Posted in WRD 402

WRD 402: Post 40

It’s time to address something very near and very dear to my heart: the English language.

Now, I could go on a rant about how we were a perfectly good Germanic language, until the Norman French got involved and decided only Romance was any good, thus mucking up any semblance of a standard of pronunciation or order.

I could go on a rant about how the “10 Items or Less” sign should read “10 Items or Fewer.”

I could go on a rant about the great benefits of English, like non-gendered nouns and the lack of ending changes based on the tense and subject of a verb.

I could go on a rant about how no one uses ellipses properly (and indeed, it bugs the heck out of me).

I  could go on a rant about how standards in English are changing constantly, with even the possessive form of a person’s name ending in S having been altered in the past few years (note: it’s Jones’s, not Jones’).

Or I could just say that, when it comes down to it, none of this really hits the crux of the issue. The history of the language, the etymology of words, the intricacies of grammer—these are all important, and should be studied by all who take an interest. But what I have to say is important not just for enthusiasts, but for all people: Don’t let it die.

English is evolving constantly, with new words being coined by teenagers taking photos of themselves, new constructs being invented as people strive for clarity, and entire definitions of words changing based on how people alter the language just by speaking it (look up “egregious,” if you’d like an example; people were straight-up so sarcastic when using it that the opposite of its original intent became the norm). Many people shun this evolution of language; we’ve tried for so long to codify a system, why add words like “selfie” to the dictionary just because they show up in common parlance? Can we truly stoop to such base debauchery as bringing in any word the populace invents? Well, yes. Yes, we can. And we do. Because language isn’t static; it’s not something that can be written down and stuck to forever. Language flows just like the thoughts of the people who employ it.

And here comes the more ranty bit, because there is one major issue that strikes me to my core: the loss of words. Every word is a concept; even synonyms express different meanings, and even the same word can be heavily influenced by context and connotation. To lose words is to lose our ability to think in about a greater number of concepts, to embrace new ideas, to express ourselves in different ways. Don’t believe me? Look at the language used in Orwell’s 1984. Orwell knew that the way to restrict thought is to restrict language; no one can commit thoughtcrime when they don’t have the words to understand the concept of the criminal thought.

And the same goes for grammatical structures; I have seen so many comma splices in my years that it pains me, because it feels like an injury to the semicolon. When I point out comma splices to people, the most common response I get is, “Well, I know it’s technically two sentences stuck together, but a period gives it too much of a pause. I used the comma so it flows better.”

“What about using a semicolon?” I ask.

“I never really figured out how to use one. I just avoid them for the sake of ease.”

“You know,” I prod, “a semicolon works just like a period in this case, but signals the reader to keep going so it doesn’t break the flow like a period does.”

“Really?”

“Yeah! So do you think you’ll use them more often?”

“Nah. I don’t trust myself to get it right. I’ll just stick to using commas.”

I don’t pick at grammar because I’m a stickler for rules. I don’t think we should all be held to a strict standard, never to deviate. But grammar helps us. Words help us. And without a concerted effort to preserve the ones that we have—even as we add new ones—we risk losing the complexity of our ability to think and express ourselves. I don’t ask that everyone pay their local reference section a visit and start memorizing, but I do believe that we should give English classes more credit than they currently get. They teach us how to analyze a body of work, how to read between the lines, how to compose our thoughts and put them out for the world to see. Shouldn’t we lay the foundation, then, of how to employ the building blocks that make up our language?

(As a bonus, the more words we have, and the more ways in which they can be used, the more puns we can make!)

Posted in WRD 402

WRD 402: Post 39

I can’t remember the last time I made a happy post. Like a really, genuinely happy post, with no bittersweet “It’ll get better” message about a sad situation. Just happiness.

And you know what? Happiness is important. It can’t all be sunshine and rainbows every day, but most days, we need something to brighten things up for us. Obviously, happiness isn’t something you can induce, and it’s not something you can obtain by just thinking happy thoughts, but being able to relax and simply experience something nice can be a great reprieve (especially during Dead Week).

So damn it, this is the internet. What do we do when we’re down?

We look at pictures of cats.

And of course, we watch the odd cat video or two.

Each instance of cat-related media was lovingly hand-picked and tested for cuteness and level of funny. Special thanks to Tulip, feline co-owner of the apartment in which I was staying while I crafted this post. You rock, Tulip.

Posted in WRD 402

WRD 402: Post 38

settling

The website xkcd kindly summed up the majority of my fears in a single box. Furthermore, it subtly called me out on my stubborness and my obstinate belief that such situations are “not really all that bad” and “I’m probably overthinking it” and “it’ll get better if I just wait, I’m sure.” And that’s how I stuck myself with the UK Dining Plan for four years in a row, and regretted the last three of them.

I’ve mentioned several times that I’m afraid of my own, personal future. To my mind, anything short of success is failure—and my criteria for success are specific and difficult to attain. I’ve been struggling on multiple levels with just my career choice alone; thus, I decided to map out some of the decisions, and potential consequences, ahead of me:

Level 1 (The Choice):

  • go to law school, become lawyer, get money, afford hobbies, make Dad proud
  • go into game writing, get less money, work serves as my hobby, Dad is okay with it

Level 2 (The Ideal Situation):

  1. get accepted both into law school and into a job in game writing
  2. make a decision on which one I want to pursue (see Levels 3 and 4)

Level 3 (The Destroy-Self-with-Work-Until-Free-to-Play Scenario):

  1. get accepted into law school, but don’t get a job in game writing
  2. struggle to hold myself together for the next few years in the hopes of getting a good job as a lawyer
  3. struggle as a lawyer for a few decades in the hopes of getting to retire early
  4. buy a bunch of brand-new holographic virtual reality games and settle in to squeeze as much happiness out of my life as I can before I die

Level 4 (The Play-While-Working-But-Never-Achieve-Full-Play Scenario):

  1. don’t get accepted into law school, but get a job in game writing
  2. struggle for a few decades, happier than I would be as a lawyer but tighter on money
  3. possibly never be able to afford to retire
  4. never get to spend years alone in a box with wifi and food and no responsibilities (the ultimate ideal living situation)

Level 5 (The Effects of Fear):

  1. never turn in any applications to either law school or game writing
  2. live as a hopeless shell in a minimum-wage job until I die

Level 6 (The Effects of Fear, Pt. 2):

  1. get accepted into law school, but never send out applications for game writing
  2. live the rest of my life wondering what could have been, had I only had the courage to pursue my dreams instead of settling for the more secure, but more harrowing path

Level 7 (The Best-Case Scenario):

  1. strike it rich on the Powerball
  2. invest money into the next big thing
  3. set aside enough money to fund my dream of living in a box with wifi and food and no responsibilities
  4. keep enough money in savings to accrue interest to live on
  5. donate the rest to charity

Level 8 (The Even-Better-Case Scenario):

  1. discover secret to immortality
  2. move Earth into post-scarcity
  3. The Singularity occurs
  4. everything is great

Level 9 (The Worst-Case Scenario):

  1. get accepted into law school
  2. become a lawyer
  3. work for decades until I can afford retirement
  4. die the day before I’m supposed to retire

Level 10 (The Movie):

  1. (complete Level 9)
  2. be subject of based-on-a-true-story film that rends the hearts of millions
  3. win an Oscar posthumously
Posted in WRD 402

WRD 402: Post 37

I don’t need to write another post on the 2016 presidential election.

I don’t need to write another post on the 2016 presidential election.

I don’t need to write another post on the 2016 presidential election.


So here’s another post on the 2016 presidential election.

And here’s a website called Trumpgrets [don’t worry, this will become relevant].

And here is a scream of bafflement and I-told-you-so indignation.

[insert scratchy, low- to medium-pitched scream of a tone varying between shrill and halfway toward a voiced, guttural sigh here]

And that’s basically it. The only reponse I can have to people who regret their vote for Trump is a single, personal scream. I do not scream at them, and I do not scream for the benefit or detriment of any other person; I scream because I wish for many things that have not come to pass, and will never come to pass. I scream because I could see the signs all along, and I was vocal about my observation—but other people saw things differently.

Those people believed that the anti-Trump hype was exaggerated and the problems he exhibited would be resolved; that the candidate they chose would grow with the office and represent their interests while fixing his flaws; that the overall benefit would outweigh the cost. But now many people are beginning to realize that the hype wasn’t so exaggerated, that the problems might not be resolved, that their interests may not be represented, that their candidate’s flaws may not be fixed, and that the benefit may not outweigh the cost.

I do not, cannot blame these people for being optimistic, because I know that the Trump voters who are rabid mysogynistic racists are in the extreme minority. I know that most voters were simply trying to find someone who represented, at least in part, the personal ideals they held—and though they may have disagreed with many of the positions of a certain candidate, they might have felt the few positions representative of their ideals were strong enough to warrant their vote. In essense, they voted because they agreed with a part of the whole, and that is the same reason behind my vote; I voted for my chosen candidate not because I supported each of her ideals, but because she represented more of my ideals than any of the other candidates on the field, and I was willing to accept her flaws in favor of that.

So I reserve my scream internally, in silent expression of the many reasons to regret voting for Trump, and in wishing that those regretful voters had been able to see things my way prior to the election. I do not scream at anyone or anything, because the harsh truth is that Trump voters cannot be written off as categorically prejudiced or idiotic or any other negative adjective; each had their reasons, and though I disagree with many of them, I can only do my best to convince them of my position calmly and rationally. Open discourse can resolve the rifts between us, and hopefully prevent another wildly antagonistic (both between the candidates and the voters) election.

And that is the key. No blame, no screaming (except when you need to let one out in a nice open field on a warm summer day), and no snap judgments against other people; instead, talk. Talk openly and inclusively. Talk to friends, neighbors, and—most importantly—state representatives. Talk and ask questions and make notes and listen, listen, listen. Because you could be right, or you could be wrong, and you need to understand that you are fallible and recognize that that isn’t a bad thing, and that this is how we all learn. Just as you are fallible, you are powerful; you have the ability to make a grand change, even with one small bit of effort at a time.

And if you’d like to get started on that grand change, here is a good guide to a first step.

[Not to say I’m going to stop reading Trumpgrets, though. Some of these are painfully hilarious.]