Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On Language

I'm one of those teachers who will respond to the word "mines" by asking "Gold or silver?"  and the question "Can I go to the bathroom?" with "I don't know, can you?"

Yeah, you can say I'm a stickler about some things.  It's genetic, I think.  Just try ending a sentence with a preposition when my sister's around.

I'm critical about this because one of the things we teach in school (according to our curriculum, at least) is how to communicate well.  People who speak "properly" are more likely to do well in interviews and score higher paying and/or better quality careers.

But it's not the only way people speak.  I dare you to turn on a radio and count how many times the word "ain't" is used in one hour's worth of song lyrics.  There, it's acceptable.  In school, it's not.

It gets worse when you head online, where sentences like "LOL school is teh suxxorz I hav a gud job even wit low gradez." are easily understood and not criticized for grammar or spelling ... in some circles.

"In some circles" is apparently the key phrase here.  In art we need to know our target audience, and we use our works, whether they're visual, auditory, or something else, to communicate something.  I'm not likely to use Modernism to illustrate a children's story about a young boy's first week at school.

But online we have a wide variety of audiences with which we can participate, and the language norms can be incredibly different in each tab of our browser.  Several people I follow on Plurk and Twitter are fans of some strangely talking cats, but you still won't see us posting things like "I can has Summer vacation!" or "Invisible budget" in our Professional Learning Networks.

So, if you remember how I started this post it's safe to say I'm not in favor of students handing in essays written in 1337 or LoLspeak, even though I'm capable of communicating in both.  But I'm not so quick to dismiss these offshoots of the English language.  They were created by a generation that found themselves understanding the new technology far better than most of their teachers, so they built their own rules around it.

And if you look at it that way, it kinda roxxorz.


Kevin Asher said...

I will ignore the two errors (Just try ending a sentence with a preposition when my sister’s around.) and (capapble) I noticed in your post and instead get to the point of the post. While I understand that yes, on the internet everyone can have a voice, not everyone understands when to use their internet voice and when to use a more dignified or professional voice. And because there are more than a handful of people that don't understand that even in "certain circles", some opinions ought not to be voiced. Because of these facts one is more likely to find me chastising people that fall into either category than to take part in the "discussion."

theartguy said...

("Capapble" has been fixed, "around" was intentional.)

Some of what you've said ties in with a point I addressed in my post - not every method of communication is appropriate in every setting. I may find it interesting how LOLspeak and 1337speak evolved, but I'm not about to accept research papers written in those styles. People should always be aware of their target audiences and tailor their styles of communication appropriately.

I won't even place those styles into the category of "internet voice," because most of the communicating I do through the internet still uses the "professional voice" you mention.

I'm curious though ... what opinions are better left not being voiced, even in the appropriate venues?

Veronica said...

In response to the previous comment, the errors obviously weren't ignored or they wouldn't have been pointed out. I'd like to point out, though, that the word "around" in the sentence "Just try ending a sentence with a preposition when my sister's around" isn't a misplaced preposition; it's acting as an adjective in this case, so that's technically not an error. Also, even the best grammarians are "capapble" of making typos once and a while . If you want to get technical, in the U.S., punctuation marks such as commas and periods go inside of quotation marks. However, no matter where you are or which grammar rules you learned, it's important to always be consistent in your writing. In once place in the comment, a comma appears outside of them, and in another, a period appears inside. We all live in grammatical glass houses, so let's learn from each other instead of automatically throwing stones. I think that was the real point of the article, which I found pretty entertaining.

Veronica said...

Hmm... someone else was quicker to comment. :) My earlier comment was in response to Kevin Asher.

theartguy said...

"Around" was grammatically correct? Dagnabbit, I worded that sentence that way because I WANTED it to end in a preposition. (The in joke is that my sister made such a big deal about that grammar rule that members of my family would place prepositions at the end of our sentences even if they made no sense being there whatsoever.)

In any case, I'm glad you liked my post Veronica. And for the record I chose to see Kevin's comments regarding my errors as opportunities to fix errors, rather than negative criticism of them.

Veronica said...

For the record as well, in no way did I intend to imply that the author would see Kevin's comments as negative criticism instead of opportunities to fix errors. God knows we can all use constructive feedback! It makes the world go 'round. :) Thanks again for an interesting article.

Kevin Asher said...

I never claimed to be better at spotting my mistakes than anyone else is at spotting their own. But I know the OP and I know that he'd forgive me for my errors as it is not possible to detect those errors I made in speech. However, to the question about what opinions are better off not voiced at all are are hatespeech. I've seen it much too much on the internet all over. There really is no appropriate place for hatespeech. While your Constitutional rights give you the right to say what you want, it does not give you the right to just be a blanket jerk. The Constitution does not protect oneself from being punished for being an idiot.

Kevin Asher said...

Also noted, it is not completely out of place to use the phrase "invisible budget" when one is in discourse with one's PLN. After all, they might be experiencing the same phenomena you are... And one more thing, did you get my e-mail?