15 August, 2007

Linguistolutionary Linkage

...don't know much geography/ don't know much trigonometry/ don't know much about algebra/ don't know what a slide rule is for....

You may not share my passion for punctuation or language.

You may not appreciate my favorite LOLcat image:


or like my favorite joke:

Descartes walks into a bar. "What'll you have, Rene?" asks the bartender, "Gin and tonic?"

Descartes shakes his head and says, "I think not," and disappears.

or others of that ilk. Indeed, you may not care for any any sort of word-play.

You may disagree while I applaud CityPaper's sound chastisment of the shabby submissions to last year's fiction contest:
Now, we're not saying that these observations are false nor that they don't deserve creative treatment, but if all you know of them is what you see on TV, your readers are going to see right through you. Conversely, if you are reporting from the front of your life, remember to put some of yourself into it. In the maxim "write what you know," it is always true to mine extensively what you know, but such truth means nothing if you don't put any effort into the writing part.

Consider this year's contest intro some friendly words of constructive criticism, some hard/fast rules we'd like to share with the aspiring young scribes of today. Poets, wacky formatting doesn't make up for the fact that you have nothing to say; fiction writers, everyone has, at some point, written or thought of writing a story that takes place around last call at the bar. Everybody, big words don't make you sound smart if you don't know how to use them. Don't use "u" for "you" or "2" for "to" or "too." If your piece is supposed to be a metaphor for something, don't overplay it. Spell out the swear words; we're an alt-weekly, for fuck's sake. Eerily specific pro-drive-by shooting stories tend to make your readers uneasy. Far be it from the half-assed neologism-prone writers over here to cast stones, but if you're Frankensteining a word as if English were German, please let the context of the sentence offer some suggestions as to what it might mean. Writing Black American English isn't merely dropping the final g's off gerundives; for the love of anything resembling self-respect, don't assume you can write a variety of American English if you've never actually spent time with the people who speak it.

And, once and for all, just because you don't know--or choose to ignore--the customs of grammar or spelling, that doesn't mean they can't do your writing any favors. Don't care how gifted and smart and cute you think you are--you have to know the rules to break the rules, and by some estimates the English language is more than 1,000 years old: Who the hell are you to change it?

plus I luuuurve the word 'Frankensteining', which, when I use it, I often (strangely) need to explain. Whut?

(We will let pass the superfluous apostrophe in 'final g's off gerundives', though the phrase could easily have been restructured to avoid it.)

You may not believe in evolution as anything other than a theory. That's fine. Myself, I'm not a big fan of the theory of gravity, in either context.

Possibly you wouldn't believe that all babies, regardless of culture, come pre-programed with rudimentary language, or that they lose it if no one responds appropriately within their first three monts.

Maybe you don't care that relatively few people have any conscious awareness of the body language they broadcast, or receive, and therefore would not be astounded by the levels of communication in the face alone. This may be of no interest to you.

Since 'abstraction' and 'syntax' are distinguishing factors of true 'language', perhaps the 'words' spoken by prarie dogs do not constitute language. This may not even be a thing that makes you go 'hmmm.'

The idea that other animals also has a grammar may be less entertaining to you than idle chat at bus stops or on elevators.

You may find it inexplicable that Ms. Primarily Decorative Grammarian is intensely interested in the language of LOLcats, and when communicating via text message has given up perfectly spelled and structured sentences, instead sending this sort of thing:

O hai i ar with ur juglr, drinkin margaritaz.

or receiving

O hai I not b steelin ur bedz 2nite.

(actual examples).

It may not interest you to know that this is different from engrish, poorly phrased instructions or assertions that are both public and accidental. Done deliberately, it ceases to be engrish; LOLcat is never engrish, but engrish might sometimes be LOLcat, though this is actually difficult.

A well-known quote

All your base are belong to us

seems halfway to LOLcat already. However, if you try to adjust it as it stands and come up with

All ur base ar belong to we

you see that this is unacceptable, even if you don't care. To fit the format/syntax, the whole sentence must be rearranged, added to and subtracted from, as in

O hai, I stoled ur bases


Ur bases, we has tehm

(note the restoration of the pluralizing 's'. I know. Esoteric and uninteresting. How does she do it?)

So you may not appreciate this article about writing computer code in LOLcat- (in fact, the term 'LOLcat' to indicate this dialect was never a foregone conclusion. At least one writer used the term 'kitty pidgin' -a phrase that's akin to naming a dog 'Bear', in my opinion- or alternately, 'LOL-kitteh'.)

You may now be yawning and dozing to the point of dropping your laptop on the floor (logic board repair: $600.), but I find this man's in-depth analysis of the LOLcat phenomena and its relationship to the evolution of internet language pretty intense, insightful stuff.

But if you're bored, skip all this geekiness to drool over nice boobies.

(What a Wonderful World; Sam Cooke)


Aimee said...

Oh Cybele--this is why I love you so! Yawning and dozing indeed. Pfft.

(But I have to do this: You wrote "The idea that other animals also has a grammar...". That cracked me up!)

Pyllgrum said...

O hai, I ar Schroediger's kitty

Michael said...

I shot Schroedinger's fuckin' cat.

I agree with a lot of the writing tips here, though I do break them sometimes...

And we use the term "Frankensteining" at my job all the time, for video editing. When there are pieces of a good exchange between people, but never stated in one fluid piece, thanks to several cameras angles, we can tell the editor to "Frankenstein it" into a fluid conversation.

Aimee said...


Cybele said...

Aimee- I AM a word snob! And misplaced apostrophes are my pet peeve, along with hairs in the soap and unreplaced toothpaste caps.

Pyllgrum- THAT's why it's my favorite image.

Michael- I figure that with 'reality' shows, most (all?)of the writing is done post-shoot. And frankensteining is the only way to get a coherent storyline; am I right?

Paul said...

I think that the word they're looking for, rather than "frankensteining", is "portmanteau". As an example, the word "mimsy" is a portmanteau word made up of "miserable" and "flimsy".

Portmanteau does, however, lack the hipness of frankensteining.

Cybele said...

Paul, I never understood how a crane-sized bird like a borogove could be described as 'miserable' and 'flimsy'. The word 'portmanteau' has very suitcase-y overtones, and is therefore, yes, less hip than the whole mad-scientist image evoked by 'frankensteining'.

See you soon. Brownies?

Paul said...

I certainly hope to see you this fall. If at all possible, the Lunatic Artist and I will be there for a day or two, depending on many factors- chief among them being how soon I'm employed again. Being laid off really sucks, and there's actually a lot less demand for a mechanical engineer than they say there is. (Why yes, I have been applying for jobs this morning. How could you tell?)

Brownies? Quite possibly. Or maybe one of the other wondrous things she has learned to bake of recent times. Or maybe even something that I have learned to make. There's some debate at this point as to which of us is more responsible for our collective weight gain...

Inanna said...

I understood pert near nuttin' ya said but boobies. And they weren't even yours. Pech.