Dirty Words

Grammar is Bullshit — Mostly

I’ve been a journalist and an English teacher, and I can tell you some of what we shove down kids’ throats as “grammar” is bullshit.

You gotta remember where English and all these “rules” came from.  English is a bastard child of Germanic utterances, French, Latin, Greek, and squeezing in a shit ton of words and phrases from around the world.

Don’t believe me — look up the origin of “Shampoo.”  I’ll give you a hint – it came from Hindi, but way of Turkey.  If you manage to retrace that trail, I’ll give you a cookie. (But you better eat the whole fucking thing).

Imagine the kind of people who are willing to sit around a room and argue over the precise meaning, pronunciation and spelling of every single word. You don’t want to know those people.

One story that I still believe, is when they published the first version of the English Dictionary, they invited all the contributors to a big party.  Most had been working through correspondence.

The biggest contributor to all the word etomology couldn’t come.

He was locked up in a mental hosptial for the criminally insane. Apparently he had killed a few people — maybe for not knowing the difference between “effect” and “affect.”

There’s a bunch of nonsense “rules” of Grammar that are not rules at all.

“You can’t start a sentence with a conjunction,” the nuns said.  But that’s bullshit (see, I started with a conjunction.  Like I used to tell my 9th grade students before they kicked me out of teaching, “I like Big Buts (one T — capital B)”.  It’s a fine way to start a sentence and hold people’s attention.

In Latin “preposition” means before — therefore “you can not end a sentence with a preposition”. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on…  (see I ended it with two prepositions in a row, and it makes perfect sense).

You “cannot turn nouns into verbs”.  Lately, I’ve become constantly confused by breathe/breath — one is the noun, one is the verb. Fuck, I can’t keep it straight.  Why can’t we pick one, and use for both?  We do that with other words like — fuck or shit.

Speaking of shit, it forms two of my favorite non-grammatical sentences that tell a story all on their own:

“Are you shitting me?”

“I shit you not.”

Pronouns are useful ideas, but in English it’s all fucked up with possessives, objects gender and number.

  • I, mine and me
  • he, his and him
  • she,  hers and her
  • it, its and it
  • they, their or theirs (take your fucking pick) and them
  • (And my favorite pronoun list to say out loud: 3rd person singluar: he, she, it.)

Jesus, it would just be better if we got rid of the gender. It rarely clarifies and is just a chance to get it wrong and get punched in the face…

How many times have any of us been staring at the end of a sentence and can’t figure out if it’s “and I” or “and me.”  Lots of languages have no “object” pronouns.  It would be a lot easier if English just stuck to I, they, it and some non-gender pronoun like “ahe” to fix all these pronoun issues.

It’s goddamn difficult to write clearly and simply. We should do all we can to get rid of rules that make it even more confusing.

If you want to know more about how fucked up English is — this is a good book:

Useful rules

Despite my bitching, there are some good rules:

Systematic spelling — I can’t always follow it, but it’s a good idea that we limit words to one spelling as much as possible.

Could/Should “have” not fucking “of”  — there is no could of… that’s just a misspelling of a simple phase from an idiot.

Use active voice — passive voice is the language of the lawyer, the politician, the diplomat and the priest — to hide who is at fault.  The world would be much better if we stuck to as many active declarative sentences as possible.

Noun/verb agreement – lets us know how many people we are talking about and when shit happened.

Pronoun/verb agreement — this explains my issue with using “they/them” for singular pronouns.  I’m all for removing gender, but this just fucks up the language beyond comprehension. “They is here” — nuff said.

I could probably list more, but you get the idea.  English is the “lingua franca” of the world precisely because it has limited rules and is infinitely flexible (compared to other languages especially French — which has been codified and dictionaried into a drab corpse).

Every new generation spends its teenage years trying to flip the meaning of words and bend the language to their own will. It’s natural that the adults try to put a halt to that shit.

So let’s dump this bullshit that gets in our way, whether it’s an old idea or some new idea brought to you by the douchebag millennials or their younger bretheren, the anxious and depressed Generation Z.

English speakers of the world, let’s set a common goal.  Keep our language simple and clear — no bullshit allowed — especially if some 18th Century word nerd insisted on calling it “proper grammar.”

4 replies »

  1. The article’s points are undermined by a rather sophomoric urge to cuss every other sentence. This writer uses profanity like a middle school student and in ways that don’t add anything to the narrative. I was f-bombed thirteen times, and for what? Is “that fucking trail” really more effective than “that trail”? After the third time, I concluded the writer has nothing intelligent to say.


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