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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 3:34 pm 
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Vantine wrote:
Again, the issue of how the article presented it's argument and the inherent classism and regional bias contained within is separate from the argument about grammar and rules of language.
You are right - and for the record, I didn't even like the article in question, I just wanted to wave the flag for English grammar. You see what I get?

Vantine wrote:
I find it completely impossible to believe that in casual conversation, people have not always used a more informal form of language than in formal writing. The problem might be that the casual form, because it has been shifted for use in electronic communication has bled into formal writing.
Exactly. I don't use the same "voice" to talk to my kids or my dog or pretty much anyone as I do to write an essay or a paper or whatever; my point was that it is useful and helpful to have the requisite skills to employ different modes of discourse to suit different situations and occasions. And I will maintain to my dying breath that this is A Good Thing.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 3:35 pm 
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Desdemona wrote:
My point was meant to be that it's pretty disingenuous for educated middle-class liberals (like myself, and I daresay I'm not the only person on this board who meets that description) to stomp our feet about how much we deplore the system of which many of us are ourselves a product, and from which we often derive much of the privilege we're so anxious to deride and distance ourselves from.


i didn't realize i was benefitting from an imbalanced system when i was in the system. i didn't understand that i was ridiculously lucky to attend a public school with great teachers and an average of 15 students per class, in which i received a ton of personal attention and encouragement. i didn't appreciate the tremendous head start that gave me when i was going on to higher education. now that i have a more complete understanding of what the system is, i am pretty angry about its myriad failings. i had advantages that i didn't earn, and that plenty of kids deserve but will never receive. i don't think it's disingenuous for me to lobby for change from the position i've found myself in.

i agree that people are judged by the way they present themselves in conversation or in writing. i just don't like that it's true, and i think it is particularly infuriating in the context of the original post. if i thought anyone had dismissed my cousins as ignorant hicks because of their georgia accents, or if someone refused to take my dad's views seriously because he sounds like the working-class bostonian he is, i would smash a bottle and get to rumblin', because despite my neutral phonemes and excellent spelling, i am the real white trash in the family.

also, desdemona, i love you, even when you're slapping our comma-splicing hands. *smooch*

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 3:40 pm 
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GuiltyofBeingSprite wrote:
FootFace wrote:
interrobang?! wrote:
the fork is a comma splice?


The joining (or splicing) of two independent clauses by a comma.


the boring clauses, not the ones that bring presents.

Was that a comma splice?


Nope, it was a sentence fragment.


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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 3:55 pm 
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I think that being able to use proper formal grammar in the times and contexts when it's appropriate, and being able to recognize those contexts, is a good skill to have. I just don't think that that article was making that point at all.


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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 4:02 pm 
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az ay ridikulusli non-fonetic languaj ridled with iregularitis, ritun english iz az much a ludite relik az imperiul wayts and mejurz.
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for educated middle-class liberals

i view middle class liberals and middle class wingnuts as flip sides of the same first-world corporate-fascist coin.
Quote:
we deplore the system of which many of us are ourselves a product, and from which we often derive much of the privilege we're so anxious to deride

limousine liberal transference...


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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 4:33 pm 
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Oh dear.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:03 pm 
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I'm still not sure, after reading the whole thread, why anyone would be against maintaining some set of standards for language. Since communication is really the essence of all we have to do with one another, what is the harm in protecting the value it has? This is coming from someone who grew up po' and had little access to educational resources and didn't even (gasp!) complete more than technical college because I was never given the "leg up" so many take for granted.

Language has immense value and I think deserves protection. Also, I never read the originating article upthread.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:34 pm 
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Language doesn't need protecting from its many practitioners. Language variety has always existed and will always exist. Language does just fine.

Which isn't to say there couldn't be value in maintaining formal varieties.

Saying "maintaining standards" makes it sound like there is intrinsic value to the features that we call "standard." This isn't like maintaining standards in helicopter repair. If I waved a magic wand and tomorrow everyone said things like "I goed to store for to buy a spaghetti," nothing would suffer.

When people say, "But you need proper language to be able to communicate efficiently," they're incorrect. All natural languages provide their speakers with effective ways to communicate. "Proper" grammar might be good for something, but that's not it.

Edited to add: I didn't mean that "proper" grammar doesn't allow for effective communication, only that it's not unique in allowing for effective communication.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:58 pm 
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FootFace wrote:
If I waved a magic wand and tomorrow everyone said things like "I goed to store for to buy a spaghetti," nothing would suffer.
Lies! My head would explode. Do you honestly want that on your conscience?

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:09 pm 
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FootFace wrote:
Language doesn't need protecting from its many practitioners. Language variety has always existed and will always exist. Language does just fine.

Which isn't to say there couldn't be value in maintaining formal varieties.

Saying "maintaining standards" makes it sound like there is intrinsic value to the features that we call "standard." This isn't like maintaining standards in helicopter repair. If I waved a magic wand and tomorrow everyone said things like "I goed to store for to buy a spaghetti," nothing would suffer.

When people say, "But you need proper language to be able to communicate efficiently," they're incorrect. All natural languages provide their speakers with effective ways to communicate. "Proper" grammar might be good for something, but that's not it.

Edited to add: I didn't mean that "proper" grammar doesn't allow for effective communication, only that it's not unique in allowing for effective communication.

Footie is kinda sexy when he's pontificating about language.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:09 pm 
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Desdemona wrote:
FootFace wrote:
If I waved a magic wand and tomorrow everyone said things like "I goed to store for to buy a spaghetti," nothing would suffer.
Lies! My head would explode. Do you honestly want that on your conscience?


but we would finally be able to communicate effectively with our cats! our hilarious cats!

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:11 pm 
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pandacookie wrote:
Tofulish wrote:
And I don't agree that liberals just want poor minorities to be seen but not heard. Yes there is a disconnect often in access and an ability to hear what is needed by the communities that they seek to help, but I think that generally there is an intent to help. Which is not the case with the GOP/conservatives that are at issue here, where poor minorities are the scapegoats to justify not having any limits on the right to bear arms and to justify slashing social spending to the bone. The perfect can't be the enemy of the good.


I don't think the people in power and the people with access want to hear much at all from the poor, regardless of their political leanings. Everyone professes to want to help end poverty. Terrible stuff, really. But I don't think many people who have comfortable lives really want things to change much if it means they will have a less comfortable life. If we really want to get at the root of class problems in this country I think it would take a lot of uncomfortable self reflection that no one with power and access wants to do.


I think people vote and donate against their interests all the time. There are billionaires who donate to Obama, even though Romney's policies would be better for their businesses in the short run. And the voting registration drives after the passage of the Voting Rights Act was funded in part by white liberals and carried out in part by white students. They had nothing to gain directly from participating but did so any way from their convictions that it would be the right thing to do.

I would happily pay more taxes if it meant a more complete social services net.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:12 pm 
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paprikapapaya wrote:
I'm still not sure, after reading the whole thread, why anyone would be against maintaining some set of standards for language. Since communication is really the essence of all we have to do with one another, what is the harm in protecting the value it has? This is coming from someone who grew up po' and had little access to educational resources and didn't even (gasp!) complete more than technical college because I was never given the "leg up" so many take for granted.

Language has immense value and I think deserves protection. Also, I never read the originating article upthread.


But people who use less than perfect grammar communicate all of the time. They make themselves clear and are able to function.

Society as a whole has become less formal. I judge all of you who go out in public wearing pajama bottoms, flip flops, and a tank top.

Read the article and then come back...

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:14 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:20 pm 
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I wish I was articulate enough to add something to this thread, but as I am not, I will just say that basically I'm with Desdemona on this one.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 9:52 pm 
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I feel like I can hold space for both being a language nerd and recognizing how classist (and often racist) an expectation of "proper" grammar is.

And I think that it is incumbent upon those of us who have been lucky enough to be either born or become middle-class educated liberals to use that privilege to fight those very systems that we so benefit from.

I used to hold a hard and fast line that I thought was about "grammar" until I dated a working-class immigrants' son and had my class privilege challenged constantly. And then I realized how shitty I was being when I judged people based on their grammar and syntax, and how many ways we middle-class folk are taught to uphold strict class striations for "aesthetic" reasons.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 10:52 pm 
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Tofulish wrote:
pandacookie wrote:
Tofulish wrote:
And I don't agree that liberals just want poor minorities to be seen but not heard. Yes there is a disconnect often in access and an ability to hear what is needed by the communities that they seek to help, but I think that generally there is an intent to help. Which is not the case with the GOP/conservatives that are at issue here, where poor minorities are the scapegoats to justify not having any limits on the right to bear arms and to justify slashing social spending to the bone. The perfect can't be the enemy of the good.


I don't think the people in power and the people with access want to hear much at all from the poor, regardless of their political leanings. Everyone professes to want to help end poverty. Terrible stuff, really. But I don't think many people who have comfortable lives really want things to change much if it means they will have a less comfortable life. If we really want to get at the root of class problems in this country I think it would take a lot of uncomfortable self reflection that no one with power and access wants to do.


I think people vote and donate against their interests all the time. There are billionaires who donate to Obama, even though Romney's policies would be better for their businesses in the short run. And the voting registration drives after the passage of the Voting Rights Act was funded in part by white liberals and carried out in part by white students. They had nothing to gain directly from participating but did so any way from their convictions that it would be the right thing to do.

I would happily pay more taxes if it meant a more complete social services net.


Some people would do the right thing, and lots would support any kind of criticism against the other side, but in my experience, I'm thinking particularly with white middle class guys in Occupy, they wanted women and PoC there to show how awesome and diverse they are but they didn't want us to voice our concerns about the movement, push for anti-racist and feminist issues, or critique the Cracker von Patriarchs within the movement. If we did, we were splintering the movement.

And its like that in a lot of circles I've been in, LGBTQ, feminist groups, etc. A lot of liberals want to be on the anti-racist, anti-sexist, etc, side, but many just want to use us as a badge of honour that makes them look better than the people they're protesting, but when it came down to it many were just interested in increasing their own privilege and keeping the rest down.

j-dub wrote:
I feel like I can hold space for both being a language nerd and recognizing how classist (and often racist) an expectation of "proper" grammar is.

And I think that it is incumbent upon those of us who have been lucky enough to be either born or become middle-class educated liberals to use that privilege to fight those very systems that we so benefit from.

I used to hold a hard and fast line that I thought was about "grammar" until I dated a working-class immigrants' son and had my class privilege challenged constantly. And then I realized how shitty I was being when I judged people based on their grammar and syntax, and how many ways we middle-class folk are taught to uphold strict class striations for "aesthetic" reasons.


I used to be absolutely ashamed of the Newfie accent, and I've resisted it so much that while I have an accent, its no where near as thick as some other people I know. I thought it made me sound like an ignorant hick, but I'm white enough to get away with the dialect I have at least. Boyfriend was telling me a few weeks ago how he has two voices, a normal voice he uses around other black people and people he knows very well, and a white voice when he's talking to white people he doesn't know so well because he knows if he talks in a AAVE way, white people judge him.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 12:21 am 
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FootFace wrote:
I think the comma splice-type arguments are different. It's not that the kids (and adults!) who can't write well learned a different system. They just never learned. Writing is an acquired, learned set of skills. It's very different from speaking and understanding language. The comma splicers aren't, I don't think, merely products of a different, equally legitimate tradition, one that conceives of commas differently.

YES.


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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 4:02 am 
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I'm with Footie on this (thanks for representing the belinguisticated, FF), and also Desdemona.

Personally, I find it disappointing and sad when people try to give up their own language or dialect for another. I am saddened in any case (see some of Footie's linguistics arguments above), but am especially sad when that happens in professional books I am asked to review whose authors didn't look for copyeditors or translators to check their work*. People are sensitive to presentation, and something that "doesn't sound good" doesn't get nearly as much attention as something that does (grammar, language, content, whatever). Good grammar, consistent in whichever language/dialect the author chooses is really important. Acknowledging that is the first step to making the systemic changes j-dub, pandacookie and others have talked about.

*True fact: academic publishers expect printable manuscripts to appear in their inbox, and wash their hands free of copyediting & etc. responsibilities.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 4:46 am 
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I forgot about this until I read Shy Mox's post. My dad eliminated his Texas accent when he was in grad school because his classmates assumed that someone with that sort of accent was ignorant. He sounds completely different than his brothers.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 7:34 am 
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Speaking of accents, my grandfather worked really hard to eliminate his very heavy southern Appalachian accent so that he could "pass" as a non-mountain person. He only completed about three grade years before he went to college for the first time. That college was a farm/college at the time, so I guess he spent his time copying flatlander accents and shoveling poo. Once it was all said and done, he had a PhD from Vanderbilt and fancied himself quite the intellect. Eventually he wrote a book celebrating his Appalachian heritage and trying to preserve some of the local words and whatnot. I think he regretted abandoning that part of his heritage for so long, but felt that he had to do so to accomplish his goals.

That was kindof rambling! I guess I just want to say I hope that we get to a point where someone can be successful regardless of their dialect/accent, but I also see a value in a standardized formal English for use in professional writing. I also think that standardized form will continue to evolve.

From an English major and grammar nerd who also has mad respect for her 'sang huntin' ancestors.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 7:47 am 
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ShyMox wrote:
And its like that in a lot of circles I've been in, LGBTQ, feminist groups, etc. A lot of liberals want to be on the anti-racist, anti-sexist, etc, side, but many just want to use us as a badge of honour that makes them look better than the people they're protesting, but when it came down to it many were just interested in increasing their own privilege and keeping the rest down.


So what are people without access supposed to do? Reject both the conservatives who are actively targeting us and our rights and the liberals who may be doing things that help us for less than ideal reasons and try and build an independent parallel movement?

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 10:00 am 
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I think it's pretty uncontroversial that being able to speak and write in a formal register and knowing when it's appropriate to do so is an important skill in professional circles (although you can certainly succeed without it, if your other skills are sought after). That's probably why people retreat to this position after making much more bombastic claims. And it's a skill that a lot of people need to work on: I don't think pointing (and laughing) at stuff like the misuse of an apostrophe on a hand-painted roadside sign is appropriate, because that's pretty clearly not a formal context.

There's also a responsibility to make the formal register as culturally neutral as possible--otherwise we're embedding markers that will turn people off to education. The tendency of young black men to identify the educational institutions as "white" goes a long way towards describing the educational crisis they're currently experiencing.

And like Vantine says, we've just become a lot less formal in recent years. Thirty years ago, a man-type-person in my position would have had to wear a tie to work almost every day. These days I get away with jeans and sneakers. I don't see anything inherently negative about that--it's a great relief, really. Why should it be so with language?

Mostly, I just don't get the fascination. This article, as obnoxious as it is, will get thousands of page views. One of the morning shows on our local NPR station periodically has a "word maven" on, and the phone banks invariably light up with popular anti-populists. People are passionate about preening their language, and I don't know why. I can't think of anything less interesting than whether "mischievious" is a word or not (I just tried--no dice), particularly when the criteria of wordfulness are so ill-defined.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 10:14 am 
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just mumbles wrote:
I think it's pretty uncontroversial that being able to speak and write in a formal register and knowing when it's appropriate to do so is an important skill in professional circles (although you can certainly succeed without it, if your other skills are sought after).


I'd be willing to bet, in fact, that some of the hobby horses of old-school usage adherents could actually do you harm in most workplaces outside English education or related fields. Responding "this is he" or "this is she" on the phone, for example, sounds pretentious or just plain wrong to the rest of the English-speaking world.

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 Post subject: Re: Grammar and a Culture of Ignorance
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:06 am 
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just mumbles wrote:
I think it's pretty uncontroversial that being able to speak and write in a formal register and knowing when it's appropriate to do so is an important skill in professional circles...
Really? Less than twenty-four hours ago, this (now apparently uncontroversial) assertion was met with howls of protest and the wielding of virtual pitchforks. Curiouser and curiouser.
just mumbles wrote:
Mostly, I just don't get the fascination...People are passionate about preening their language, and I don't know why. I can't think of anything less interesting than whether "mischievious" is a word or not (I just tried--no dice), particularly when the criteria of wordfulness are so ill-defined.
But now you're being purely subjective - of course you don't have to "get the fascination," or even find this subject vaguely interesting. But it seems to me that some people's lack of interest shouldn't invalidate the fascination with and/or investment in language of others, any more than groaning at a misplaced apostrophe should invalidate the information the sign-painter was trying to get across (unless that misplaced apostrophe renders its meaning obscure). Or does this only work one way?

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Last edited by Desdemona on Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:09 am, edited 2 times in total.

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