What are your pet peeves when it comes to grammar and spelling?
I have some pet peeves. I can’t stand going into my kitchen to cook and finding dishes in the sink. There is something about having to clean in order to eat that I find especially annoying, and I can’t resist shouting, “Who left these dishes” across the house to find the perpetrator.
I am also challenged to overlook passive aggression, whether on social media or in person. I hate when someone is clearly trying to stick it to me with a smile on their face or with feigned self-deprecation and sanctimony. I fail to let it go. My claws come out, and I make no apologies for it.
Peeve vs. Pet Peeve
Unlike many peeves or annoyances that people may be able to disregard, a pet peeve is adopted and nurtured like a pet. As with me and those dishes in the sink or the jerk on Facebook, they can’t keep pet peeves from bothering them to the point of complaining. I tend not to have pet peeves when it comes to grammar and spelling. I grew up using layers of language and studied literary criticism, semiotics, and hermeneutics, which encouraged me to favor a more descriptive approach to both.
Language and Culture
As an African American, I am part of a linguistic heritage whose members have an affinity for the dynamic use of words. Forced by a racial structure that stripped their ancestors of their language and education, we have become adept at taking language and giving it vibrancy, breaking grammatical and spelling rules, and enriching American culture.
While the broader culture may deride our ability to make language shine, it doesn’t hinder us. I once addressed the validity of words like the newly-coined “periodt” when learning about a White woman telling a Black woman author that she lacked “literary merit” because the former used the spelling. In my video response, I pointed out:
“The culture in the United States is very White dominant and very Eurocentric. [In] the spaces and places where people outside of a very finite cultural construct present their creativity to the world, there is a high tendency for certain language to be used to discredit it.”
It’s not based on merit. It’s based on people’s restricted, finite, and often ignorant perspectives about what culture, art, and creativity [are].”
The pliability of language requires people to get a grip on any inability to see past prescriptive grammar and spelling, the parameters of which are constantly evolving through applied social meanings, especially in literature. Phraseology (mode of expression) impacts usage. Writers and the array of cultures to which they belong will flex grammatical and spelling rules to flex their skills, making language their own. Controlling modes of expression subverts cultural hegemony, which is important for people with cultural identities impacted by White supremacy, Eurocentricity, colonialism, and slavery. Come at Black Twitter with your grammatical pet peeves if you want to. It won’t end well.
Storytellers and Words
Storytelling mandates that the teller has the ability to treat grammar and spelling as the tools of their artistry. Shakespeare sure did. His contemporaries derided him for it, but he kept to his craft and created unique expressive texts. His use of the word “hour” in act two, scene seven of As You Like It shows his penchant to be crude and poetic.
’Thus we may see’, quoth he, ‘how the world wags.
’Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more ‘twill be eleven.
And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.’
In the above passage, Shakespeare uses the word “hour” as a pun for prostitutes. The words hour and whore were spoken the same back then. The word hour refers to the time in the first two lines and whores in the second two. The character is talking about having sex with multiple sex workers and then dying from an STD. Pretty darn poignant.
The bard also invented words like unreal, lonely, and bandit. He introduced the use of the word elbow as a verb. I can just imagine anyone with grammatical pet peeves at that time losing their minds while watching Macbeth, Coriolanus, Henry VI, or King Lear.
Grammatical and spelling pet peeves will prove a losing battle for those embracing them. Language is too transformative. Shifts constantly introduce nonstandard spelling and usage of words: irregardless, thusly, anyways, alright, should of, and kind of saturate cultures, making their dictionary entries necessary. What’s the point of losing one’s head over them?
Skirmishes between academia and popular press over the Oxford comma and the disappearance of the interrobang and snark demonstrate shifts in punctuation. None of it is changeless tenets, sacrosanct to new spellings and usage.
Learn to adjust to evolving language. With the advent of technologies and increased social interactions, it will only do it more. Don’t be the jerk that tries to ridicule or dismiss someone because they misspelled something, ignoring the clunkiness of thumbs on device keys and the intrusion of autocorrect. Don’t be the one who demonstrates their inability to see past arbitrary grammatical rules to glean a writer’s brilliance in a post, article, or book.
People introduced grammatical and spelling rules to make writing and reading easier, which is relative and subject to change. Let it go, or go the way of the dinosaurs. Perish from an inability to adapt to and understand expanding vernaculars.
Let’s keep those keyboards clicking.