Don't let bad gramspunc leave a nasty taste in your mouth.
Written by Vincent J Prince on Tuesday the 13th of March 2012
WARNING: This post contains opinions that some readers may find offensive, and the views within are not necessarily (and most likely aren't) those held by Lazy Gramophone, and possibly not even me.
As I trawl endlessly through the bowels of dating websites, I see it time and time again: "I despise people with bad grammar”, "I'm anal about grammar, you must know what to do with a colon” etc etc. In terms of frequency, particularly on the Guardian Soulmates site, it's up there with "must have GSOH”, and "into cinema”. Of course what these people invariably refer to is spelling and punctuation, which technically isn't a part of grammar at all. Not once have I witnessed one of these, so called, language sticklers berate anyone over a split-infinitive, or a sentence ended with a preposition.
I'm convinced whining about grammar has become a bastion of the pseudo-intellectual - people who eat brunch and refer to wine as though it transcends all other forms of alcohol, so much so that they no longer consider it to be alcohol at all, and look upon you with a profound contempt as you guzzle 2 litres of Frosty Jacks in public, despite the fact that they say things like, "I enjoy the odd bottle of Merlot (or two, or three! Ha!)”, as though gloating about wine consumption is superior to boasting about drinking 10 cans of Special Brew. I find snobbery - particularly ill-informed snobbery, such as when someone snootily chastises another for a spelling/punctuation mistake on Facebook exclaiming, "I refuse to listen to someone with such terrible grammar.” - far more contemptible than I find the (It dawned on me when ruminating over the subject, that there isn't a collective noun that covers spelling, punctuation and grammar. Or at least I don't think there is; I could be (and frequently am) wrong. Regardless, from now on I think I'll refer to this collective linguistic system as 'gramspunc'. Even if there's already a term, I'm pretty sure it won't be as good as gramspunc) gramspunc offender.
Before any stick-up-arse gramspunc pedants begin a rebuttal to this discourse by picking holes in my shoddy gramspunc (of which I'm sure there are numerous), let me just state that by no means do I profess to be gramspunc expert. I don't even recall being taught how to use punctuation and grammar correctly at school, but it's become essential to me as a writer, as I write to be understood, and that's exactly what the system is there for - to allay any ambiguity. Having said that I don't find it to be an essential quality in other people, yes I'll gleefully take the piss out of someone for a poorly structured sentence, just like I'd gleefully take the piss out of someone for having a shit haircut; however I don't deem it necessary to daub a giant red semi-colon on their front door, as though they're stricken with some latter-day plague.
Ultimately it's not even a question of gramspunc offenders being misunderstood, I mean, let's face it, it hardly takes Bletchly Park to decipher even the most illegible of this kind of lousy writing. I think that's the crux of it: these people know that no matter how poorly spelled and punctuated their messages might be, its intended audience will still 'get it', in fact because their circle of friends primarily use this piss-poor form of communication, it becomes second nature how to translate it. For good or ill, it is now their chosen mode of written communication.
I confess that as I dredge the dregs of Plenty Of Fish, I merrily chortle to myself at the modern day phenomena that is 'txt speak', which often vomits up such beauties as: "If u luk lyk leeanardu deecapreeo bell me innit', but that's all it is to me - amusing. I don't feel the need to write a bitter 6500 word polemic to the Times, declaring a national state of educational emergency. Actually I find it rather helpful as it informs me of a number of things: firstly we're probably not quite on the same wavelength, yes I'd be quite happy to sleep with them so long as they don't too closely resemble a dog's dinner, but I don't think they're long term marriage material. Secondly they probably wouldn't even want to sleep with me - it's a handy indicator that I needn't even bother contacting them.
There's another reason why I take offence to gramspunc fascists getting so uppity about the odd stray apostrophe, or sentences barren of dots and dashes: I have a Yorkshire accent, technically everything I say is a grammatical shitstorm. Punctuation is the sole patron of the written word, but good grammar resides in the spoken, as well as the written. So every time one of these mealy-mouthed cocksuckers starts harping on about bad grammar, they're insulting me and everyone with an accent other than the Queen's English. Which - if you take into account people speaking broken English as a second language, and with a foreign accent - technically makes them racist, or at the very least xenophobic.
Let me just make it abundantly clear - I'm not outright applauding the bastardisation of the language I love; I'm merely lambasting what I suspect are two types of people: the aforementioned winey whinies, and lousy, meddling, WI cake baking, Daily Mail reading, Parish council, sticky beaked, pinched faced tea cosy botherers, whom I can't help but imagine go through about 12 keyboards a week, as they routinely spew lukewarm Earl Grey out of their pursed fish lips in a melodramatic display of disgust each time they see an errant comma.
In my opinion the world would be a far better place, not if everyone's Facebook updates were structured and spelled correctly, but if people just stopped bothering other folks in their affairs. If people choose to use shitty English, then that's their decision. By all means float about with that same smug sense of self-satisfaction smeared across your chops, you usually have; but if you insist on bothering other people, chastise them for not switching lights off when they leave the room, or tell your neighbours you'll smash one of their belongings for every week they don't recycle (after all, if they're destroying your environment, why not destroy theirs?) In other words put your meddling to work for the greater good, not just to satiate your own bloated conceit. Unless issued by the MOD, poorly punctuated sentences don't kill people; miss-spelled words don't destroy the Rainforest, and bad grammar isn't funded by blood diamonds and child labour.
I gladly await the furore (Good job I can spell).