Tuesday, 19 October 2010

BEDESO #16 (Grammer Nartsi)

In case you haven't noticed, spelling isn't one of my strong points. I don't really know why. In about year 4 I used to be brilliant at spelling, coming up with acronyms like "Special People Eat Chocolate Ice And Lollies" to assist friends and being one of the first to get to the top of whatever spelling thing we climbed as we did test. However, following that I just went downhill. After that point I must have stopped improving at spelling and gradually everyone else has overtaken me until I'm basically rubbish. Then again, I may have just forgotten everything but that's another issue.

Now, before you go start moaning at me, I do understand why spelling is important. If you spell something too drastically wrong then it's no longer the same word but sometimes the mistakes don't really make much difference. Sure, with colour and color, or neighbour and neighbor it's a sense of cultural identity but you still know what I mean. You can still see that it is the same word. The occasional misspelling doesn't really matter in the big scheme of things as long as the reader can still understand what the writer was intending to communicate.

Of course, nowadays we have spell checkers to fish out all those spelling errors. Even now I have the words 'color' and 'neighbor' underlined with the traditional squiggly red line. Although this has made us really lazy (for example I don't tend to check the spelling of words that aren't underlined) it doesn't solve the problem of grammar.

Now, I may not be too strict about spelling but I'm quite a bit more fussy about grammar. Grammar is so amazing in how it can totally change the meaning of a sentence. A misplaced comma can turn a placid panda who eats shoots and leaves into an aggressive monster who eats, shoots and leaves. Correct grammar not only makes the meaning of the words so much clearer but can do so much more. As someone who likes to read and write, I appreciate how the order of words and the position of  punctuation can totally change the mood of a sentence, not just the meaning. A sentence with correct grammar has so much more meaning, so much more soul, and besides that, is just so much easier to read.

Earlier, Josh sent me a link to an audio of Stephen Fry talking about grammar. Despite my picky-ness, I have to agree with him. People have lost their love of language and no grammatical error or spelling error is worth fussing about if it's going to scare people away from language. So few people read books any more and even I find myself running out of time to read. I love reading, letting the words work their magic and transport me to another place, getting absorbed by the words. Sure, a grammatical error can interrupt the flow a little but moaning about every single error isn't the way to go.

Then again, can you categorised all word forms as either 'right' or 'wrong'? It's not like maths that is either right or wrong. Language is like art: just like the pencil and paper are there to help the artist express themselves, grammar and spelling are there to help the writer express the words, sentences and ideas in the way they want. Having some standards helps with the understanding but deviating can also help us express things in new ways. I may not be one of Shakespeare's biggest fans due to school killing it's magic but I do know that he made up around 1700 words. If the language that existed didn't let him express what he wanted he made up a new word to express it instead.

English, above many other languages, is special in the way it has so many words. There are so many different words that essentially mean "glow" but they each have their own subtlety different meaning: shimmer, shine, glimmer, glisten, just a few I can think of off the top of my head. Language is there to be moulded and shaped like clay in a potters hand, not just to be cut into shape using a ruler. Sure, correct grammar helps and misplaced apostrophes are annoying but surely the bigger problem is the lack of passion for language and what it can really do.

                 “So long and thanks for all the fish!”

(On a side note, I'm hoping to do NaNoWriMo next month but I'm not sure how it will go. I have a plot half formed which I will hopefully finish before the 1st and I need to work out how many words I'll need to do a day so as to not have to write on Sundays but I really don't want to have to wait until next year to do it!)

Current book I’m reading: Life, The Universe and Everything
Last TV show watched: Doctor Who - The Big Bang
Current programs/web pages open: Blogger - Edit posts, Twitter, youtube, iPlayer, dailybooth, msn, Windows Media Player, Windows Live Mail, NaNoWriMo homepage, Formspring
Number of people I’m talking to on msn/Facebook: 2

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