GET A DICTIONARY
My sister and I have recently gotten into the habit of watching YouTube videos while we eat dinner. We watch BuzzFeed videos, nigahiga’s truly horrifying “I Dare You” challenges (we really should not watch those while eating), Japanese TV commercial compilations or, more recently, Alonzo Lerone’s Internet stupidity takedowns.
It’s really just Lerone reacting dramatically to social media misspellings like “I love girls with Hispanic accidents” or “Pear pressure is real,” with occasional sprinklings of sale prices gone wrong (pay $5 for one or $20 for two!) or 974 degree F weather mistakes.
“Get a dictionary!” he squawks at the beginning of every episode.
Truly, there are some intensely dumb people on the Internet, and every week Lerone manages to find some horrifying examples of the worst of humanity.
But too often, as we groan at yet another example of your/you’re misuse, I wonder about the significance of grammar in communication.
It’s a funny stance for a copy editor by trade to take, I know, considering that I literally get paid to point out the mistakes other people have made and correct them. But I have long since ceased to truly be bothered by misspellings and poorly used commas in my personal life.
In school, you learn that no one will understand you or take you seriously if you can’t demonstrate a mastery of fundamental English. It’s hammered into you from kindergarten onwards. Not knowing grammar is tantamount to not knowing how to communicate.
Even as a writing tutor in college, I routinely saw students get their grades dropped by whole letters simply because of subject-verb disagreement or misplaced commas. Their content was solid, but they slipped up on the presentation, as it were. They were outraged. I couldn’t help but sympathize.
Somehow it’s happened that the medium has come to trump the message — as if knowing how to use a semicolon is more important than anything you might’ve had to say.
By locating legitimacy and credibility in grammar, we put one more hurdle up between those with access to education and those without, and we are happy to disregard the words of those who are unable to express themselves to the arbitrary standard. And it is very much an arbitrary measure, set by the privileged long ago and reiterated to the point that we can only see it as a sacred truth.
It may seem hard to swallow when Lerone busts out a gem like — “Ok so people keep asking if I’m bipolar and the answer is no I’m straight” — but questioning the system is the first step to fixing it.
Paige’s Pick of the Week:
Room by Emma Donoghue
Recently Metro staff writer Jaimie Kim and I were both reading this book (which produced the Oscar-winning film starring Brie Larson) and were sent on a profound WTF train all the way to WTF land. Told entirely through the perspective of a 5-year-old boy, Room is harrowing, frustrating and mostly just plain weird. The phrase “having some” will never be the same for you.