Tag: Language

If you say ‘LOL’ in real life, I’ll kill you in your sleep

(and I don’t mean ‘LoL’)

You suck. You are a failure. You are, in many ways, what is wrong with our culture. Not all the time, and not in every aspect of your life, but in one particular facet you are despicable. You say ‘LOL’, the abbreviation of ‘laugh out loud’ in normal conversation.

Now I’m not gonna be that head-up-my-own-arse English student who hates all textual abbreviations and uses semi-colons and Oxford commas in his texts; these aspects of language are awesome, serving useful purposes and allowing people forms of self-expression beyond more archaic language. My problem is with ‘LOL’ specifically.

‘LOL’ is mono-syllabic. ‘LOL’ is a heavy, finite sound. ‘LOL’ is, when said aloud, either a chirped, brief ‘LOL‘ or a drawn-out, droned ‘LAAAAWL’. All of these things are an affront to the emotion and noise ‘LOL’ actually stands for – a laugh. Laughs are boisterous and unpredictable, intangible and instinctive, reflecting a sudden and unorchestrated response to stimuli that is delightful. ‘LOL’s, however, are functional; they’re the collections of letters you put on a group chat when you don’t know what to say next but desperately want to continue a conversation.  They’re also abbreviations, a needless tightening of the meaning of a laugh into three characters, while the best laughs are rambling, hysterical and open-ended.

As well as being an affront to the very meaning of a laugh, a ‘LOL’ is fundamentally insincere. Instead of laughing at a joke, you are acknowledging that you understand its comedic intent, but that this intent was too poorly-delivered to deserve an actual laugh. Funny things are laughed at, not quipped away with meaningless leetspeak in quipped, mechanical tones.

A lot of people are worried that colloquialisms, derived from the Internet specifically, will uproot existing languages and replace them with their own, bastardised dialects; but this is the fate of all languages, to be twisted into new forms as new generations need them. However, while new words and phrases bloom to give substance to new thoughts, the shrinking of existing thoughts into crappier, dirtier versions isn’t just another ‘development of language’, it’s a complete 180. And if you’re saying ‘LOL’ in real life, you’re ruining the humble brilliance of a laugh because you’re too socially awkward to say ‘I see what you did there, but it’s not that funny.’

So stop being a pussy and using this shite non-word.

Some Kickass Old English Words

(sadly I can’t find a word for ‘kickass’)

In my ‘studies’ (i.e. flicking through the glossary of Peter Baker’s Introduction To Old English in pursuit of funny words instead of actually translating ones I need’) of Old English, I’ve stumbled across some rather awesome words, that I will now share with you (instead of actually learning Old English vocab).

Ānmōd, united in purpose – It’s probably just me, but I hate the Modern English construction of things being ‘united’, but consisting of separate words.

Ælfscīne, of Elven beauty – Old English, creating fantasy compound words way before Tolkein.

Bealuwaru, dweller in evil – I quite like the idea of evil being an almost geographical concept, that anyone can fall into like a pit, rather than an individual trait that people either inherently are or can adopt.

Befēran, overtake – For all the Mario Kart that Beowulf and Wiglaf play outside of the poem.

Fyrngeflit, ancient quarrel – Because the kids these days need to be taught a thing or two about real quarrelling.

Gefaran, traverse / die – Old English, the only language where walking across the street and being mauled to death by a bear can accurately be described with identical sentences.

Gifan / Gīferness, to give / greed – There’s only one letter and a letter-topping line between the roots of these two opposite words; gives me the impression that there is more common ground than we think in the giving and receiving of things, and the only difference is an artificial linguistic perception we, as people, have put onto them.

Hlagol, inclined to laugh – This is literally a mispronunciation and an extra syllable away from being ‘lol’ in Old English.

Inwidhlemm, hostile wound – As opposed to all the friendly ones you receive in battle, obviously.

Nihtstapa, walker in the night – A compound invented by my friend, this is one of those common examples of Old English wisdom, that they have a word to describe the nocturnal stumbling habits of twenty-first century university students a good thousand years before such people existed.

Ofhrēowan, cause pity for someone  – This makes pity into a thing we impose onto others, rather than a purely individual and internal response of a victim or sufferer. It’s a pretty depressing concept, but if we can force negative emotions onto people as well as positive ones, it opens up far more interactions and relationships than you get on even Sims 4.

Sencan, submerge – For all those submarines the Weather-Geats built.

Sigebēam, tree of victory – Literally the best metaphor I’ve ever laid eyes upon. Either that, or it’s another bit of Old English hat Tolkien turned into The Lord Of The Rings (I’m thinking the Ents here?).

Sigewong, field of victory – A close second to the previous word, a big part of my affection for this one comes from the use of ‘wong’. Hehehehe.

Why I Tone Down The Swearing In These Posts

(some of these horrific curses would never see the light of day on a respectable blog like this one)

I swear a lot in real-life, often when it’s not needed; I’ll use ‘shit’ where ‘bad’ would work just as well, or throw in a ‘bastard’ when an ‘idiot’ would, if anything, be more appropriate. In recent months, I’ve tried to tone this down, so all the new people I meet at uni won’t immediately think I’m a dismissive twat, and because an over-reliance on curses as a source of cheap thrills and simplistically exaggerated responses means it’s harder for me to use words to indicate more complex responses to things when the need arises, such as in essays or bits of fiction.

And it’s this latter reason that I think of when actively deciding not to swear in these posts; on an About page somewhere I wrote that I want to offend people with my views, not my words, and while this is true, I’m now aware that I need to broaden out this ‘offending’ – I want to generate interest in, and responses to, the things I write because I have interesting things to say, not because I’m capable of spitting out opinions in block capitals and expletives like a shitty, yet annoyingly highly-viewed, YouTube series.

On the other side, a reluctance to use curses casually reinforces the strength and meaning of those curses. A while back on the Internet I saw a quote from a writer that they never swear in their texts, because a simple ‘he swore’ conveys all the meaning that would otherwise be suggested by actually spelling out the curse; but such a stance conflates all swear words into a singular meaning, one often archetyped as an angry or simplistic reaction to a thing, when in reality they’re different words for different meanings. So if I tone down my use of the word ‘prick’, from being indicative of people who annoy me, to a specific referral to aggressive or obnoxious individuals, that more particular, and accurate, meaning will be more consistently conveyed whenever I choose to say or write ‘prick’.

Because ultimately words, whether they’re ‘curses’ or not, are about creating meaning; and just as overusing non-expletive words dilutes their power, swearing too much weakens and deindividualises those swears. And whether I want to be a serious academic writer in the future, or just a guy who swears a lot, it’s important to keep my tools for expression as sharp and as distinct as possible.

Shut Up, ‘Guy’ Is A Unisex Term

(wow, two straight posts with a word in inverted commas in the title)

Forgive me, if I use a diagram to illustrate my point here, an idea perhaps unusual for someone who likes using words for things, but I think this is a pretty apt indicator of what I’m talking about:

Woman           Man
|                      |
Girl                  Guy
|                      |
Girl                Boy

Now, this clunky, formatted-on-WordPress-because-I-can’t-be-bothered-to-do-it-in-Gimp thing clearly shows, to me at least, the different words we use to refer to men and women of loosely different age groups (also sorry that this post is only focussing on those two genders, but they’re the two genders I feel most comfortable writing about), that children are “boys” and “girls”, adults “men” and “women”, but there’s this weird middle ground I’m not sure how to cross in normal conversation.

For instance, I’m eighteen, and would consider it a bit demeaning to be referred to as a ‘boy’, outside of the endearing, manly world of going to Powerleague where the shout ‘come on, boys!’ is perfectly fine, but don’t think I’ve done enough adulty things, like living alone for a period of time, buying a house, paying bills, or other actual, real-life responsibilities, to deserve the male adult title of ‘man’, which I guess I associate more with mature actions, like an achievement to be won, than arbitrary age.

So what do I call myself? Well, “guy” seems to be the least irritating choice – much prefer to be called “a guy” than “a man” at this point in my life. But what about for women? I’ve seen women of a similar age to me, who have also not had any particularly adulty responsibilities, be referred to as “girl”, and refer to themselves and female friends similar to them as “girls”, which confuses me slightly because I wouldn’t like to be referred to the male child equivalent, “boy”, in that same way.

Which means that “girl” must serve to referential functions, for female children, and female young adults who aren’t comfortable being called a woman yet. And, briefly, this pisses me the frak off.

I know that there’s an argument here for me being too much of a bullshit pedantic feminist on this one, and the fact that women comfortably use this system with no discontent may suggest I need to stop sticking my nose in where I don’t understand what’s going on, but I don’t like the idea that women can be colloquially called “girls”, a childish term suggestive of innocence, dependence and, if you really want to push it, purity, somehow unmarred by the shitty adult world, and free to watch My Little Pony and have egg-and-spoon races or whatever kids do these days, which has obvious sexual connotations too.

The reason that I’m drawing attention to this is that I think a lot of the gender-based problems we have in society these days operate on an individual level, instead of an institutional level. Of course women still get a shit deal in almost every industry and workplace, but at least women can have jobs now; I’m not saying we need to stop pushing for greater equality in the workplace, but everything from GamerGate to Dapper Laughs to that woman walking in New York for ten hours shows us that while some progress has been made in removing sexism in institutions, comparatively little progress has been made in reaching individual people, for whom gender roles and expectations are so entrenched that it’s become part of the lexicon, where young men are casual, friendly “guys”, while young women are naïve, silly “girls”, a distinction most of us probably make without even realising it.

I also don’t think this is getting too nit-picky on this; our words are both representations of our opinions, and influence our opinions, creating a two-way system of influence between thoughts and words; look at Jim Crow laws in America, where the relentless use of words like “negro” and “colored” were intended to use repeated divisive language to make people think that actually, yes, those people are somehow different to use – we’re white and they’re colored – and should be treated the same. It’s the same for gender roles, that if you keep referring to half the population as if they’re immature and in need of looking after, you’ll eventually form the opinion that you’re doing the right thing in talking to that woman, and inviting her to your place.

My solution has been to use “guys” for everyone, individuals and groups of people – which has led to some people assuming I’m always talking about men, which just annoys me even more because I’m actively trying to not bring gender into stories about what I’ve been getting up to at uni – which might seen impersonal to some, or too personal to others, but I don’t really care. This way I won’t be belittling anyone through words because of their gender, or making a decision about who deserves to be called a “man” or “woman”, and who still behaves like a “boy” or “girl” despite being 21, when it’s not my place to make one.

Hope at least some of that made sense – I’m writing this in my “break” from today’s story so my mind might be fried – and I’ll see you guys tomorrow.

Flowery Language

(I dislike flowers. Not much of a surprise there then)

I write words. I speak them too. I am also forced to think in them. However, I do not always effectively select and use these words for my purposes; yesterday’s post about vending machines, for instance, was unnecessarily verbose for what it was – an easy-to-write, halfway amusing post that I wrote to continue my streak of daily posts and therefore a continuation of the improvements in my writing.

And I feel unnecessarily eloquent posts have become a feature of this blog recently; I don’t write simply any more, which concerns me.

On one level, the intricacies of my language makes sense, as it makes up for the relatively bland and basic ideas that it presents: writing about vending machines is fun, but not particularly intelligent or thought-provoking. And while not every post can be epiphany-inducing in its ideas, perhaps I feel that every post can be intelligently engaging through its linguistic presentation at least.

However, this stupidly verbose language does make me feel like a bit of a prat. My fanatical desire to appear ‘intelligent’ on this blog has basically forced me to attempt to be a smart-arse either in the ideas I present, which is excusable as it encourages discussion about those ideas, or the ways in which I present those ideas, which is less justifiable as it makes people go “Why the frak did he just use ‘forsooth’, he must be a prat.”

Maybe I do this because I’m a massive egotist too: I’m not juxtaposing simple ideas alongside complex words because its funny – one can only push a joke about vending machines so far – but because I want you to think that I’m smarter than I actually am.

And this reflects a wider fear that I have, that I’m much more demanding of attention than I think I am: do I help friends with work out of genuine altruism, or because I want to show my worksheet-filling superiority? Do I write this blog to encourage discussion and improve my writing, or to obtain tangible numbers that reflect how many people think I’m funny and clever? Although I’m hardly eager to impress people publicly, I’ve never been shy of performing in front of people, either in acting, debating or sports, regardless of my actual ability.

Hell, this ‘self-reflectionary’ post isn’t even that helpful; the simple language I opened with has faded into non-existence, suggesting any attempts to rectify my flowery language is fundamentally superficial, as I slip back into verbose terms whenever I get to the crux of an argument, and I’ve not broadened this idea out to include all people in our society, to suggest that we are all secretly egotists, as was my custom a few months back – this post is about me, and me only.

This is all made worse by my unknowing; the judgement of whether I’m egomaniacal is a subjective one, and one that you and I can make individually, at different times, reaching different conclusions that can change and still be justified, but the fact that there is room for debate at all unsettles me; I like knowing about me, and am much more comfortable with taking my specific and detailed knowledge about myself and applying it to others, than I am questioning my own nature.

Perhaps the worst part of all of this is that there is no real way for us to know whether I’m such a selfish bastard; my own interpretations are corrupted by my intentions – so I’m likely to frame me helping a friend as altruistic, not as an excuse to show my superiority – and you folks can only learn about my struggle with egotism through this blog, that I regulate and edit like the Soviet Union’ and foreign news; for all you know, I could have spent weeks writing and re-writing this, to ensure that I get across the most superficial self-reflection that I can, while still being pathetic enough for you to be sympathetic towards me and give this post loads of Likes.

I haven’t done that though – this is being written in one 25-minute session in which I might have a low blood sugar – and this confusion and lack of clarity is really starting to annoy me.

Perhaps I should stop worrying about whether my life is a good, honest, altruistic one, and focus on living it and letting it define itself; that way, I’ll have all the life I need to write amusing and thoughtful blog posts, that I don’t need to cover  in verbose language to make them worth reading.

Swearing Is A-Okay

(is that how you correctly write ‘a-okay’? Should it be ‘ay-okay’ or something?)

Crap.

See that? It was a ‘word’. These ‘words’ consist of ‘letters’, individual characters whose natures, combinations and numbers create different ‘words’, which display different ‘meanings’, ideas formed inside human brains. The purpose of these ‘letters’ and ‘words’ is to rationalise the complex electrical signals in our brains into a set of recognisable shapes, called a ‘language’, so as to allow for the easy codification and development of our ideas, and to provide a means with which others may interpret and react to our ideas. Given this relatively altruistic and practical goal, why in the name of buggery is swearing a problem?

I talked about the nature and annoying necessity of language earlier, and this post about swearing will follow a similar vein: language has become invaluable in our society, so why should we exclude some of the aspects of it based on superficial cultural taboos, when the very idea of language is one grounded in practical purpose and actual usefulness?

Hank Green said here that swears and non-swears are ‘physiologically different’, as the former are stored in the Limbic system, a deeply emotional part of the brain, while the latter are more recent constructs, stored in the left hemisphere. While I agree that the two kinds of words are fundamentally different, I don’t feel that we should exclude one set of words from being socially acceptable because of this.

Essentially, swear words express extreme emotional reactions, not inherently destructive ones, and so there is no logical reason for them to be taboo; my A2 English coursework currently focuses on the idea of passion versus destruction, and the argument that they are both strong emotional responses and so cannot be truly divided, focusing on works such as Sylvia Plath’s, where there is a very fine line between her love for her children and her broader destructive insanity.

Society’s marginalisation of swear words has pushed us to be a colder, more objective society: capitalist economics runs the world, in its form as a mathematical representation of the distribution of often very, and occasionally literal, human resources of our planet; political success is not measured in ideological righteousness or party management, but unquestionable election figures; books are ‘bestsellers’ if they include a load of Twilight fan-fiction, not necessarily because they offer any new ideas or sophisticated theories.

Look here for a great example of this: Hell, the epitome of selfishness, violence and general bad-deed doing in the Universe (whether it tangibly exists or not is irrelevant from a theoretical point of view) is not viewed as being the awesome example of darkness and Sin that it is, but as a word that kids shouldn’t say around adults. Of course, its status as a swear word is probably derived form these literally Hellish associations, but the simplistic dismissal of ‘Hell’ as a byword for ‘infernal suckitude’ still saddens me: we are not encouraged to think creatively about why Hell is so bad, and the nature of this awfulness, but that is simply is bad, and we shouldn’t bother considering it in any more detail.

I am also aware of the slight irony in saying that we are encouraged to think about Hell simply by linking to an intelligent piece of discussion about that very topic of apparent simplicity. Sorry, but Hell was too good an example of these swears not to use.

I accept that over-using swear words, like high-volumed metal and heroin, will result in their impact being lost, as we become desensitised to them. However, this doesn’t mean we should exclude them entirely: they are a means of expressing our opinions, and so I feel entitled, even obliged, to use every bloody swear in the book if I feel so inclined. I stay away from using the ‘big two’ swears (the basis of Battlestar Galactica’s ‘Frak’ and the ancestor of Chaucer’s ‘Queynte’) so as not to upset people, because as much as I dislike social taboos I am still part of them, but I’m fine with rolling out an arsenal of ‘minor’ curses, from bitch-tits to arsehole.

And I’m not suggesting that we teach infants to swear, but I am suggesting that we teach them there is more to these words than being slapped for using them; these words reflect the most emotional and complex parts of our psyches, and are clearly the most powerful pieces of language we have to express the infinite incoherency and passion of the human mind: what does ‘bitch-tits’ literally mean? Who cares, because it connects with you on a deeper level, as a means of expressing an idea more forceful and complex than conventional language ever could.

I find it ironic, therefore, that the most sophisticated bits of language we as a species have formulated are so often dismissed as being objectively ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’; if nothing else, it’s an injustice to the complexity of these words. So don’t scream expletives at your parents upon reading this, but please consider that if all words are there to be analysed in depth, why not the best fraking words of them all?

Links:

Me on the suckitude of language

Hank Green on Swearing

Dysfunctional Literacy on Hell

Yes, You Can Wait

(oh, how I wish I could put the can’ from the title in italics for emphasis. Such are the problems of the first-world blogger) 

The phrase ‘I can’t wait’ is one of the worst things to have been invented by humans, a species responsible for all manner of monstrosities from Nero’s treason trials to the idiocy that was Championship Manager post-2007.

Fundamentally, the phrase is much too broad for what it is commonly used for; suggesting that you are unable to contain your excitement is quite a sweeping statement about your patience, a statement that possesses a great deal of characterising power that is lost if the phrase is over-used. It’s like swearing – use it too much and its power wanes.

People’s specific use of the phrase contradicts with this broad assertion of one’s character; you’ll say ‘I can’t wait’ for a certain game to be released or party to begin, suggesting that you have the ability to control your patience and desires in relation to particular events in your life, which is frankly unreasonable: our excitements range from the subdued to the excessive, and I’ve not encountered anyone who can micro-manage these feelings.

Furthermore, I’d argue you can’t manage these feelings; by their definition, feelings are inherent and emotional responses to stimulus; we can change the stimulus to try and influence these feelings, but ten times out of ten, the more emotionally-driven people will break down in tears when a minor character from Battlestar Galactica is killed off, whereas others won’t.

The phrase is also deeply flawed in that it divides practical actions and imagined ones: we think we will act in a certain way, that of not waiting, but we actually act very differently. Obviously, we don’t really have a choice here – we say we can’t wait for things, but then have to wait because the action for which we are waiting hasn’t happened yet, and we have no way to make it happen any sooner.

However, surely the fact that this phrase, one of total incorrectness and unchangeability, has become so popular within the English language, to the extent that someone who actively avoids using the phrase is surrounded by it enough to feel compelled to write about it on the Internet, just displays the inherent idealism of humanity? This idealism can often be a good thing, as it drives us to discover new things previously thought impossible and improve the world despite practical improbability, but these forms of idealism are made in the right hands; in the wrong hands, the human desire to project a time-warping, emotion-controlling ideal of human power onto the world leads to nonsensical phrases like this.

In short, anyone who uses the phrase ‘I can’t wait’ should be impaled on a harpoon consisting of nothing but the vast painfulness of their own misunderstanding of the concept of time. So please don’t do it, for I can make a harpoon.