A Lesson in Language and Cookies

I’ve noticed, lately, that I have a few (read: many) friends on Facebook that consider themselves “Grammar Nazis”. Horrible references to one of the most destructive and disgusting political parties aside, these people drive me insane. If I miss a comma or accidentally replace “your” with “you’re”, it seems as if my post is completely negated. Instead of commenting on the content, my little Word Wizard pals will comment on the construction of my sentences.

In a forum where my status updates are competing with a myriad of cat photos and Sponge Bob Memes, I’d think it’d be safe to make a few grammatical errors here and there.

Which got me to thinkin’.

Which, if you know me, can be dangerous.

No danger, here, though, because I recalled a blog written by The Wonderful Joe Kessler, Ph.D. student, University at Buffalo, Linguistics.  He’s someone I follow on Twitter and also happen to know personally. Give that link a click and you’ll be directed to his Tumblr which has saved me from internet boredom more than once.

Over on Joe’s Linguistics Blog, I saw a post that instantly piqued my interest. As an English major I, of course, love words but even more than that, I love COOKIES.

This post had both. And it also validated my feelings re: language and the liberties that I often take with it:

“Imagine you have a favorite recipe for making cookies. You learned it from your grandmother, and you have always made cookies this way. You think they’re the best dessert in the world, and people regularly compliment you on them when you bring them to parties. You understandably take great pride in your baking — but would you insult someone else’s cookies, or denounce their recipe as illegitimate?

One hopes the answer would be no, but people take this attitude towards other people’s language every single day. As I’ve argued before, anything that someone says or writes on purpose is a correct use of language, just like every cookie recipe out there is a correct use of baking. Unfortunately, some uses of language are often considered incorrect, and I think there are two main reasons for that.”

Do yourself a favor and click over to his page and read this post in its entirety. And if you are a member of the group that I mentioned above, do me a favor and step off of my prose, son!

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1st World Problems

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I’m riding on a social media commentary kick right now and I thought I’d cover another topic that’s been on my mind for the last couple of months.

I think the “en vogue” trolling technique of some users of social media is to take the complaints of friends/people they follow and classify them strictly as “1st World Problems”.

For example:

Friend 1’s status: “UGH, my car won’t start and the mechanic can’t see me until 1pm!”

Friend 2 commenting: “1st world problem”

Tweeter 1: “Just spilled my entire plate of scrambled eggs on the floor and don’t have time to make more.”

Tweeter 2: “Dude. 1st world problem”

I’ve only personally experienced it once, under which circumstances, I don’t recall. But I’m seeing it more and more these days, especially on Facebook. I could be totally wrong here, and I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments.

Half the time, people write it without even thinking. The other half…well:

I believe these people aren’t commenting in order to “ground” their aristocratic friends. You’re definitely romanticizing the situation if you presume that those commenting are just trying to put their off-the-charts-jaded acquaintance’s problems into perspective. Sure, there are people in developing nations (formerly “3rd world” countries) that have worse problems to deal with than anyone who has the opportunity and the means to be on social networking.

However, I think the person who points out that there are bigger disastrous fish to fry elsewhere are just doing it to shame their friends and exert their own perceived superiority. Commonly, these comments stem from people who have, at one time, visited a poorer nation and now feel it their duty to let everyone know they’ve witnessed true struggle. It’s important to note that these same people no longer live amongst the poor and have no desire to, either. But they did for one week last July and now they count themselves as having lived it, people. Yet, you don’t see them doing much to help besides trolling online.

This person feels so superior in their own view of the way the world turns that they are freshly ordained to let others know that their issues, no matter what they be, are both shallow and insignificant compared to people in, say, South America who are constantly outrunning the oozing lava of their local volcano. Or people in deepest Africa that wake up the next morning to see that one of their close family member has been ingested by a wild beast.

Yes, yes, I’m a butthole for even writing this blog post

To which I always respond: “I’m sorry I live in a 1st world nation and, as a consequence, don’t experience the same issues that less fortunate citizens of other countries may have.”

We all know as Americans that we generally have it easy–I don’t need your smug visage to pop up on my newsfeed and remind me that my basic food, clothing, and shelter needs are being met. I appreciate all that I have, as do most people.

But sometimes when you’re really irked by something, you just gotta let it out. Of course, restrain yourself from turning in to a “Rager” like I mentioned here. But go ahead and let people know that you burned your lap when you accidentally spilled hot tea from your grandmother’s vintage china cups.

Because even though our issues are nowhere near life-threatening, they’re still troubles, nonetheless, and it’s nice to have people empathize.

And I’ll thank you others to go with the flow and, instead of sitting astride your High Horse, respond with: “Yeah, I hate it when that happens” or “I totally feel your pain” or “That sucks”.

I’ll make sure to post again should an inexplicable 3rd world problem plague me–gotta keep that balance.

1st World Children don’t know how easy they’ve got it.

She Put that on Facebook?– a Look at Internet “Etiquette”

The other day, I was introduced to the term “social media etiquette” when Facebook founder Mark Z’s sister, Randi Zuckerburg, complained about having her privacy violated by someone on the site.

Does internet etiquette really exist?

It’s undeniable that we’ve entered into an era of over share. The advent of social media has guaranteed that one can divulge previously taboo content, controversial topics, and completely mundane and unimportant life happenings in 20 different ways: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr––the sky’s the limit.

Feeling fired up about your political party or any other topic that you wouldn’t otherwise discuss in person among friends in order to maintain those friendships?

POST IT.

Dancing in your underwear because you’re home alone?

POST IT.

Your kid make their first poop in the potty?

POST IT. And make sure to include a picture.

(And yes. These are all things that I have had pop up on various newsfeeds.)

I wonder if people stop and think about how their content changes people’s perception of them. I know I certainly do. I’ve noticed there are several different personalities that one can come across on the interwebs. Here are a few:

  • The Rager: in person, this friend may be quiet, meek, or mild. On the internet, they’re a great big ball of rage and complaints. You can’t help but wonder what the heck is truly bothering them that they have to bring down everyone reading their status. “My boss spilled his potato soup in the microwave AGAIN. Ugh, I want to quit my job and punch all of these people in the face!”

  • The Grammar-Phobe: I’m not talking about the occasional “no” for “know” or missed punctuation. You wonder how this friend passed elementary school with statuses riddled with comma splices and spelling mistakes that not even 2nd grade students have the gall to make. Not even the Rosetta Stone can help you decipher the code they’re writing in (because it’s certainly not English). “Wher do yo thnik we are gunna go shoping today..who nos”. Why has autocorrect failed them so horribly?

  • The Braggart: oftentimes nauseating with the amount of optimism and “glass half full” attitude, it seems like these people have the answers to everything and never experience the normal lows of life. “It’s 200 degrees outside but my popsicle isn’t melting!” “I tripped walking down the street and realized I had just fallen on top of a briefcase full of cash!” Are they really being honest with their friends, here?

Full disclosure when it comes to the braggart: I’m guilty as charged. Very rarely will I post something negative or talk about that awful-thing-that-changed-my-life on social media. The reasons are two-fold:

  1. There’s an unimaginable amount of schadenfreude out there. People love a train wreck and can’t seem to look away when someone is self-destructing. Someone’s relationship status changes on Facebook? Here comes the slew of people prying into their dating life. Complaining openly about your job? People will start a count-down until you get canned for that bad attitude.
  2. People are already bogged down in their own problems. Who am I to chuck my woes on top of their pile? I hate walking away from Twitter or Facebook feeling heavier than when I came because there is so much anger and sadness ticking across my pages.

Ultimately, my feelings on the existence of “social media etiquette” is that it doesn’t. There is no governing body of the internet that says what’s proper for operating on social media–at least not one that truly enforces it. In the end, though, I think it’s the individual user’s prerogative. We all have to use our own moral compass to decide what we’ll include in our own definitions of “internet etiquette”.

So go ahead and post those filtered pictures of your vegan, gluten-free, quinoa and basil soup.

Just don’t try to get me to eat it.

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