Category Archives: English

Apostrophonies

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Apostrophonies: a word to describe those dedicated to the linguistic contortions of logic and denial to justify the continued existence of the apostrophe.

After years of watching the apostrophe debate ebb and flow, I’m voting that we eliminate it. Most of our communication occurs verbally and we’ve survived centuries without needing to wave our arms when an apostrophe is needed.

The grammar brigade can gnash their teeth in protest as they make the tired argument that tradition trumps utility or that our collective language will lose some of its elegance. It’s snobbery to decry nonstandard usage and it bemoans the history of every single change to our language.

Elimination of the apostrophe isn’t a capitulation to the myth of uneducated misuse or modern texting; it’s an overdue necessity. Our language has continuously evolved, and usage determines its structure. We have no arbiter of official usage; “Standard English” is a myth perpetuated by those whose livelihood depends on it, comprising a cabal of dusty minds looking backward.

To make matters worse, many people don’t realize we have a verb to describe the insertion of an apostrophe: apostrophize. Or ‘apostrophise,’ if you’re in the country in which our language was birthed.

One can make subtle arguments regarding those instances when an apostrophe MIGHT reduce vagueness, but if this is your argument, you can’t turn a blind eye toward the other 3 dozen ways in which English contains aberrant structures which inhibit clear understanding.

Contractions, plurals, plural possessives, apostrophes-of-omission, and all other usages have exceptions which don’t further the objective of language or increase its beauty.

Like it or not, we can literally change the language in any manner we see fit. We’ll either rid ourselves of the apostrophe or worsen its usage as people struggle against its ongoing and needless usage in our language.

The apostrophe should get its coat and make a graceful exit before we kick it in the seat of the pants.

Purists might miss it but I’m certain they’ll find another rallying cry of illogic to focus on. Those insisting on tradition always do.

Please remember that I love language but despise the focus on mechanics. Language should not be an obstacle to expression.

P.S. Remember that I’m not advocating for a free-for-all in regards to all rules, so please cook up a better point about what I am NOT saying.

Disvidisia

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After reading a friend’s post about the perplexity of inattention for an artist, especially in this golden age of social media, I began to wonder whether a precise word exists for the sensation she was attempting to describe. I volunteered to create a word to encompass the described melancholy or resigned sensation, regardless of which method of expression the artist chooses.

Before going off on a wordy tangent, here’s my paraphrasing of what she was describing:

“…the untethered feeling a creative person gets when they see that an acquaintance shows deep interest in the happenings in some far-flung place or in the life of a distant stranger, acreage they’ll never traverse or people he or she will never meet and whose trajectory may as well be that of an alien star, often regarding some mundane subject, while turning a blind eye toward their expression, one which germinates in their own backyard…”

I think writers and artists might be the most prone to experience this detachment.

It’s ridiculously easy to share what others have created, to choose words and media designed to urge us toward an emotional reaction. Creating anything is an invitation to criticism; honest artists often share themselves.

Prophets are seldom appreciated in their own communities. Authors, painters, and musicians tend to be ignored until they become substantial; proximity stymies allure. “Familiarity breeds contempt” is a cliché with truth. We tend to need an outsider to tell us what we already know or we will reject the truth from those around us.

So many creative minds experience disconnectedness prior to recognition and when it comes, those same people comprising his or her initial disinterested audience clamor for reciprocity. It’s easy to overlook the fact that all those we find valuable once started with small voices, drawing, singing, writing and acting in small places. (And most of the time were labeled as eccentric or untalented.)

The biggest surprises come from the strangest places.

Doors to familiar houses seldom open to new rooms.

Disvidisia

 

 

 

 

This is a modified version of a post I wrote in September of last year. It struck a chord in many places – and not all were harmonious.

 

Ain’t

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Past participles can kiss my ass. Especially those involving irregular verbs.
…i had went
…i had gone

I know the correct version – and don’t care.

Okay, I do care, a little.

I’m not too concerned about my grammar making me look dumb. Many already argue the content and breadth of what I create does a remarkable job of that.

If verb tenses make you tenser, then you are a member of the cabal which will always be a grammatical advice dispenser, and perhaps perpetually denser. And I’m certainly no sit-on-the-fencer. I side with the great unwashed, the ignorant, and those who choose to march to an epileptic drummer – letters and words flying about without rhyme or reason. Given enough time, words do mean what we agree they mean and the squiggles we use to write our language succumb to the way we speak them.

With spelling and grammar checks and services such as Grammarly, it’s easier than ever to avoid mistakes. (We need Grammarly in the voting booth, too.) The problem is that while we beguile ourselves with the idea that there is any definitive compendium of language and usage, it simply isn’t true. Language is evolving even as I write these words. Don’t get me wrong, I cringe away from certain usage. But if it takes hostage the conventions of such things as semicolon continuity and phonetically disadvantaged spelling, I can applaud its ugly face.

There are times when I amuse myself and find the posts of someone who is adamant about grammar. I’ve never done so without finding something to quibble about. I don’t bother worrying about my writing, for multiple reasons. If someone wants to criticize my dancing while they sit against the gymnasium wall, I don’t mind, and not just because my dancing can best be described as “running while on fire.” Language is not an exact science; those who loathe evolving language come across as those few scientists who deny evolution itself.

I certainly can do much, much better in terms of grammar, whether I’m writing in Spanish or English. But I won’t, at least not until you pay me to, or give me an agricultural subsidy for not writing. We do ourselves a disservice by scaring those who would share tidbits and stories but neglect to do so when putting those same ideas into word scribbles on paper; the medium isn’t the content.

Misusing verbs is how most of our irregular verbs came into existence. Given that I studied almost 500 of these bastards in my youth, in two languages, I’d like to point out that my education didn’t lead to agreement with the huge list of so-called rules. Some verb forms are intensely interesting – and more so when used with no intention of following standard rules.

It is a rare unicorn of an English speaker who can not only name the 50 verb tenses but who can also simply say, “Future Perfect Continuous” and then use the 400 or so irregular verbs correctly in said tense. Add in the subjunctive mode for verbs and you have the recipe for silent weeping in a dusty, dimly-lit corner. I’ve met a few people who claim to know them all but closer inspection proves their braggadocio to be misplaced.

The same inconsistency insists that I can’t loan you money, because ‘loan’ isn’t a verb. That sort of grammatical statute is not just counterproductive, but stupid. Usage will inevitably trump esoteric rules, no matter how often furrowed brows and curled lips react to alleged misuse. I’ll loan you a dictionary so you can look it up. Or I’ll gift it to you, and you can regift it later. (PS: ‘gift’ isn’t a verb, either, even though I just used it exactly in that way with no loss of understanding.)

While I don’t like “irregardless,” it is a word, no matter how stridently you object. It appeared as early as 1785. Because people use it incorrectly, it will indeed transition to become more popular than the purported correct word, “regardless.” I won’t belabor the beautiful word “literal,” either because despite the hatred people show it, it has been used in a figurative way for hundreds of years and by some of our most esteemed authors. I loved watching a recent “Adam Ruins Everything” show that delineated that “ain’t” indeed was once a respected word used almost exclusively by the noble and wealthy. I bet that ain’t something you will swallow without a useless argument.

People routinely use “bring” and “take” interchangeably, as well as “who” and “whom.” It’s not only because they don’t understand it, but also because “whom” is a damnably stupid word in the first place, evoking all the cumbersome superiority of “thou” from the Bibles of our youth. It needs to be plied forcibly from our language or used only mockingly. “Farther” and “further” are great examples of words using LSD and insisting we recognize them both.

I know that you’re thinking we can’t have anarchy with language. We already do, you just don’t know it. Despite there being a general structure to hold our behemoth language at bay, we don’t have a ruling body to determine vocabulary and grammar. Usage and popularity determine these, even as defenseless English and grammar teachers vainly work to stem the tide of incorrect usage. In this ongoing war of language, you must take arms against those who insist there a perfect form of our language exists; otherwise, you must wave your white flag now.

Language Is Communication, Not Math…

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For those who obsess over nuances such as semicolon appropriateness, you are of course correct in your insistence but wrong in your logic.

Language is communication, not math; authoritative attempts toward grammatical obedience leads to a cabal of ignored perfectionists, their collective pomp drawing the wrong kind of attention. Those using the language own it; if you find yourself outnumbered by those who refuse allegiance to the arcane rules of grammatical engagement, your only recourse is to use language as you see fit.

It is a gross assumption to claim that we commonly agree on the rules of language.

English is a voracious language and fluid in its spectacle. Most of the errors we perceive in our judgment of its usage tend to be the fault of the preposterous litany of illogical and capricious rules which allegedly govern it. Humans will never willingly pay homage to rules which betray the twin paths of practicality and reason.

When used with creative vigor, it is true that language is a beautiful governess attending to us. When used as a dead repository of grammatical obligations, it is a scorned woman yanking at her own hair.

Time teaches us that entropy destroys even the illusion of consistency in the form and content of our words. Grammar is the imagined road map to a place which no one gleefully visits, while spelling is the witchcraft of barking dogs in a canyon a mile distant.

Each language holds its own secrets and none owe allegiance to others or even its own previous incarnation. It all adds up to a frenzied verbal fist fight with usage always being the declared victor. We can weep at its frenzied evolution but we cannot contain it, even as our objections mount skyward.

If you doubt any of this to be true, learn another language as intensely as your first. Language embodies all the beauty and dismay of man himself.