Tag: Grammar

Scrabble tiles spelling, of course, S-C-R-A-B-B-L-E.

These New Changes to the Rules of Scrabble Might Spell Trouble

The evolution of language is nothing to fear… unless thou art living in Medieval times, which, incidentally, is when the first documented use of the singular ‘they’ took place. Some people don’t like it when words like ‘bougie’ or ‘TL;DR’ become words in a more official capacity… even though, clearly, we’re already using them. We call those people ‘elitists:’ people who think language is sacred and untouchable, that Shakespeare couldn’t drop profundities and make dick jokes at the exact same time.

 

Lady Macbeth would definitely get a boner from killing Duncan, and Shakespeare knew it.

Image Via The Mary SUE

 

One of the greatest things about language is that it’s constantly evolving to encapsulate new experiences, to help us better express ourselves. In 1996, the phrase ‘face palm’ was added to the dictionary—and you bet your ass 1996 was not the first time anyone expressed behavior so frustrating the only response was to bury your head in your hands.  In 2018, the Oxford English Dictionary added ‘pansexual‘ to its lexicon, a term that had been around for nearly ONE HUNDRED years prior. Placing words we use to define gender and sexuality doesn’t define whether or not the experience exists: it does. That’s WHY there’s a word for it. What it really means is a granting of legitimacy. An acknowledgement of a lifetime of human experience.

(Don’t want pansexuality to be legitimized? Thou must get a grip.)

 

Dictionaries spell out: "CISGENDER?"

Image Via The Advocate

 

But these new Scrabble rules might just have all of us gripping the edges of the table and trying our best not to flip it… or flip out. More TWO-LETTER words? Comma on. (OK, that was bad, I know.) But speaking of OK, this word is one of the hotly contested new additions to the game. Another one is EW, which is what you’ll be yelling when someone ruins your next move. It’s not that I’m some purist who thinks ‘ok’ instead of ‘okay’ has anything to do with I.Q. points, but seriously: someone dropping a two-letter word and therein preventing you from playing any tiles is enough to make anyone face palm.

Among the more exciting new additions to the Scrabble game are ‘shebagging’ (when a female passenger places her bag on the empty seat next to her; has manspreading finally met its match?) and ‘zomboid’ (resembling a zombie, a.k.a. you leaving the club). The most controversial addition is sure to be the debatably annoying and certainly outdated ‘bae,’ a divisive term that may or may not have caused many a bae to split up.

Remember that notoriously difficult X tile? Well, with new words like ‘dox’ and ‘vax,’ you’ll be able to get rid of those bad boys. Of course, to your opponent, you’ll become the bad boy.

 

Gif Via Giphy

 

“It used to be that if you put a K down, you knew your opponent couldn’t play across the top of it – it will be a change of mindset,” said Brett Smitheram, the 2016 Scrabble World Champion. With truly chaotic energy, he added, “but that’s the joy of it.”

He also calls Scrabble an “adrenaline sport.” Well, it’s about to be.

 

 

 

Featured Image Via Mental Floss.

Spag: Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar

Grammar Rules Are Arbitrary. Here Are the New Ones.

Recently, a horde of raving copy editors swarmed Providence, RI for the conference of the American Copy Editors’ Society (Twitter handle #ACES2019). ‘Ace’ (as in very good) might seem a little zesty for a bunch of grammar enthusiasts, a group of people generally not known for their love of fun. (Of course, anyone who thinks grammar is not fun has clearly never gotten drunk and argued with me about em-dashes.) Before we get into the new rules, let’s talk about what they mean—or don’t.

Grammar is often intrinsically linked to a variety of social issues—in particular, gender, race, and class. There has been increasing debate about the use of the singular ‘they,’ and, while many argue passionately in favor of making the official change, many are not as enthusiastic. (Note: this frequently has more to do with bigotry than a passion for grammar.) Still, the use of ‘he or she,’ as opposed to ‘they,’ remains on the most menacing test of grammar: the SAT*. Of course, the haters ignore that Shakespeare himself, pinnacle of high culture and known maker of dick jokes, used the singular they.

 

"Should they be a generic singular pronoun?"

Image Via Quick & Dirty tips

 

*The SAT also has a number of questions devoted to concision (the most efficient possible use of language). For instance, it would be grammatically incorrect to say, “I walked onto the hot and sweltering beach.” Since ‘sweltering’ conveys more information than ‘hot’ and yet means nearly the same thing, using both is redundant. It seems confusing (also somewhat infuriating) that ‘he and she’ is less concise than ‘they’ and is somehow more correct.

Gender is hardly the only issue at play. English teachers have frequently approached rage bordering on a medical incident at words they perceive to be ‘improper English.’ But AAVE (African American Vernacular English) isn’t slang, isn’t unintelligent. Think of it this way: Americans from the East Coast might say ‘soda’ to mean a carbonated beverage; Americans from the Midwest might say ‘pop.’ Neither of those people are wrong—as much as it pains me to admit. (Pop people, you may not be wrong, but you are weird. Sorry.) Those among us who use AAVE are far less weird than these unhinged pop-drinkers. They are using an established dialect with grammar rules as rigorously structured as any other.

 

AAVE Grammar Verb Tense Chart

Image Via Her caMPUS

 

In AAVE, negative concord—what your angriest English teacher would call a double negative—is a common phenomenon (think ‘he ain’t never’). Your angriest English teacher might become even angrier if you dropped this truth bomb: double negatives are extremely common in languages throughout the world. Ever taken a French class? Je n’ai jamais any idea that people thought ‘proper’ language use correlates directly with intelligence. It does not. ‘Proper’ language use correlates with a certain sort of education—and that education, unfortunately, correlates with money.

Grammar is useful when it helps us to clarify our points, to add nuanced tone and meaning to our communication. That’s all it is: a tool intended for use when applicable. You wouldn’t use a hammer to fix a broken lamp. And you wouldn’t use glue to fix a lamp that wasn’t broken at all.

Does it seem odd for someone so passionate about grammar to insist on its arbitrariness? I sure bet it does. But perhaps it’s far more strange to consider language so sacred when all the time we maketh new jokes; we createth new terms; and, if thou don’t like it, thou can shove it up thine ass. Language evolves. Let’s be evolved enough to understand that.

 

Outdated rules of hyphens, all of which have been altered at the recent conference.

Image Via PR DAILY

 

Pictured above is a tweet concerning a grammar rule that no longer exists. Two years ago, it was correct. Let’s just establish that human beings are the ones making these decisions—human beings who, in being human, probably do ludicrously stupid things like pull repeatedly on push doors and pound Fireball whiskey. Do we have any obligation to listen to people like that? Like us? Maybe. Listening is one thing, but, besides grades and workplace requirements, there’s nothing compelling us to obey.

Here are the new rules: split infinitives are now acceptable, which means you can ‘boldly go’ instead of ‘go boldly,’ which is way less dramatic. You’re all good to write the percent symbol instead of the actual word ‘percent,’ which makes us 100% happy. The hyphen is going away in all cases where the meaning of the word is readily apparent. (Billion-dollar industry one such case in which the hyphenated word, ‘dollar,’ clearly refers to the word ‘billion.’ No one would mistake this term for dollarindustry—although, arguably, all industries are dollar industries).

Being a grammar nerd doesn’t always mean adhering to every grammar rule. Nerdiness is just the sort of passion that people like to yell at you for, and an intense love for grammar is truly a geekier-sounding passion for language. There’s a difference between following the rules and understanding what they mean—and don’t. If you do the former, you should do the latter, too.

 

Featured Image Via Twinkl.

"This is an em dash."

I’m Obsessed With The Em Dash & You Can’t Change My Mind

My love for em dashes is so powerful that, if converted into energy, it could power this website through the upcoming and inevitable nuclear apocalypse. When I asked my coworkers what they thought of em dashes, staff writer Nathaniel Lee asked, “the pretentious dash?” Our CEO, Scott Richmond, added, “the only reason I don’t use them is that they’re too long. It’s all about the space conservation.” Much like my esteemed coworker, he is wrong.*

Let’s go back to grammar school, so y’all can get grammar SCHOOLED.

 

"Why the em-dash should be your best friend"
                   Best friend? The em dash is my only friend. | Image Via SlideShare

 

Parentheses. These are the basic bitches of the grammar world. If they were a statement piece, the statement would be no comment. Parentheses set aside parenthetical phrases—that is, phrases that are unnecessary for the meaning of the sentence. Commas and em dashes accomplish the same task, but em dashes get the points for sheer panache, baby! The whole point of parentheses is that they de-emphasize the nonessential phrase you’re setting aside. Example: Nasopharyngitis (the common cold) may be impossible to eradicate. Nobody’s that excited about the common cold. Come on.

Commas. These are just store-brand em dashes, watered down versions without all that spicy flavor. The comma is a neutral syntactical choice. You’ve heard of the dramatic pause? Get ready for the anticlimactic pause. Example: My girlfriend, a phenomenal cook, made a delicious sandwich. Is it newsworthy that your girlfriend is a phenomenal cook? Unlikely. My girlfriend—Belletrist babe and notorious reader Emma Roberts—made a delicious sandwich. Now, there’s a parenthetical phrase that would transcend commas. (Also, call me, Emma.)

Em dashes. Let’s consider what ‘nonessential’ actually means. Technically, stylistic choices like leopard print coats and pink hair are nonessential. But when you walk into a room, don’t they get the job done? Hell yeah. The air horn of the punctuation world, the em dash does the same thing as parentheses and commas but with an entirely different tone. Example: My sister—who slept with my husband—just asked me for money. Let’s try again: My sister (who slept with my husband) just asked me for money. Did this happen? No. If it did, would I have used an em dash to relay the info? You know it.

 

"Love the em dash."

Image Via Grammarly

 

That being said, even my beloved em dash is not perfect. You know how books sometimes start off with sound effects? Bang. My ex-husband was dead. Wham! My sixteenth birthday, the day of the Trial that would determine my whole future, began when my jealous sister slapped me with my own Timesetter. You get the message. You can’t start off a book with bang! Wham! Crash! Boom! You could, but it would be annoying—and it’s possible you’re annoyed already. Similarly, you can’t fill an article with em dashes (though if you click anything by Krisdee Dishmon, you’ll realize I’ve certainly tried).

Time for Q&A. The major question people have seems to be ‘aren’t these interchangeable?’ That, of course, is a subcategory of all the more pressing questions. ‘Isn’t grammar pointless? Will someone ever want to date you?’ The answer to all three, as you might be shocked to learn, is a resounding NO.

 

Em Dash examples

Image Via Translabo Berlin WordPress

 

For the same reason that you wouldn’t use an exclamation point to conclude an uneventful sentence, you wouldn’t use an em dash for a job that parentheses can do. Can you? Sure. Should you? I say no. As Josh from Drake and Josh would say, it’s for emphasis. EMPHASIS! (Click here if you don’t get that reference.)

You may be wondering whether or not I have a right to this opinion: a passion for em dashes that, if converted into a numeric value, would dwarf the GDP of even the wealthiest nations. Yes, I do. They may not have hired me at my local coffee shop, but, as a creative writing graduate and former English teacher / SAT grammar tutor, I am good for something—even if that thing is yelling on the Internet.

*I respect you very much, Scott. I just also respect the commanding presence of the em dash.

 

Featured Image Via Radix Communications

Brigid Hughes and the covers of the past few issues of 'A Public Space'

Is the Singular “They” Grammatically Correct?

Language is always evolving. The way we speak in 2018 will not at all be the way we speak in 2068, much in the same way that we don’t currently speak the way people did in 1318. The evolution of language is a fabulous thing; it reflects our capacity to adapt and change when presented with new information, and allows for the progress of the human species. But change is painfully slow, and the progress of language is especially hindered because of the irritating culture of linguistic gatekeeping. There are people in the world who take immense pride in their supposed mastery of the English language, to the point of being downright snobbish toward people who either have not had the privilege of an English language education or simply reject the idea that it is necessary to take grammar so seriously.

 

One of the current linguistic debates is over the use of “they” as a singular pronoun. In recent years, people have become much more attentive to the pronouns used to refer to others. Slowly, effort is being made to ask first before calling someone “she” or “he,” and while the question may seem small or unnecessary, it’s really not. Simply asking for someone’s pronouns indicates respect for the person being spoken to, acknowledgement of their right to determine their own identity, and reinforces that appearance cannot be and has never been the sole indicator of one’s gender, and truthfully, it never has been, but now people are starting to notice.

 

spectrum of gender

Image via Gender Free World

 

But even those who have gotten far enough to recognize the necessity of asking for pronouns may not have expanded their horizons far enough to include genders outside of the binary male-female system. In other words, even if you have recognized that the gender binary is not what you’ve been told it is, you may not know what exists outside of that binary.

 

Not everyone in this world is either a man or a woman, and even if one is a man or a woman, one’s relation to or expression of that identity may not be exclusive to traditional gender-based limitations. 

 

These people may accept she or he pronouns, but many exclusively accept “they.” Which is fine. There is absolutely no personal sacrifice required to refer to a person by the pronoun by which they have told you they will be referred to. But of course, some people just gotta be difficult.

 

"Are you a boy or a girl?" "No"

Image via Beyond the Binary

 

There is a alarming number of people in the world who are so hung up on the “rules” that they are completely dismissing the importance of using “they” as a gender-neutral singular pronoun. There is an even more alarming number of people who are fully cognizant of the importance of gender-neutral pronouns and use their conception of rigid grammar to disrespect and insult non-binary people.

 

To be clear, even if the singular they was incorrect, it would not matter. Language is capable of evolving, and if we use “they” as a singular pronoun, it is a singular pronoun. Every single word we speak today was once new and never-before-used. Many of our words mean something entirely different today than they did when they entered the lexicon. Words are invented and once invented, evolve further to fill the gaps in our language. We have words because we need them, and when a new linguistic gap presents itself, we improvise.

 

For example, have you ever wondered why English doesn’t have a plural second-person pronoun to compare to “you”? In the absence of such a pronoun, we resort to using “y’all,” “youse,” “yinz,” and the technically more correct, but clunky, “you all.” The answer is actually hiding in plain sight.

 

Back in the olden times (very olden, we’re talking like Shakespeare’s era), “you” was the plural pronoun. If you were speaking to one person, you’d address them as “thou.” That is, you would, unless you were speaking to royalty. It is not unusual to perceive and address a monarch as being plural; recall Queen Victoria’s famous line, “We are not amused.”

 

“Thou” eventually fell out of use in the 17th century due to being perceived as impolite. Therefore, if you have any qualms about “they” as a singular pronoun, then it would behoove you to start thou-ing people, lest you be taken for a hypocrite.

 

Shakespeare Folio

Image via Smithsonian Magazine

 

Aside from the historical evolution of language, the singular they is also defended by its formidable ally, Merriam-Webster.

 

 

Who would’ve thought Merriam-Webster was such a fierce LGBTQ advocate? But indeed they are, and listen to me: Merriam-Webster will fight you.

 

 

pronouns

Image via Daily Hampshire Gazette

 

Featured Image Via Nonbinary Wiki and Dr. Jenny Arm