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Natalie P.

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6 comments so far
  1. M. Jones April 15, 2007 3:37 pm

    You know, there just aren’t enough lectures on grammar out there. In that spirit, NatalieP has taken out her red editor’s pen and gifted us with a course in common edited writen American English. Perhaps she realizes that the image of the grammarian doesn’t quite meld well with the Heartless Bitch, as she defends her article: “Grammar rules and punctuation exist for a reason. They help you communicate effectively – it’s like the rules of the road when driving.” Clearly she is right that grammar and punctuation aid towards effective communication in the right settings, but is this really the only reason for grammar rules?

    These rules, or rather the apparent univerality of them, are a very recent intrusion into the English language. The powers that were (read: white male upper-class straight Protestant elite) needed a method to identify the invisible author of a writen piece in order to grant the author credibility or not. If the author spoke the dialect of the powerful he (and it usually was/is a ‘he’) is taken seriously. The use of other dialectal types of speech (i.e. double negatives), non-masculine styles (passive voice), non-logical construction, or other marginalized forms loses the author credibility.

    The notion of there being a Standard English to which everyone much conform and protect has been long discredited in linguistic circles. Of course, those in power get scared when it seems that they are not in control of the Master Dialect.

    The example provided are of course extremes. However, the ever-persistent fetish of correct grammar can only maintain existing power structures, which are Eurocentric, patriarchal, bourgeois… the usual suspects.

    “I’m just looking for a basic attempt at applying what we all learned in grade school.” What we all learned, was ‘our place’: the future guardians of the status quo power structure.

  2. Mike April 15, 2007 11:17 pm

    Since I’m both a professional linguist and a professional editor, I can’t let this nonsense go by without comment.

    > The powers that were (read: white
    > male upper-class straight Protestant
    > elite) needed a method to identify
    > the invisible author of a writen
    > piece in order to grant the author
    > credibility or not.

    One problem with this is in treating it as a *conscious* social process; this is the sort of verbal tic, often associated with tendentious socio-politico-economic analyses, that usually accompanies a failure to analyze a historical situation beyond the needs of an ideological drive.

    A more basic problem, however, is the conflation of speaking different dialects and skill at writing. Basic competence in writing *is* a sign of a basic level of education, unlike speaking a different dialect, and tripping over your shoelaces on the way to the mat is a fairly reliable sign that your dance routine won’t go off with aplomb.

    > If the author spoke the dialect
    > of the powerful he (and it usually
    > was/is a ‘he’) is taken seriously.

    Here’s the nub where your tirade goes off the rails. Writing is not speech, nor is it just a faithful record of speech in a given dialect. It’s a different form of the language with special features distinct from those of any spoken dialect due to the different cognitive strengths of reading and writing versus speaking and hearing (and the different purposes of speech and writing), and unlike spoken dialects it is not learned virtually automatically in the course of growing up. It takes effort and care to learn to use writing as anything other than a record of speech, and a failure to observe the most basic rules of writing is a strong indication that the content will be as disorganized as the form. (And really, writing well *should* be a matter of pride, just as any other kind of mental training should be, not to mention a source of pleasure. But then that attitude rubs certain personalities very much the wrong way.)

    > The use of other dialectal types of
    > speech (i.e. double negatives),
    > non-masculine styles (passive
    > voice), non-logical construction, or
    > other marginalized forms loses the
    > author credibility.

    The grab bag here of non-standard features is pretty revealing. “Non-logical construction” damn well *should* lose its perpetrator credibility. And since when did use of the passive voice diminish one’s credibility with the powerful? You must not have read much scientific and technical writing! They’re choked from chock-a-block rabid overuse of the fucking passive voice. As for dialect features, what matters is that they’re likely to be unfamiliar to many readers; thus they can make your writing vivid and fresh and might even allow you to make a subtle point memorably (and thus memorable), but they can also hinder understanding. There’s no simple standard either way; it’s a matter of judgment, but that judgment should be informed by familiarity with the standard to allow you to use non-standard features effectively.

    > The notion of there being a Standard
    > English to which everyone much
    > conform and protect has been long
    > discredited in linguistic circles.

    Of course there’s a standard English. In fact, there’s more than one, even in the restricted sphere of writing–not only different national standards, but different standards for formal and informal writing and for different types of technical writing, whether scientific, administrative, or for a more general audience, for example.

    > Of course, those in power get scared
    > when it seems that they are not in
    > control of the Master Dialect.

    And others get annoyed when people cannot write clearly enough to make their meanings clear on first glance. Why *should* the reader have to struggle to understand what is written because of its nonstandard form?

    > The example provided are of course
    > extremes. However, the ever-
    > persistent fetish of correct grammar
    > can only maintain existing power
    > structures, which are Eurocentric,
    > patriarchal, bourgeois… the usual
    > suspects.

    I like your implication that overthrowing existing power structures requires bad grammar and punctuation. You’re funny.

    > “I’m just looking for a basic
    > attempt at applying what we all
    > learned in grade school.” What we
    > all learned, was ‘our place’: the
    > future guardians of the status quo
    > power structure.

    What we all should have learned was a fairly uniform basic standard for ready communication, a bland background you can always have recourse to but which you can modify for effect; and more than that the mental discipline to use writing consciously as a tool for expressing considered thought, for that is its central purpose–expressing oneself to an audience that is removed, either in space or in time or in dialect (or even native language), with clarity on any topic however complex and subtle.

    In short, I don’t think that your overwhelming concern with the sneaky wiles of the “guardians of the status quo power structure” or your ever-present fetish for ferreting out others’ fetishes derives from fireside chats with some local mute and inglorious Milton, nor were you at all blinkered by what is clearly a thorough training in overcomplex thought written in bloodless academic English. (Well, actually, the way you go on about power structures suggests that you *were* blinkered by your training, but *not* in the way you imply that training in the ways of power would leave you.) I also suspect that if most of the people whose substandard writing you’re defending read your screed, they wouldn’t suddenly rally to your non-standard standard and start smashing the patriarchy. It’d be more like, “what kinda furry bug crawled up UR hoity-toity ass huh. ur shit still smells bud.”

    Really, the difference between your stilted (nay, constipated) prose and Natalie’s vibrant colloquial is telling, and the difference between your writing and what you’re defending savors of rank hypocrisy, not to mention showing you up as patronizing as hell.

  3. Momo April 15, 2007 11:45 pm

    I told my teenybopper younger sister that if she ever sent me an email that was less than 95% gramatically correct and had intentional misspellings, I would delete it without reading it. She is an honor’s student, and I cannot comprehend why she would intentionally dumb herself down with this pidgin Netspeak. Shorthand is one thing, intentional stupidity is another.

  4. Ivana April 16, 2007 3:23 am

    It’s easy for someone who is a native English speaker to say that Standard English is the Master Dialect and a tool of oppression. English is my second language and I just can’t imagine that I would be able (or willing) to understand and use English in a hypothetic situation where every social/ethnic/gender group would have its own English standard (and I do believe that groups would create their own standards – first to understand each other and second to differentiate themselves from other groups).

    Pardon my English :) and best regards

  5. Natalie P. April 16, 2007 10:37 pm

    Just when you thought it couldn’t get any lamer – I had to share this one:

    I Don’t Really Have Time For This I Just Thought It Would Be Interesting Actually Become A Heartless Bitch Because I’ve Been Told I Am. I Guess It Makes Sense Right, Men Are Stupid Assholes But I Love Them Anyway, People Who Can’t Read And Write And Who Like To Start Shit Are Incoherent Shitheads, Who Are Ignorant And Should Be Slapped Around Every Once And A While. I Don’t Have Time To Deal With Stupid Peoples Shit So, I Tell People Like It Is Regardless. If You Look Like Shit In That Dress I’m Not Going To Say “uh, I Don’t Think That Is For You..” I’ll Flat Out Say “you Look Like Shit In That Dress,” Easy Enough Then I Don’t Start Shit And You Can’t Tell Me I’m A Liar Because I Created Liars So Now I Know Who Is Full Of Fucking Shit And Whose Not. So If This Is Good Enough For You I Hope It Will Because I Am Actually Interested But If I’m Not Good Enough Then Fuck You Anyway. Lovies..!

    (newsflash: That piece of drivel was definitely not good enough.)

  6. C'est moi April 18, 2007 3:39 pm

    Natalie–

    PREACH it, woman! (And OY, that last one! It’s all hot and it hurts and stuff.) I am sick unto DEATH of this unwillingness/inability to put forth even the SMALLEST effort to keep from being a drooling asshat in writing. Has the idea that “keepin’ it real” has to mean destructive stupidity on almost every level finally seeped from the leaky drum of Hip-Hop Stereotype to poison the wider watertable? Or do these nimrods just suck?

    Mike–

    FanTAbulous smackdown. Just when I thought that first post was actually going to make my head explode, I find a far pithier, far more precise flensing than I could have EVER hoped to inflict. Bravissimo! ::bowing down before you::

    Tavia