15 October 2009


As a passionate lover of words and language, I get very annoyed very quickly at a lot of things.  Little things, that most people wouldn't even notice.  Things so insignificant that my wife doesn't understand my anger, and just rolls her eyes as I rant about it.

You've all seen it, and likely had the conversation about it.  A handwritten sign in a small shop window, advertising some sale with the following text:

Come on in!  All "items" on "sale"!  Only $5!

Do you see what's wrong with that?  

Quotation marks are used for very specific things.  Ideally, they are used for dialog only, to differentiate the words that a character is speaking from the words in the descriptive text.  They can also be used to emphasize certain words or phrases, generally to indicate that the writer is using them for humour's sake.  It's like using air quotes in a conversation with a friend.

"Yes, that dress looks air quote nice air quote on you."

If you do that in conversation, it's a way for you to tell your friend that she looks like a bag of shit without actually saying it.  It gets the point across, and gives you a thin barrier of deniability.

So, in the example sign above, there's no sale.  Or, if there is, it's only on something intangible, like a smile from the cashier, or something.

To all of the people writing these store signs, I want you to do something.  We all understand the air quote, so when you are preparing to write your sign, say it out loud, and wherever you want to write a quotation mark, throw up some air quotes.  You'll realise in a hurry how retarded your sign is making you look.

Now, onto something else.  Facebook statuses.  I know, it seems a little low-brow, but with the pervasiveness of the site nowadays, it is the most common thing that a lot of people read.

Which makes me sad, and would cause Papa to kill some folk.

Anyway, I want to talk about emphasis on certain words here, again.  An example status in my friends feed from this morning:

"uppppppp , EARLYYY!!!!! soooo collllddddd... class 10-1:30 today ;) gym later with  ?? ahahaaa. txt the cell I LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!"

I..... I don't even know where to start, here.  This individual obviously wanted their text to read like they were drawing out a lot of these words.  Let's ignore the spelling and grammar issues, and just focus on that.  I can get my point across using just the first word, here.  The letter 'p' is a sharp consonant.  There is a clear break at the end of the sound.  Say the word "up", and you'll see what I mean.  The letter 'u' is not.  It can go on forever (well, as long as you have breath in your lungs, that is).  Some of the words in this status seem to follow this logic, but I thing that was just luck.  

Read that first word, out loud.  Right now, you are sounding like a stuttering lawn mower.  What this person should have written was:


Say that one out loud, and you can see what annoys me.  

The words that you write down, no matter where you write them, are there to be read.  And when people read, they hear the words in their head, generally the exact same way you write them down.  So, if you throw in an extra letter, or fuck things up as entirely as this individual did, you are making other people sound ridiculous, and you are making yourself look like an asshole.  

Stop it.  Grammar is awesome.  It's there for a reason, and you should have paid attention in English class.  

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