someone would talk.

"These are our opinions and we hold them to be reasonable" is similar but more formal and more suited to a report or formal document.

There is a strong case to be made for correct grammar, however people should be free to choose a writing style within the confines of correct grammar.

dave
-- "They're chefs! Chefs with chainsaws!"
[ Parent ]

Re: Anglo-centric...Indeed. Fascist too... (3.50 / 2) (#20)
by brandtpfundak on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:51:58 PM EST

While the end of your comment degenerated into a broad stereotyping of what the domination of English as the "global" language means for the rest of the non-English speaking world, you are definitely on the right track.

Those who insist on "proper English" are endorsing a fascist use of language.

Now, you may think that i am radically overstating the point, but not so. What is the point of language? I think we can all agree that language exists for us to be able to communicate with each other. When we speak to our friends, family, co-workers, etc. we share a language that helps us communicate ideas and feelings. When two people engaging in communication do not speak the same language, the system breaks down and communication does not occur.

Sometimes, however, there are schisms in how people who speak the same language communicate with each other. Americans speak English differently than English speakers in Canada, Australia and the UK. Hell, Americans speak English differently than other Americans, depending on region (like say the South) or culture (African-American.) Which way is "right?" Considering how many different valid ways there are to speak English (I've just listed 5 or 6 of them above) there is no way we can possibly define one English dialect as "right" over every other dialect.

Here's the problem: when someone supports a "proper English" they in fact support putting one dialect of English in a position of power over others, which would in turn (if seen out to its radical conclusion) would invalidate other dialects. Users of these dialects would then be set aside as lesser users of the language. Those who speak the "proper" dialect also in turn control the means of discourse--the arguments of the lower dialectical classes will be invalidated because "they don't speak the language too good."

What is the point I am trying to make? Any language, English or otherwise is fluid enough to survive the rigors of being spoken in different ways. I am not in Boston, but is someone told me it was "wicked cold" I would understand what they meant because of the fluidity of the words used. This fluidity is what has allowed languages to survive over the course of centuries and millenia. There is no such thing as a "proper English." Even the person who submitted the initial story changes dialects for conversations between his friends, his parents, his coworkers--which of those dialects is the right one?

When thinking about language it is more important to think about what someone said than how they said it. I taught English composition at the university level for two years and I never harped on my students about grammar issues. Why not? because I knew that if I berated them for getting the correct modulation of there/their/they're wrong that I would discourage them from saying something intelligent. I'd rather I hear what they have to say, then teach them the conventions of how to say it in the context.

Brandt

[ Parent ]
Re: Anglo-centric...Indeed. Fascist too... (4.50 / 2) (#26)
by beergut on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 05:31:06 PM EST

Here's the problem: when someone supports a "proper English" they in fact support putting one dialect of English in a position of power over others, which would in turn (if seen out to its radical conclusion) would invalidate other dialects. Users of these dialects would then be set aside as lesser users of the language. Those who speak the "proper" dialect also in turn control the means of discourse--the arguments of the lower dialectical classes will be invalidated because "they don't speak the language too good."

Rubbish.

There is good reason for "language fascism".

In my neighborhood, there live a class of people who "don't speak the language too good." One cannot understand these people most of the time. Apparently, they cannot understand each other, either, though they have that particular dialect in common.

This wouldn't matter to me, on the whole, as I am not likely to have any dealings with these people on a regular basis, and I can stand there, looking stupid, prompting them for even-somewhat-more proper anunciation until I can puzzle out what they are trying to say. Where it would matter, though, is at a job. A prospective employer (and face it, by and large your prospective employers are not of that group of people who "don't speak the language too good") will want to communicate with you effectively and efficably.

One does not put a given dialect over another by conscious choice, but one is apt to find out that some barely-language subvocalized grunting that is supposed to pass for English, doesn't.

It is pretty widely accepted that, in the United States, at any rate, a Midwestern accent is the most easily understood of all those that exist in our borders. That stepchild of English sometimes called "Ebonics" is by far the least easily recognizable.

--BeerGut.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

Re: Anglo-centric...Indeed. Fascist too... (3.50 / 2) (#36)
by brandtpfundak on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 06:24:30 PM EST

But haven't you proved my point?

You said: In my neighborhood, there live a class of people who "don't speak the language too good." One cannot understand these people most of the time. Apparently, they cannot understand each other, either, though they have that particular dialect in common.

By your own admission, by favoring one particular dialect over another, you have engaged in a sort of class warfare. Thsoe who do not speak the language "correctly" are then invalidated.

At first this may not seem like a lot, but if your voice happens to be accompanied by your white skin and male gender, it may count for more in the current power structure.

That is how "official language" debates get started.

Brandt

[ Parent ]

Re: Anglo-centric...Indeed. Fascist too... (4.50 / 2) (#37)
by beergut on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 06:32:55 PM EST

It is not that I have willfully favored one dialect over another, but that I simply cannot understand that dialect. It takes a practiced ear and many repititions of a simple statement like, "What time is it?" for me to be able to understand that the asker wanted to know the time.

I will admit that my ear is getting better, but the reality of the situation is, people who speak this way will not succeed. It is not because I have invalidated them, but that busy people have not the time nor inclination to try to decipher what they are trying to say, and they get left behind.

They invalidate themselves.

Since the current power structure is as it is, it would be a good idea for people to be able to speak the language of that power structure. If they do not, they simply will not attain any level of power or success within that structure.

--BeerGut.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

Re: Anglo-centric...Indeed. Fascist too... (4.50 / 2) (#38)
by trhurler on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 06:41:36 PM EST

Perhaps you don't understand: as a speaker of language, you don't get to choose how people will interpret your words; you merely choose the words and the manner in which you speak them. Therefore, it is in your interest to choose a manner which best represents you. As one example, "ebonics" is a fantastically bad way to talk, not because of any ethnic considerations, but because almost nobody will take you seriously, and many will be actively hostile.

As to whether people should discriminate in this manner or not, I can offer only an anecdote: in my lifetime, I have not met one native speaker of English who was both incapable of using a reasonable approximation of standard English and worth listening to. Not one. Anywhere. Ever. Now, many people who CAN speak and write properly aren't worth listening to either, but at least some of them are.

To get back to the topic at hand, though, note that Whizard never said people can't write or can't speak properly. He said that in email and other computer-related discussion forums, they often choose not to. He's right, and they should stop that, because they come off looking like morons even when they're not. All respect for people who aren't native speakers, but that leaves a lot of people who ARE native speakers and don't use English even reasonably well, and they get -no- respect from me.


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Re: Anglo-centric...Indeed. Fascist too... (4.50 / 2) (#27)
by Whizard on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 05:31:14 PM EST

When thinking about language it is more important to think about what someone said than how they said it. I taught English composition at the university level for two years and I never harped on my students about grammar issues. Why not? because I knew that if I berated them for getting the correct modulation of there/their/they're wrong that I would discourage them from saying something intelligent.

That's an interesting point, and while it's one I've heard before, I still haven't quite decided how I feel about it. In a sense, I agree with it, but in a way it scares me. However, it's somewhat tangential to the point that I was attempting to make with my rant, and apparently made somewhat poorly. It seems to me that while an occasional slip of your/you're or their/there/they're is one issue, if those slips become accepted, and enough of them occur, then eventually the language becomes something else. Thus, what happens when one enclave of English-speakers shifts the language one direction, and another enclave shifts it another direction, and the two groups are no longer able to successfully communicate, even though they once were. (Yes, it's an extreme example.)

Overall, though, as I've tried to say repeatedly, my issue is not with different dialects, unless you want to try to define an "Internet Dialect". My issue is with people who write sentences that look like this with no punctuation or capitalization or anything else who like to abbreviate for with 4 and you with U so that you end up with something that looks like a 12 year old kid in 7th grade wrote it even though you know the person is a completely competent native english speaking adult who if they bothered to spend fifteen seconds doing so could put together a much more readable and coherent set of sentences but since they didnt bother 2 take the time 2 do so end up with something that looks like prince lyrics

Perhaps my time as a newspaper editor has just made me anal-retentive about English. That paragraph was hard for me to write. Was it hard to read too? That's my point.


--
So Lawrence Lessig, John Perry Barlow, Rusty, and Prince are having dinner...
[ Parent ]

Re: Anglo-centric...Indeed. Fascist too... (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by kallisti on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 06:20:20 PM EST

As least according to Pinker and Bryson, a lot of the "rules" of English are the result of just one professor who argued for it. Thus, the shifts you are worried about have already happened. The differences between American and British English are another example. Pinker's book, in particular, has a really good critique of grammer Naziism. Both books are full of interesting trivia about the English language, although Pinker's Chomskyian stance is unpopular these days.

IMHO, as long as you communicate, you have done well enough.

[ Parent ]

Re: Anglo-centric...Indeed. Fascist too... (4.00 / 2) (#39)
by trhurler on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 06:46:24 PM EST

I taught English composition at the university level for two years and I never harped on my students about grammar issues. Why not? because I knew that if I berated them for getting the correct modulation of there/their/they're wrong that I would discourage them from saying something intelligent. I'd rather I hear what they have to say, then teach them the conventions of how to say it in the context.
It is unfortunate that you turned out yet another crop of students who will forever be looked down upon. It isn't as though they're too stupid to learn to use English correctly; the problem is that the person who should have given a damn and should have made it worth their while to learn chose instead to listen to them and coddle their egos. You can be proud, I'm sure, that you are probably the last person who will ever take their writing seriously.

Put simply, yes, you can communicate using "improper" techniques - but people who know the right way of doing things are going to despise you before they even know you well enough to judge properly. Similarly, you can program without ever really learning anything about style, indentation, block structure, functional decomposition, design, naming conventions, and so on. However, people such as myself will not call you a programmer, will not regard your programs as worthy of a compiler's time, and will certainly never pay you money to write code.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Several reasons (4.50 / 4) (#4)
by Eimi on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:00:14 PM EST

I think the main reason is that spell checking tools and grammar checking tools are hard to use in a lot of contexts. I know of no free grammar checkers for unix. Spell checkers exist, but the ones I've used tend to have a lot of problems. A lot of it is that most of me emails aren't pure English. They're English sentences with words like "grep", "ls", "http://...", etc in them. Until tools become good enough to know what really should be an english word and what shouldn't, they do me little good.

The other reason is the "it's just email" argument. People can write an email and hit a few buttons, and it gets sent. When you laboriously write something by hand and can't send it until the next time you're at a mailbox, there's plenty of time to check it. When you composed the entire message in under a minute, firing up a spell checker and wading through "Yes, I really do mean those variable names" can easily double the amount of time you spend on it.

What I really want is a spell checker that only bothers me if it's quite sure that I made a mistake. Don't look for words that aren't in the dictionary. Instead, look for words that aren't in the dictionary that are very close to ones that are. If you don't have any appropriate suggestion, then assume I know what I'm doing. I don't really want a spell checker in most cases; I want a typo checker. When I do misspell a word, I typicaly know that I don't know how to spell it, but I don't know how to find the right spelling. To that end I've actually written a perl script that lets me grep /usr/dict/words pretty quickly, to find the right spelling.

Exactly! It's *just* email (4.00 / 2) (#9)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:14:48 PM EST

When I write a short story, or technical documentation, or a business proposal or just about anything that will be viewed in a professional setting, I will spend hours checking and rechecking style, tone, grammar, spelling, and formatting.

When posting to a message board or usenet, I'll generally give a second visual scan.

In most email I hit send as soon as I finish typing.

To be honest, why should I do anything more? Most (not all) email is disposable communication. Most email is not meant to be published on the front page of either k5 or the NY Times.

Try this experiment. Listen to the way people talk in casual conversation. They halt and pause at inappropriate places. They mispronounce (Its pronounced S-Q-L, not see-kwel) and use colloquialisms. Those same people giving a formal speech before a large group would do much better. So it must be laziness that people are such horrid communicators when not in front of a huge audience.

Right?

Or maybe it's okay to not be pedantic about every single word that issues forth from my keyboard or mouth. It doesn't have to be perfect or even sensible most of the time, provided my idea is communicated.

regards,

-l

[ Parent ]

Re: Several reasons - unix spell checking (4.00 / 2) (#13)
by recursive on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:25:09 PM EST

I find the default user interface of the popular ispell spell checker rather annoying: it checks your text word by word and ask for advice if there is a word it does not know. As pointed out, there is no way to use this in a setting with code fragments and many special terms. Since I still want to spell check my text I am using the syntax highlighting features of my editor (Vile) to run ispell in batch mode and use the result to mark all misspelled words in red. Sure, there are still a lot of false hits, but the whole process is much smoother since I can easily ignore them. In order to spell check a k5 submission I have to use cut'n'paste from the editor to my web browser.

-- My other car is a cdr.


[ Parent ]
Emulate the real thing (2.33 / 3) (#6)
by Nickus on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:08:17 PM EST

Discussionforums like k5 tries to emulate the real thing, a real life discussion. People like to sit down and just write what's on their mind without much structure just like in a real discussion.

And when it comes to spellingcheckers I still haven't found one which reacts to all kind of technical terms. I guess you won't find many spellingcheckers that knows about BIOS, NT, X11 and so on.



Due to budget cuts, light at end of tunnel will be out. --Unknown
spell-checker? (2.83 / 6) (#8)
by CanSpice on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:14:20 PM EST

Actually, you mean "spelling-checker". Unless you're a witch or warlock, you don't need your spells checked. Spelling, on the other hand, is what most people have problems with.
--- I don't have a sig.
Re: spell-checker? (none / 0) (#47)
by Pseudonym on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 11:42:37 PM EST

Reminds me of a poem from many years ago on Usenet.

Ahem.

I have a spelling checker;
It came with my PC.
It plainly tolls for my revue
Mistakes I cannot sea.

I ran this poem threw it,
I'm shore you're pleased to no.
Its letter-perfect in it's weigh:
My chequer tolled me sew!

Author unknown.


sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
More Rant (3.33 / 3) (#10)
by quam on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:16:04 PM EST

For non-native English speakers, I assume that the original rant and my rant do not apply. If a person is not fluent in a language, conversational or written, then he or she should not be expected to provide perfectly written English. For instance, while I am conversant in Spanish, I do not write Spanish well.

I am not suggesting that someone who is perfectly fluent in English should always craft an email with perfect grammar and spelling. A professional email, such as one sent to apply for a job, however, should be verified for accuracy by the writer. An email to a coworker probably should not contain a spelling error. I have heard co-workers gossip about how so-and-so misspelled so-and-so in an email.

Whether or not people are justified in talking behind someone's back over a mere spelling mistake in an email is not the issue, it can be embarrassing. A few years ago I received an email from an attorney stating that I should attend a 'pubic hearing.' After forwarding the email to everyone at work and all my friends, I felt justified.

-- U.S. Patent 5443036 concerns a device for encouraging a cat to exercise by chasing a light spot.
Re: More Rant (none / 0) (#51)
by Nickus on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 07:21:06 AM EST

It is same thing with phonecalls. You talk different with different people. If I talk to a next employer I use quite a different language than when I talk to my friends or coworkers. Usenet and Internet has traditionally been a very relaxed environment. I don't think this discussion would have occured a few years ago when Internet didn't mean business. Or do you think all our nice shortcuts like IMHO, AFK and such would have seen daylight if we used strict language all the time.

Due to budget cuts, light at end of tunnel will be out. --Unknown
[ Parent ]
That's not the worst part. (5.00 / 7) (#12)
by Denor on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:19:10 PM EST

Yes, people can't spell or construct proper (or even nearly-proper) sentences when online. Part of it may be the "it's just an e-mail" (or chat session, or HTML form) mindset, but I don't think that's all of it. I've seen people write papers for class that have rather glaring errors. I've even seen a professional research paper with some obvious misuses. I don't recall seeing this before the mass-entry onto the web. Am I saying the web's responsible for the bad spelling of today's youth? No, I'm not so silly as to make such a comment. What I am saying, however, is:

It does affect you.

I should likely speak for myself: It affects me. For example, I had to think for a bit as to whether 'affect' or 'effect' was the proper usage. There are probably far too many commas in this post. I've misspelled something, I just know it. I'm not concise enough.

The rub is that I know I used to be a better writer than this. I've maintained a homepage (not the link above) for five years, and have updated it nearly weekly for that time. While my writing was certainly worse when I started -- for example, there were plenty of tense shifts (**shudder**) -- I am making mistakes today that I wouldn't have made a year or two ago.

Most of the people I communicate with online are used to the medium, and so tend to spell correctly and use good sentence structure. Increasingly though, I have been communicating with friends who aren't so computer savvy, and problems abound in their writings. Obviously, I'm not going to flame my mother for poor use of grammar, so I learn to simply tolerate it as I can just figure out what they're trying to say. This leads to my brain automatically skipping over any malformed portion of a work - including my own work. Lately I've had to conciously think about spelling (like the spelling of consciously), punctuation (it's, its, and its'), and grammar (I must have made countless mistakes in this post alone, even while being sure I was correct). The more I'm around sub-par writing, the more it changes my own writing ability.

Needless to say, I'm hoping this change is only temporary. I would not appreciate unlearning several years of elementary school training. If K5 makes me repeat the third grade, I'll be quite upset. :)


-Denor


It seems to affect proof-reading more than writing (none / 0) (#55)
by Erf on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 03:58:49 PM EST

I experience much the same thing -- automatically ignoring the poorly-formed bits, even in my own work. But if someone else proofreads my work (or by some fluke I spot something bad in what I wrote), it's clear that it's wrong, and I (usually) know how to fix it.

I'm not trying to say that reading other people's poor grammar etc. has not had an effect on my own. But I'm saying that perhaps the most pronounced effect is on my proofreading ability.

Hmmm... I'll bet a lot of the errors on the 'net are due to a lack of proofreading (due to the time it takes) more than a lack of understanding/skill. This would lower the level of writing skill shown by netizens, which as you say lowers our proofreading ability, which lowers the apparent level of writing skill...

-Erf.
...doin' the things a particle can...
[ Parent ]

Difference between errors and brevity (3.66 / 3) (#16)
by mike-c on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:32:05 PM EST

Even though your title is not grammatically correct (== is not a word), I knew exactly what you meant and so did everyone else. What this means to me is that you can relax some of the rules and still be an effective communicator. Spelling and capitalization errors bother me, but I'd prefer ":P" and "lol" to their expanded equivalents.

I depends on the domain, too. I'd say that using bits of code in a comment is an easy (and popular) way to express yourself around here. If your audience can parse ==, &&, or while(1), then I say no harm, no foul. I wouldn't call that a mistake even though the Office paper-clip would shit himself if he had to grammar check it.


-- "If things don't go your way, just keep complaining until your dreams come true." -- President Clinton to Lisa Simpson

Typoes... (3.50 / 6) (#18)
by TheLocust on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:37:16 PM EST

should be spelled "t-y-p-o-s". Snooch! (hehe).
.......o- thelocust -o.........
ignorant people speak of people
average people speak of events
great people speak of ideas

Internet time, man! (1.66 / 3) (#19)
by skim123 on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 04:42:28 PM EST

We're on the Internet, working on Internet time... there's no time to go back and make changes, fix spelling errors, etc.

Also, if features that are in modern Word processors (automatically underlining incorrectly spelled words, for example) were inherent in email programs/Web browser TEXTAREAs, etc., I think you would see fewer spelling mistakes...

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


Re: Internet time, man! (none / 0) (#41)
by SIGFPE on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 08:31:30 PM EST

You might not have the time, but does the person reading your comments have the time to try multiple parsings in an attempt to find one that closely fits your ungrammatical writing?
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Grammar and Computing (4.33 / 3) (#24)
by SIGFPE on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 05:09:27 PM EST

What surprises me is that grammar is crucial to computing so you'd think that computer users would be good at it. A grammatical rule that says use -'s for possessive and -s for plurals is trivial compared to the grammar programmers often have to get their heads around. Knowing the difference between the subject and object of a verb - and marking them appropriately - is no different from understanding that the arguments of a function need to be in the correct order. It's and its have roles much further apart from each other than #if and 'if' but no C programmer would confuse those.

But I have to admit, I never quite got the hang of all the rules for commas in English!
SIGFPE
Re: Grammar and Computing (none / 0) (#43)
by aphrael on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 10:46:02 PM EST

I agree wit this analogy to a certain extent --- I firmly believe that learning multiple human languages makes it easier to learn multiple programming languages, and vice versa. But, at the same time, I also know that unless you speak multiple languages, you usually aren't consciously aware of grammatical rules and categories. I don't say "I am sitting at the table" because I know that table is a noun, sitting is a verb, and so forth, and place the words in the right slots --- at least, not consciously so.

Granted, i'm not conscious of the rules in C, either. But I *learned* from the rules; whereas when I learned English, I didn't. So the built-in neural pathways are different ...

And note --- my programs almost never compile on the first try. :(



[ Parent ]
My Mom. (3.66 / 3) (#30)
by Farq Q. Fenderson on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 05:39:04 PM EST

Heh. I've noticed that my mother, who has worked several jobs as a factual writer, including newspaper and some governmental departments, writes shoddy email.

I couldn't believe it. She's part of the reason why I'm a grammar/spelling nazi at times (esp. with my own work.) How could she possibly fail in this arena? I blame the environment. There /is/ a different feel when writing email, or news posts. I can't quite describe it, but it's isn't (strictly) due to a laziness, or an inability. I think it has to do with the ETA of the message: seconds, at most. Write a letter: days, at least. Outside this medium there's no other environment where a written is transmitted in seconds. It has to be a time thing, I think.

farq will not be coming back
My pet peeve is loose (3.00 / 2) (#42)
by enkidu on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 09:47:08 PM EST

My pet peeve is loose for lose. The opposite of gain/win is lose not loose (which is the opposite of tight). How this spelling came to be prevalent on USENET, emails and forums is beyond me. This one is worse than they're/their/there or here/hear because most people don't even seem to know that they're [their] wrong. It even seems to be spreading to some online magazines. Sigh



same way most people don't speak format english (4.00 / 1) (#46)
by enterfornone on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 10:56:32 PM EST

in normal casual conversations people don't speak the way they would write an essay - same with a casual email or even a handwritten note (eg "bob called, ring him back"). there is a place for formal english (or your language) but it's not in casual conversations on the net

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
Computers Scare People (2.50 / 2) (#52)
by DJBongHit on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 08:52:40 AM EST

I don't get it, but computers really scare people. Otherwise intelligent people seem to lose all ability to read or reason. It just blows my mind. It's not like it's that hard to read a label on a menu and click it, but people just can't figure it out. If they were looking through a filing cabinet, they could do it fine, but the fact that they're looking at representations of images on phosphor seems to lower their IQ to the level of a turnip.

Yeah, it's 9 AM and I've been up all night, so I know my grammar isn't what it should be right now :)


~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

Grammar is evolving (4.00 / 2) (#53)
by bitwise on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 11:26:02 AM EST

I have met quite a few 'traditionally educated' individuals in the past who found it difficult to deal with the the structure of writing on the internet. They find its deviation from traditional grammar disconcerting, and the lack of a cohesive and coherent idea delivery a deterrent from what these people have to say.

I was once chastised on an IRC #linux channel for not capitalising and punctuating my 'sentences'. The owner of this channel complained that he didn't like having to expend the extra mental effort involved in decyphering what these people were trying to say. This seemed a ridiculous notion to me. Already you have a <nickname> tag implicitly delimiting people's thoughts. The impression I got from this person was they were tired and cranky; embittered by the world around them and unwilling to adapt.

When grammar was originally formalised by our forbearers, I doubt they invisaged the forums it would come to be used in. I don't think the question put to us in this story is the right one. Maybe instead of asking 'why are people so lazy online?', we should be asking 'why is this necessary?'

I've always appeciated being relatively articulate. I've been taught how important it is to be able to communicate ideas to others. It's a skill - and it's an art. Under no circumstances am I suggesting that punctuation should be thrown out the door because it's too much effort. However I think under certain circumstances, in the online world, it's not as necessary as it used to be. It's easy to label people who refuse to capitalise their sentences as lazy. I long for the day when that negative mindset is gone, though, and in certain circumstances they can be labelled efficient.

- Damien


--
eschew obfuscation ;)

An interesting case study? (2.00 / 1) (#56)
by Erf on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 04:00:51 PM EST

You know, it would be amusing to compare the writing skill shown in the comments on this article against the skill shown in the rest of K5...

-Erf.
...doin' the things a particle can...

Why it matters (4.33 / 3) (#57)
by arensb on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 04:55:00 PM EST

Human languages have enough redundancy that a reader can understand even a badly mangled piece of text. However, make no mistake: this takes effort on the part of the reader.

When I see a sentence that begins with ``I think its,'' I start forming a model of the thought the writer is trying to convey. According to this model, the sentence should continue with an object, e.g. ``axle is broken.'' If the sentence continues with ``not going to work,'' I can infer from context that ``its'' should have been ``it's,'' and reparse the rest of the sentence in light of this information.

This doesn't seem like a lot of work, and for one or two mistakes, it isn't. But it does add up. As an experiment, see how long it takes you to read a thousand words of a Washington Post article, and how long it takes you to read a thousand words of alt.warez or something similar.

My attitude is, if someone couldn't be bothered to proofread his own article, why should I bother to read it?

Furthermore, sloppy writing sacrifices clarity. If you can't put together a coherent sentence, then obviously I can't trust your word choice in places where nuances might make a difference. Thus, you lose the ability to use shades of meaning.

Obviously, a lot of this doesn't apply to people who aren't fluent in the relevant language. And I said "in a timely manner" above to make allowances for jargon, abbreviations, and other shortcuts that will be understood by one's audience.

Re: Why it matters (none / 0) (#58)
by beergut on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 07:21:18 PM EST

Thus, you lose the ability to use shades of meaning.

That point, in all this other noise, is probably the most salient.

Hold up your hands if the idea of "newspeak" put forth by Orwell in "1984", where the language was re-engineered to remove shades of meaning, scared the living shit out of you.

Put in this context, I'm surprised our gubmint hasn't rolled out campaigns to foster such intellectual stunting. Oh, wait... maybe that's what the public schools are up to.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

Re: Why it matters (none / 0) (#59)
by mikpos on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 08:18:55 PM EST

My attitude is, if someone couldn't be bothered to proofread his own article, why should I bother to read it?

I've never understood this attitude. If I'm going to read something, it's because I'm actually interested in what it says. Poor writing (which is not the same thing as proper grammar) definitely detracts from the experience of reading something interesting, but it doesn't detract absolutely.

What's more, it sounds like you're trying to prove a point by doing it, but you're not: if you stop reading something because the author has misspelled a word, the only one you're harming is yourself. The author's never going to know about it; your colleagues are never going to know about it; your friends are never going to know about it (unless you're bitter enough to bring it up in conversation, in which case I pity your friends). The only thing you're hurting by not reading it is yourself.

Of course this isn't an absolute. If sOemtitont wtray it ogl ithduicl f this,atn ia alveyrc ircmpoihsnip methodi so tha t it co ta lrog time tho parse, then I, too, would probably stop reading it. However, most poor writing is writen like thsi. it's not impossible to understand . the ideas are very clearyl stated (hopelfully). if tme topic is intersting ,i will has no problem reading throught he tyops and grammatical error.

Basically, it comes down to this: if you're so bothered by poor grammar and spelling that you can't bother to read it, then you didn't want to read it in the first place. It would be as if someone were to offer you a free car, which you really really wanted, but you declined taking it because it was yellow. Yes, maybe you would have preferred if it were red instead of yellow, but that doesn't mean that a free yellow car isn't worth taking.

[ Parent ]

Those whom annoy me most (none / 0) (#60)
by cadar on Sun Oct 15, 2000 at 11:16:08 PM EST

To me, attempting to impress people with elite use of language and getting it wrong magnifies that stench of ignorance. The best example is the use of "whom" when "who" is correct, as in the subject of this comment, or the Phish lyrics "...the echo of whomever spoke". But the same effect can be seen in the incorrect use of big words. I had a professor write (twice in the same handout) that he is "adverse" to certain practices. I'm still wondering if I should politely inform him that the word he was looking for is "averse".

I understand that people make mistakes, and it doesn't genuinely anger me, but I agree with the basic message of the story: people should be aware that slighting the nuances of a language's lexicon and grammar can grate the ears (and eyes) of the more linguistically enlightened.

Finally, I just want to say that after frequenting slashdot for years (and having an impressively small ID -- in the seven thousands), I just found out about kuro5hin. Well I cracked up when one of the first stories I found was about correct spelling and grammar. I mean, one minute I'm cringing at Taco & friends' creative errors, and then I come here and read about the importance of proper English. I found my new home.

Internet == Grammar-Free Zone | 60 comments (60 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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