Not black and white (2/3)

Posted on Wed 16 May 2012 @ 4.36pm UTC

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BEFORE WE CONTINUE with our survey of grammarhead peeves, here is an attitude towards language that you’ll almost never find in the English-speaking world:—

“Languages are so fascinating and the way how they change. In Finland we start to learn English at the age of 9 or 10 usually, then follows Swedish at the age of 13. Then I started to study German when I was 16. And Icelandic followed some years later. Now I try to catch a few words of French and Italian once in a while. It is funny how all these languages are connected to each other (expect [sic] Finnish…) and how knowing more, even languages such Danish, Norwegian, Faroese, Dutch and some more can be slightly understood because of the other ones.

“Icelandic so far is my favorite. It has so old words (it is actually old Norwegian) and now it is changing a lot and more words from English are adapted. Icelandic rolls so gently and happily in mouth.”

— Anna Emilia of Finland, commenting on the art of writing and speaking (Link)

(My emphasis in boldfacings.)

This is a broad attitude across all ages in most Scandinavians (and I have regular dealings with them over many years). Theirs are languages that haven’t been as tremendously influenced by the straitjacket of Latin and other classical languages as English and French have been. Just one off-handed remark from that Finnish lady, and we can already infer without strong or certain evidence that Latin/Greek-oriented grammarism makes English and French speakers appear so much more anal-retentive about their own languages than other speakers.

Anyhow, a bunch of people supremely comfortable with nudism and go buck-naked commando every night for sauna just doesn’t seem like folks who are anal-retentive about anything, does it?

* * *

Défensive à la carte

(‘Defensiveness according to the menu’)

(Or, fixed-priced defensiveness, as it were)

Grammarheads aren’t anal-retentive as more accurately they are anal-explosive.

As soon as someone stupid enough to get sucked into an argument about grammar or language usage — and even stupider to express a different point of view (not even necessarily a dissenting one) — the complainers gear up almost like a united front with these highly predictable defences:—

11. They say they also work in a multicultural, multiracial, multilingual, interracial, interlingual, or multi- or inter-whatever environment.

  • Typical rider is that one-quarter, one-third, two-thirds or even three-quarters of their co-workers are from lands and realms beyond the high seas and English isn’t their first, second, third or whatever language.
  • To be perfectly honest, if it were true, you most likely not be making those remarks given here and in Part 1.

I grew up in a dozen different countries all having different languages. I’ve also worked in a place where (literally) 80% of my colleagues were from all sorts of high heaven and low hell countries everywhere on this and other planets. So don’t ‘handle’ me with a comment like that, because I know it’s made up, boyo.

12. The complaints aren’t targetted at learners or those wanting to improve their English. The ire is at those “who are wrong,” or “know they are wrong,” or “don’t seem to care when they are wrong.”

  • No kidding?
  • A moment ago you sniped at those whose writing or speaking are grammatically defective, and now you’re saying this.
  • If you’re peeved with those who are wrong, it means you’re still peeved with learners who got things wrong in spite of their desire to improve.
  • If you’re peeved with those who “know” they are wrong, it means you’re still pissed off with learners and native speakers alike who realise they are wrong but might not know how to fix things.
  • If you’re peeved with those who “don’t care” when they are wrong, it means you’re annoyed with the remainder of all those learners and native speakers who made mistakes but you deem them as not giving a shite (something you are over-generalising).

Just who in fact have you in mind for your precious ire?

  • We are not displeased by those who correct the grammar of others. Our displeasure is with those individuals who correct the grammar the moment they see mistakes, or know every occurrence of a mistake is a self-aggrandising opportunity for correction, or those who don’t seem to care whether or not it is socially or professionally appropriate to correct the grammar of others.

13. Those who make grammatical mistakes are ignoring the “helpful” correction offered to them, and that the corrections are “an education” and should best not be taken as an insult.

  • Which I have to say is highly insulting and insolent.
  • It’s an insinuation that their corrections are automatically helpful (because there is no other possibility otherwise).
  • It’s an insinuation that their correction has automatic educational and educative value, therefore high worth.
  • It’s an insinuation that, since we’re ignoring all these helpful and highly educational corrections on purpose, we are deemed unable to recognise high worth or high learning even when laid on a silver platter in front of us.
  • It’s an insinuation that our ignoring their helpful help means we’re all louts, yobos and skinheads in their eyes.

The claim of helpful correction is, honestly speaking, for us an eye-opening edjumacation into the insolent and sardonic attitudes in some people.

  • The fact that our helpful advice to them to stop the constant chain-yanking shouldn’t be ignored because it is an education in practical sociability and should best not be taken as a flagrant challenge either.

You’d better watch your step, old son. Accidents can be harmful to your health.

14. The next go-to defence is that, although everyone makes mistakes, “those are not the people I am referencing.”

  • Just who are you referencing exactly, your worship?
  • A moment ago you were saying those who make grammatical mistakes are somehow apathetic or uncaring or inconsiderate.
  • Now you are saying those who make mistakes (which is practically everyone) aren’t the focus of your complaint.
  • Anyone who constantly or continually correct the speech or writing of others are not the people the rest of us are referencing, either.

14. Producing accounts of ‘successful’ practices suggestive of helping to maintain high standards.

I also noticed over the years that some complainers eventually produce accounts of personal practices that truly boggles the mind, e.g.

  • correcting their family members’ verbal mistakes (as if to show they have superlative standards even in mundane matters), or
  • successfully strong-arming their blameless local greengrocers into fixing a ‘10 items or less’ sign to read ‘10 items or fewer’ (when less is no less correct grammatically, though stylistically less favourable).

These jokers are clearly completely clueless of the massive body of organisation and motion research behind the use of less to speed up queuing.

The world doesn’t revolve around the Sun, and it most certainly doesn’t revolve around you.

15. Bad habits are easy to break when you want to break them.

  • This lame-arse excuse is put into play when they’re cornered and there’s no way out.
  • This is a tactic to divert your attention about their psychotic need to correct others and change the subject to your alleged bad habits.
  • It’s the same as saying Chinese or Sanskrit or Katalubanishta isn’t hard to learn if you put in the effort and time.
  • It’s the same as saying cocaine addiction is easy to break if you want to get off it.
  • The femur (thigh bone) is the hardest bone in the body, but it’s easy to break if you want to break it.
  • The bad habit of constantly correcting others’s speech or writing is easy to break if you want to break it.
  • But you don’t want to.
* * *

Complainers’ own defects

Some of us are bright enough to see through the idiotic argument or the direction it’s travelling in, and so won’t get involved.

Don’t feed the trolls — a troll is what the grammar peevenik is in reality.

The grammar peevenik is not without his/her own self-unaware defects:—

16. The phrase “I want to sound intelligent [online]” occurs a lot.

  • Even the uncultured or the unlearned can suss out there’s some kind of inferiority complex going on here.
  • Not to put too fine a point on things, make a video of yourself if you want to sound intelligent.
  • Don’t bother to feed the troll by pointing out the commonsensical truth that people often make the simple mistake of not adjusting from speaking to writing mode on the Internet.
  • Truth is, everybody knows writing can ‘sound’ intelligent or stupid. Strictly logically, written words should ‘appear’ and not ‘sound.’
  • But it’s equally strictly logical that that our writing can ‘sound’ like something because we ‘speak’ through the written word and words are symbols that represent sounds (culturally mediated or not). Witness the work of Shakespeare, John Donne and Geoffrey Chaucer, to say nothing about Beowulf and Das Niebelungenlied.
  • You don’t want to sound intelligent — you’re just allergic to people you deemed are stupid.

17. They automatically go into overdrive at the sight of every single grammatical mistake, knowing full well that everybody makes them (including themselves).

  • Clearly, some kind of Pavlovian (conditional reflex) or Skinnerian (operant) behavioural conditioning must have taken place with these people during the schooldays, because many grammarheads can’t seem able to contain their peeve overdrive in many instances.
  • It is important and useful to know how to make corrections and to help those who really need it, but:

“Unless you’re an editor, there’s no need to point out one every single time. Do you go around correcting everyone’s spoken English as well? It’s more obnoxious than it is helpful.” (Anon.)

18. They invariably deem others as not caring or inconsiderate and ascribing all sorts of psychological states to others because of grammatical mistakes.

  • Sure, there are people who simply don’t care, and in a way they are a large part of the problem.
  • You might take the view that the way to make them care isn’t to constantly correct them.

“I could go into a lengthy rant about how every little detail from upbringing to learned behaviour to environment and even current technology and media have an effect on language development and the consistent evolution of all languages, [….]. Everyone should try to better themselves, and it’s most often others who are capable of pointing out our flaws [to do that]. It’s up to us whether to take it as a compliment or an insult.” (Anon.)

  • That is not the same of the game with these smart alecks. They’re in it just for the kicks: the opportunity to throw putdowns at others.
  • You’re thinking outside the box with these grammarfreaks. You’ve got it the other way round. You need to think inside the box.



The real reason for the sinking state of English

© Learn English or Starve, 2012.

Images: Sauna girl via | Multicultural office via Triastelematica | Care/Don’t Care chart via Mondo-Blogo | “Not insulting you, just describing you” via We Know Memes | “10 Items or Less” poster via Wikipedia | Allergic to Stupid People via News Real Blog | Facebook ‘dislike’ middle finger via c4c.

Posted in: Colour Section