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Category Archives: People Who Can’t Write For Shit

Twitter and Texting Are Not Destroying the English Language, Srsly Get Over It

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Man, I am really sick of hearing about how social media and texting are destroying the language and stuff. It raises so many questions for me. Questions like, have abbreviations ever caused the disintegration of a language? Did acronyms put Latin in a coma? And how exactly does a language fall apart, anyway? I mean, sure, they sometimes die out, but that’s not “destruction,” that’s a slow slipping into obsolescence. The idea that the English language is being ZOMG destroyed! gives me some fun imagery (sword-wielding verbs, crushed by the numbers-turned-letters 2 and 4), but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. (Disclaimer: I don’t mean to erase those languages that have been systematically destroyed by genocide, like many Native American languages; however, that’s markedly different from the ridiculous notion that languages can be destroyed simply through change.)

I also take issue with the idea that confining one’s ideas to less than 200 characters is easy, because, no—it’s fucking hard to be concise. I would actually argue that effective tweeting and texting require a higher level of literacy, because you need to have a solid understanding of the language before you can abridge it. For example: I work once with a week with a delightful student who has several LDs. He’s very smart, but struggles with reading and writing, so we spend most of our sessions working on just getting his ideas down. He says he doesn’t use Facebook regularly because he has difficulty composing status updates that are clear and concise, and that he often finds Facebook and other social media sites intimidating for that reason. Which makes sense, because having to confine your thoughts to such a small space requires a pretty in-depth understanding of the language. Pithy witticisms are not easily composed, after all.

And, since you usually aren’t able to use italics or bold on Twitter or in texting, the format forces you to convey tone through the words themselves. Social media and texting steal some of the most common linguistic crutches and force you to pay more attention to what you’re writing. Which is actually kind of awesome.

And yes, sometimes people allow textspeak to spill over into other forms of communication, but that doesn’t signal The End of the English Language. Languages have different registers for a reason, and the people who write 4ever in e-mails to their bosses aren’t necessarily Language Ignorant, they just don’t understand how registers work, which is a social problem, not a language problem.

Basically, I am just sick of this freak-out over how the media ruinz the language and Twitter makes us stupid and what about the children?! Conflating illiteracy with textspeak is problematic for, um, a lot of reasons, not least because it suggests a pretty offensive misunderstanding of what illiteracy actually is. And if you’re really that concerned about the children not being able to write good, pin the blame where it really belongs—on the tragically low standards set for undergraduate education majors, on the terrible teaching salaries that drive competent people into other disciplines, on the lack of adequate funding for public education, etc.

‘Cause like, language changes and stuff. It grows  like creeping fucking jenny.

Also, here is a recipe for awesome frosting:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 13 oz. jar Nutella

½ cup Marshmallow Fluff

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Vanilla if you want it

Heavy cream to consistency

Mix like normal.

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I Wish the Humanities Were Such a Noble Field of Study.

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Dear Elementary Education Program,

Thank you. You have truly produced some extraordinary students. There is nothing I love more than reading a paper in which the writer ends a sentence with four exclamation points, substitutes ALL CAPS for the less ostentatious and sadly pedestrian italics, and, rather than provide actual statistics, simply states, “I believe the number is something like 10%.”

I appreciate that you have entrusted me with the task of explaining plagiarism to a student enrolled in a 400 level class. I think it’s great that college seniors feel free to eschew quotation marks, and forgo in-text citations in favor of simply embedding URLs into their essays. Proper documentation is hard, so fuck it.

I admire your willingness to let your students build their “arguments,” such as they are, solely on the foundation of personal experience. Logic and research are overrated; there is little in the world that is more persuasive than an incoherent soliloquy about your friends in high school and how they were like totally back-stabby and stuff.

Ad hominem attacks are fantastic; seeing your students misuse the term ad hominem is even better. Two sentence paragraphs are always a delight, as are uncontextualized quotations. I adore phrases like “an act of incest discrimination”—it rivals the Book of Job for number of potential interpretations. Such rudimentary, purely informational theses as “Jonathan’s Swift’s A Modest Proposal is an example of satire” make my heart simultaneously sing and soar, while the suggestion that The Simpsons is just mean and “makes light of a working-class lifestyle epitomized by a family with the same name, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie” makes me feel so woefully inferior that all I can do is curl up in a fetal position on my couch and inhale a bag of chocolate chips.

But what really buoys my spirits is the knowledge that these students will go on to teach the children of Amurrica. I’m so grateful that you have kept these emerging leaders focused on what’s truly important—the ability to make beautiful snowflakes with nothing but a piece of construction paper and a pair of scissors. Had they not benefitted from your careful guidance, they might have paused to engage in serious, rational thought, and then, well, who knows what kind of atrocities might have occurred.

Thanks, El Ed! You make me feel like maybe everything will be okay after all.

Love,

Paprika

Your Most Devoted Writing Tutor

What Happens On Facebook Gets Posted On Pepper and Paprika

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So I used to be friends with this guy on Facebook. He worked, for awhile, as a dishwasher at the Restaurant of Doom (at which I am still currently, tragically employed), until he was fired. Yes, he was fired as a dishwasher–because he decided that it would be a better idea to go be an extra in a play for one night than to show up to work.

This young man, amazingly, is twenty-three years old. Awesome.

So after he was fired, he added me as a friend. I never particularly cared for the guy, and his profile picture showed him holding a newspaper that happened to be on fire, but I added him anyway, because I’m a pushover. He tried chatting with me on FB a few times, made awkward attempts to ask me out, didn’t take my hints (e.g. “oh, why don’t you give me your number?”), and just generally hung around being annoying.

And then, I pissed him off. And he deleted me–and then blocked me. Oh, the injustice!

I decided to take a series of screenshots of our lively debate and post them here, because, well, I just don’t like this guy. My name is obscured in red, Pepper’s in yellow, and the fired dishwasher’s in blue; the excellent article that instigated this cramazing argument can–and should–be read here.

 

Paprika’s Do’s and Don’t’s for Writing About Your Penis

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Pepper and I recently came across this article. It’s the worst article in the world.

And it’s terrible for a lot of reasons, but I’m going to focus on the writing itself, on account of the fact that this rambling inarticulate asspandadouchecanoeclown has published something that vaguely resembles poetry (but not really) with something called Muumuu House.

And also because I work at the Writing Center, which I genuinely enjoy, but which also requires that I gently instruct people on how to fix their shit writing without actually saying, “wow, this is total shit, yo.”

So. Brandon Scott Gorrell. Did you know that Pepper and I have decided to systematically bring you down from the blogging lectern of douche from which you currently pontificate?

Well, we have.

And this is my imagined Writing Center session with Brandon.

Paprika: Hi Brandon. You look like a giant douche, and it’s great to meet you. Please have a seat.

Brandon (disaffectedly): Ok.

Paprika: So what are you working on today?

Brandon: Uh, well, my publisher–they also published my book of poetry, Inane Ramblings of a Complete Fucking Asshat–thought I should have my newest article proofread or whatever. But I don’t need much, just confirmation that I’m totally super badass and that you would personally like to see my penis. It should only take a few minutes.

Paprika: Sounds great. What’s your article about?

Brandon: The compartmentalization of identity, and also, my penis.

Paprika: Ok, well, why don’t we start by having you read your paper aloud, so that you can have the pleasure of listening to your own voice and I can pretend I care.

Brandon: Sweet. Check this shit out: I think my girlfriend sees me as a person that is reasonably smart but to a limited, predictable capacity. For about the first two months of our relationship I perhaps had her fooled that I was deep and mysterious and the owner of some logical capacity so complex that the unpredictable creativity of my worldview appeared constantly referenced and proven by intensely meta or seemingly non sequitur-ish (but poignant) metaphors or ‘takes’ on the situation at hand.

Paprika: Huh.

Brandon: Pretty awesome, right?

Paprika: Well Brandon, I do have one question.

Brandon: Is it about my penis?

Paprika: Kind of. You know how some penises sort of, you know, curve?

Brandon: Yeah. You wanna know if mine curves?

Paprika: No, it’s just, you know what also curves?

Brandon: Other penises?

Paprika: Commas.

Brandon: I don’t like those. I don’t like separating my clauses from each other. I prefer to let them flow together, much the way my sperm flows from my–

Paprika: And also, to be perfectly honest, I kind of doubt your girlfriend ever thought you were–

Brandon: Of average intelligence? Yeah, I agree. I think I was selling myself a little short there.

Paprika: …Right. Do you want to continue with the paper?

Brandon: Sure! (continuing to read from espresso-stained recycled off-white page) But like all good things, this came to an end after some normal amount of time, probably as the result of a build-up of instances in which her logic simply defeated mine and I either responded by making something up that further implicated my logic as shortsighted and altogether full of disconnects or admitting defeat and unintentionally showing the shame I felt.

Paprika: Alright, Brandon. You remember how we were talking about commas?

Brandon (exasperated sigh): Yeah.

Paprika: Have you considered that adding commas would be tantamount to adding penises between your clauses? And that this could be a way to incorporate visual penile aids into your writing?

Brandon: Huh. That’s not a bad idea.

Paprika: Just something to consider. Carry on.

Brandon: (rambles on about his mighty mighty intellect versus his girlfriend’s pretty pastel ladybrain)

Paprika: (has a pleasant, refreshing nap)

Brandon: Another difference between how my girlfriend sees me and how my friends see me is that my girlfriend knows the size of my penis and other sexually-oriented information. As she has seen it from perhaps many angles and in many situations and environments, I think she is intimately familiar with the majority of aspects of my penis – it’s color, shape, size, regularities and irregularities. She also knows how long on average it takes me to achieve an orgasm over a wide variety of sexual acts, what my face looks like during sex, the sounds I make, which positions I’m used to, and how much sex I typically want to have (daily).

Paprika: Oh, fuck off, dude.

Brandon: (stares blankly)

Paprika: Seriously, why are so few people able to use the word “aspect” correctly?

Brandon: But–but what about my penis?

Paprika: Well, apparently it make you use the wrong form of “its.” “It is color, shape, size, regularities and irregularities”? What the fuck? Your penis is color?

Brandon: My penis is the world.

Paprika: And also, I kind of doubt that your girlfriend has studied your penis as if it were some kind of magic glitter pony carrying a basket of eggnog cupcakes with bourbon caramel cream cheese frosting.

Brandon: But it is. I mean, metaphorically anyway.

Paprika: No, it’s not, and dude, of course she’s “intimately familiar” with your penis. That comes with the sexin’ territory. So what, exactly, is your point?

Brandon: Uh, penis?

Paprika (audible sigh accompanied by massive fucking eyeroll): Ok, what else have you got?

Brandon: But friends have hardly any of this information, while probably having, at one point or another, wondered about the size of my penis or idly explored a curiosity about what my face looks like while I have sex. But as far as I can remember, there has not yet been an occasion in which my penis has been exposed to any of those I call friends. I don’t use public showers i.e. in gyms or swimming pools that require a membership and prefer not to piss openly in front of others (actually I can’t) so any penis ‘flashing’ my friends might have been subject to has been merely coincidental and unintentional and left unmentioned.

Paprika: Brandon?

Brandon: Yeah.

Paprika: I don’t think I can do this anymore.

Brandon: Wow! You sound just like my girlfriend!

Paprika: I just–

Brandon: Look, honey bunches of of penis envy, I know this is probably making you feel a little sad and, dare I say, inferior, but just listen a little longer, ok?

Paprika (reminding herself that this is her job, and damn it, she’s gonna do her job): Ok.

Brandon: I have not had sex with any of my friends (except maybe a few who were girlfriends at the time or who I had sex with in a sort or ‘trial period’ in which we were assessing whether our ‘thing’ would become longer-term) so unless an ex-girlfriend of mine has taken the time to describe my sexual behavior and mannerisms to a current friend, my friends remain clueless regarding this information as well. I do not foresee myself ever discussing with any friend, comfortably, the aesthetic aspects of my penis or things like my facial expressions during sex, any time in the future.

Paprika: (combusts)

Brandon: Ooh. I think I’ll write a poem about this.