I can raed taht, no pblorem!

I had a friend recently ask whether or not someone could read a sentence even if the middle letters in each word were completely sblmceard (as long as the first and last letter stayed in place). This conversation arose from the reading of a kiwi-strawberry Vitamin Water label. It said:
“did you konw taht it deosn’t meattr waht odrer the ltteers of a wrod are in, the olny ipmraotnt tihng is taht the fsirt and lsat ltteers are in the crrocet piotiosn. untaeforuntely taht’s not the csae for evtheirnyg in lfie. (imganie if you olny put on yuor hat and sheos bfeore ginog out). taht’s why we mdae tihs prduoct. it has vtiainm a wihch hleps mnaiatn ehiysegt. so tkae a sip. no ralely tkae a sip. we’re wiaaaaaatnig… there, now you have a bit more focus.”
Now despite its grammatical incorrectness (no capitals, things in brackets don’t count as sentences), the paragraph poses an interesting theory on how we interpret our language. I’m absolutely positive you had no problem reading the above paragraph (except for ehiysegt- which is eyesight) but it was not because you could unscramble the letters instantly in your mind. The reason you could do it so well is because you knew the context. The first two words are “did you” which, when on an advertisement, almost always follow with “know that”. From there, your mind, realizing it had a little more work to do than usual, switched on and you ploughed through the paragraph. Once you know the context, your mind can easily guess what word comes next, especially when you see the first letter and the length of the word.
Let’s try this again. However, this time I’m going to take away the context. Good luck.
Picyshs, dvrieed form the Gerek wrod “nrutae”, is a ntuaral siccnee taht ilnvevos the sutdy of metatr and its mootin tgurohh smtceapie, anlog wtih rtlaeed cpnoects scuh as egnery and fcore. Tqroue, ecttilsaiy, and ficriotn are all fcoers suteidd wtiihn tihs fleid of sncecie. Ocne the iclmuetmae gdoenln hen lyas its pucodre, wtear wlil eolxdpe form a gaitingc wnhsiag mhiacne smeorehwe in Paonld. A hdroe of dtugohnus ifettnirlad smion’s monisan by the mnaes of a lgrae hotecpeilr and two skicts of dmtyanie.  The redeneir saerypd tiprtneune otno a lpadroe’s ltaheer sutttetae of a vaconlo. Mroe blarody, it is the graneel asilnays of nuarte, cetcnodud in odrer to udnaetsrd how the uvsinree baveehs.
I’ll bet you did pretty well up until “iclmuetmae”. That was the easy part. Once you figured out that the paragraph was about physics, you could decipher most of the proceeding words. However, once I took away the context, you struggled to read the rest of the paragraph, even when I went back to physics, as your brain had nothing to immediately work from. Had the letters been in order, you would have had no trouble reading that paragraph. You may have thought it was an odd paragraph, but you certainly would not have looked like a six-year old reading Macbeth.
Context is the key here. You must have the context. So if a friend of yours ever comes up to you with the idea that you can just read anything as long as the first and last letters are in place, stump them with the most obscure sentence you can come up with. Make sure you watch them try. It’s very amusing.
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Can you spell G.O.R.G.O.U.S.E?

A big pet peeve of mine, along with abominable spelling and grammar, is the lack of logical thinking and ability to see the bigger picture.

I recently went to a “BP lounge” (Sorry- I was recently showed Dane Cook’s stand-up on his experience working at the “BK Lounge”) and was greeted at the entrance by a chalkboard easel  with a collection of “What’s new at Boston Pizza” statements. The first improvement that my eyes happened upon was “Serving to make you happy!” (As opposed to last month where we tried to make your experience hell…).

While that is only a mild oversight, the strawberry milk carton at my school’s cafeteria is much more unfortunate. The major slogan on the carton states that Sealtest is “where good things never change”. Yet two inches below these words, in one of those snazzy explosion Word Art things, the carton states that its content now has an “improved taste”. So, logically, you have just told me that the product is awful (Let’s give marketing a big pat on the back!).

While these small lapses of logic amuse me, they begin to worry me when other people don’t notice them. When I bring the errors to light, the most common response I receive is, “You WOULD notice that, Kirran”.

Yes, I did, and so SHOULD you. Now I agree that not everyone is constantly looking for amusing “grammatical faux pas” (they should really start though because it is highly entertaining) but I see these mistakes everywhere.

All these little blunders are now slowly slipping into our range of what is accepted. Here are some common ones: ATM machine (Automated Teller Machine machine- although my favourite attempt at deciphering what ATM stood for was “Access To Money”), “I don’t have nothing” (so you DO have something! I knew it!), and “if I’d have known” (the unfortunate combination of “if I had known” + “I would have” = if I had have known). These are just a fraction of the sayings we don’t realize are grammatically wrong.

My old physics teacher once called me a “button-pusher” because she was under the assumption that I didn’t like to use my brain and that all I wanted to do was plug numbers into a formula on a calculator and hit “equals”. She was wrong: I just didn’t care how much force a duck had to exert to prop open a 2kg window at an angle of 35 degrees (I’m seriously not making the duck part up- evidently, science isn’t really my thing).

However, I really think my teacher hit on something much more profound than she expected. I see so many button-pushers who just want to plug in established phrases into their conversations and not bother about what they are actually saying.

How many of you have said “You too!” when told “Happy Birthday” or replied “Good, and you?” to “What are you up to?” (The former is one of the best situations to observe- first the acceptance by both, then the gradual realization by both, followed by the awkward laugher or the awkward silence, and finished by the “walk-of-shame”)

The omission of thought that goes into forming day-to-day responses worries me. Just something to think about I suppose.

As always, I like to leave on a happier note with some ridiculous slip-ups. This little conversation on Facebook is a personal favourite of mine:

Person 1 (status): I’m board.
Person 2 (comment): I’m chalk. We should get together.

Person 1(reply):  BOARD! Like I don’t have anything to do, not BORD, like a chalkbord.  Learn to spellcheck.

Person 2 (reply): Oh god I hope you don’t breed

That little gem gets me every time. Mmmhmm, can you spell G.O.R.G.O.U.S.E?



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Help my Uncle Jack off a horse?

Something that greatly worries me about the present and future is the complete disregard for grammatical correctness. These spelling and grammar mistakes started out with the replacing “your” with “you’re” and vice versa but they have gotten completely out of hand. What is even worse is that they have become accepted.

I recently found someone who spelled “grasshopper” as “grass hoper” (someone who yearns for spring during a Canadian winter?). There was also a girl who asked Facebook what her “new year revolution” should be.

However, my previous entry tackles spelling and grammar. This time I’m focussing more on our application of the language.

Another thing that seems to be happening, on top of the misspelling of over-used sayings, is the misuse of over-used sayings. We’ve become so accustomed to hearing and using the same phrases that we just throw them around without even thinking.

How many times have you been asked a question and instantly replied “I don’t know” and then proceeded to answer the question (or you know, remembered the answer and just walked away. I’ll bet you have, don’t lie now. Jerk.)

How many times have you perfectly heard what someone said, yet still asked “what?” for clarification? How many times have you then proceeded to be mildly frustrated while the other person is repeating what you have already heard and you don’t yet have the option to reply?

These are two of the many habits that I catch myself constantly doing and seeing others do as well. While they may be mild annoyances, I find them to be part of a larger problem.

An argument I have heard for this point is that saying “I don’t know” and “what?” as an immediate answer gives you time to think properly about the question. Much like when you’re asked a math problem. You repeat it and come up with the answer without looking like you paused.

Perhaps this has something to do with how we expect everything instantly and are in such a hurry to get answers so we feel that it is necessary to give an answer the millisecond someone asks us a question. I say slow down! Think about your answers before you spit something out. Don’t just regurgitate useless phrases that do not aid the listener.

I have heard so many misused words this week. I heard someone, while discussing a band they dislike (Nickelback), say that the singer’s voice was redundant (Yes, I agree you can spin it to mildly make sense, but come on). I also heard someone say, as they were describing the fact that the contents of their salad bowl were decreasing as they ate, that their bowl was “demeanouring” (perhaps they meant depleting because I can’t find a meaning for that word).

It seems to have become that our conversations are experiencing a slow decline of creativity (well actually, perhaps a bit too much inventiveness) and sophistication. Not only is there little thought going into Facebook posts and texts, but also in conversation. I don’t want to watch you slowly sink into a state of inarticulateness.

Pay attention to what you say.  Pay attention to what others say. Learn from the mistakes you see (and laugh at them).

I find an eternal source of amusement from people who can’t even master the simplest concepts. This example I found is an extremely unfortunate inability to differentiate between “then” and “than”. This was someone’s Facebook status: “I’d rather be pissed off, then pissed on” (rather than the other way around?).

See how important one letter can be? Could be the difference of “putting a batch in the oven” and well… an attempted murder (also known as two crows standing in a field… tehehe).

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Killer Facebook

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Time to eat grandpa?

I’m not one to look down upon efficiency. If I was bold enough, I’d probably be the owner of the “I’m not lazy, I’m just efficient” t-shirt that you occasionally see over-weight people wearing (not having a go- just an observation).  However, efficiency and laziness are two of the biggest arguments or retaliations I receive when I correct people’s grammar over Facebook, BBM, or texts. Yes, I’m that guy.

Before you throw tomatoes at me, let me explain my predicament. I grew up in a household governed by two ESL teachers. I believe that should be enough said.

Now I really don’t have an issue with “u” and “r” and the plethora of short forms people have created. My problem lies with the reality that kids have forgotten how to spell the actual words properly. The argument that gets thrown at me at this point of the typical conversation is: “Hey, if ppl undstnd wat i tring 2 say, isnt dat mor eficent?” (Must chuckle at Microsoft Word here for correcting some of those-  I actually had to go back and “fix” that sentence).

To some extent I agree with the meaning behind the “sentence” above. However, it seems that its argument has found itself atop a triple black diamond ski hill.

I once came across a comment on a Facebook status that truly pained me. I love this example because not only is the comment bad, but the context fits b-e-a-utifully (Sorry- I watched Bruce Almighty last night). The status was something along the lines of: I should really start going to my classes because my marks are abominable. The comment below stated: “finely u get it”.

I’m positive that people see things like this on Facebook every day and start to believe they are correct. Buried among the minefield of there, their, and they’re are so many other words that rarely come up in Generation Y and Z’s conversations that when we attempt to dig them up, they blow up and become unrecognizable.

In my university’s Computer Science mid-term, there was a question that simply asked them to spell the word “occurrence” because so many failed to spell it correctly during a major assignment!

We live in a world where approximately 14 new words are added to the English language per day, yet the vocabulary of each successive generation is declining.

Now that I’ve made my own arguments, I’m going to poke holes in the usual rebuttals I receive. I’m going to tackle the rebuttal that states “internet speak” is efficient and time saving.

It isn’t. There have been countless times where I have received a text from a friend and had a very limited idea as to what they were attempting to communicate to me. When this happens I have to then reply asking for clarification, wait for a response, and then reply again accordingly.

This reminds me of my Business 101 class where you discover that preventive costs are usually less than clean-up costs. For example: Pay for an extra inspection (slight cost) versus recalling a million products off a shelf (major cost). This draws parallels with the messages you send. Those 10 seconds you spend re-reading your message and correcting it or those 30 seconds you spend opening a new tab on Firefox and Googling the correct spelling of a word (Yes I do this) takes up less time than the combined total of: the minute an average person spends (made this statistic up based on my own observations) trying to figure out what you meant by the message, the 5 seconds a text takes to get from iPhone A to Blackberry B, the 30 seconds you spend rephrasing your original message, and the 10 seconds it takes for a text to get from Blackberry B to iPhone A (I felt the Oxford comma was necessary here- sorry if you dislike it). So no, I do not think that your messages are more efficient.

I think (stolen from a discussion with my ESL-teaching father) that a message is no longer looked at from the receiver’s point of view. Texting has had a pernicious effect on the sender’s ability to see how a message will be interpreted. They assume now that everyone will understand exactly what they are trying convey rdraselges of waht oedrr you hpaepn to pclae the ltteres in (granted you keep the first and last letter in place right? RIGHT?!) The message is no longer sent with the receiver in mind, which defenestrates (possibly one of the greatest words ever) grammar, clarity and ultimately efficiency. Now isn’t that ironic! Just like when you’re late for work and stuck in a traffic jam, right Alanis?

Please save me, and countless others, the pain we get from seeing your abhorrent misuse of the English language (Yes, pain. It really does hurt) online and over texts. I’m personally getting tired of correcting the same mistakes over and over. Do it for grandpa! He doesn’t want to become dinner.

So yes, I will make a fuss over your misspelt words and grammatical mistakes because until you can prove that you know how to properly use the language, I can only assume the worst. Perhaps you’ll understand what I mean one day when you’re writing that in-class essay and can’t remember which witch is which.

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