Guest Writer: Narbeh Minassian
The dramatic augmentation of social media in recent years has paved the way for an unprecedented means of written expression. Facebook and Twitter are constantly bombarded by status updates and posts, which have inadvertently revealed that the general grasp of the English language is indirectly proportional to the growth in the use of such social media.
You don’t need to look much further than the Iphone’s auto correct service and Microsoft Word’s spell check to know that we live in an era when there is always something to do it for you. There is the notion that machines will do the job for us, which has fostered an approach to grammar of such ferocious laziness that I am tempted to advocate a return of Luddism. However, I fear that it is more a case that people, particularly the youth, just don’t care anymore.
I have become known as something of a ‘grammar Nazi’ to my friends, but I see nothing tyrannous in expecting a basic knowledge of literacy from those who have paid through their noses for an education. I wanted to find out why some people insist on persistently humiliating themselves on the aforementioned social media, and it turns out that my fears were justified. Most responses were defiant, clinging on to some bizarrely perceived notion that understanding information takes not only precedence over grammatical accuracy, but complete importance (might I add, this seems far more ‘Nazi’ to me); in other words, as long as the reader understands what the author is getting at, all else is mere embellishment. In which case, we have taken our first steps on the road to the Orwellian concept of Newspeak.
The responses were not completely ridiculous and there is some element of truth in the argument that grammatical ineptitude does not fully inhibit understanding. After all, we all know that when someone writes ‘should of’, someone means ‘should have’, or when someone writes ‘your good’, someone means ‘you’re good’, or when someone types ‘their winning’ instead of ‘they’re winning’, we still know what the intent is, and when someone writes…well, you get the message. It is true that we know what was meant, kind of like how we all know what the dog means when he lifts his hind-leg next to a tree; this just doesn’t justify literate inadequacy. I even saw one write ‘pre-madonna’ instead of ‘prima donna’, the latter is a term often applied to selfish or temperamental people, the former just means ‘before Madonna’. These are the bread and butter basics of our English language, it’s not like I’m expecting a universal mastering of the subjunctive; accept and except are not interchangeable, people!
The English language is being butchered by a Neanderthal approach to grammar. If this language were a statue, it would have eroded to an unrecognizable extent. Rest in peace, dear author, you will be missed.