Revisited: Living with Grammar Nazis

Our attitudes toward language determine where language goes.

My attitude toward the English language hasn’t really changed all that much over the past number of years. I see it as something weird and flexible and interesting, something to play with. A good sentence can be like a mathematical problem. I know that languages change as time goes on, and I love that. I love being able to study Old English as if it’s an entirely different language. I love that the language has changed a lot even in the last century. Where would the fun be if things stayed the same?

The prescriptive approach, on the other hand, is based on notions of “correctness” in language. It decides what people should say, and distinguishes “good” language from “bad” language. This is where you’ll find your common-or-garden Grammar Nazis.

That’s why I despair when people feel the need to correct each other’s grammar. It’s rude, it’s unnecessary, and it steps in the way of the natural development of a language.

I wish I could say I’ve always held this standpoint. Unfortunately, I was a precocious git as a child and adolescent, and chose to express this by showing everyone how much smarter I was than them. (In my defence, my bookishness was all I really brought to the table at that stage and it was just exciting to be noteworthy in some way or other). I felt the need to correct everyone‘s spelling, grammar and general vocabulary, and looked down on those who didn’t hold these things to the same importance that I did.

It isn’t for me to say what the “right” way of looking at a language is. I know that there are two approaches, prescriptive and descriptive. I know that as far as my opinion goes, the descriptive approach is the only way to live. I also know that there loads of people who would disagree, many of whom are far more intelligent, educated and experienced than I am.

I think that what I like about the descriptive approach is that it’s realistic. Value is placed on what people say in real life, rather than what the rulebook says they should be saying. The ways in which people use language every day is magical. It’s constantly flowing and changing, incorporates puns and references and tradition. It’s a massive elastic mess and I adore it, that’s why I study it.

And prescriptivism has its own merits too, of course. It gives us rules and structures, helps us know how to use different types of language in different circumstances, makes it easier for people to learn foreign languages. But it also makes it easier for people to judge each other, as I did when I was younger, and to tell each other what they should be doing.

I also worry that those who hold “proper” English in too high esteem run the risk of falling into the trap of classism. After all, what’s the easiest way to mock people in classes below you? Do you mock them for their lower wages, their reduced access to healthcare and more limited opportunities, all of which are controlled by the greed of those in the higher classes? Or do you mock them for their grammar and general use of language, how it makes them sound stupid and lazy (after all, who in their right mind chooses to be poor)?

The thing is, there are some fairly common ways of phrasing a sentence that are ungrammatical but essential.

There are a lot of sentences out there that aren’t technically correct, but which couldn’t be phrased correctly without adding a string of unnecessary words. If I were to walk into your house right now and ask if your Aunt Susan was in, you could easily reply with the incorrect sentence “Suzie doesn’t be here” and I would understand what you were trying to communicate.

You could say “Suzie isn’t here“, but that doesn’t mean the same thing. “Suzie isn’t here just means that right now, Suzie isn’t in the same room as us. “Suzie doesn’t be here” has a more complex meaning than that.

“Suzie doesn’t be here” could more accurately be explained as: “My Aunt Susan may well have been here in the past, but she hasn’t been here recently. She does not spend time here right now.” Or you could say, “Suzie isn’t generally here” or “Suzie doesn’t tend to be here.” And all of those things would be correct, but they’re longer and a bit too formal for everyday usage. It’d be as easy to just suck it up and accept “Suzie doesn’t be here” as your final answer.

“Youse” is a word which I never really encountered until I moved to Northern Ireland, but it is one of which I have grown quite fond.

“Youse” is also another example of a term that isn’t there in “proper” English, but I wish it was. I wish our language had something like the French equivalent, vous. A word used to refer to you plural would be incredibly handy. As would a word for you that implies a certain amount of respect. I guess making these two words into one as the French have would be only economical – we only have so many letters.

I think that it is important for us to see little bits of language like this not as disgusting abominations, but as interesting and rather useful ways of playing with the language.

My only fear here is that my attraction to these little colloquialisms can never be objective. I grew up spending more time reading than talking to actual human beings, and as a result I talk like a book. I don’t really have any little words and phrases that aren’t used in standard English, and if I do I’ve only picked them up recently.

Maybe I only like things like youse and craic because they seem strange and exotic to me. And if this is the case, is my admiration of the words really any better than snobbish dismissal?

I guess this is something I need to think about a little more.


Every Day I’m Tumblin’

Ah, Tumblr. The quick-and-easy blogging site which is essentially WordPress’s nerdy little cousin who’s less interested in actually reading and writing and more interested in this and that, and whatever the devil this is:



Something fantastic about tumblr is that because its users are predominantly young people, they are constantly changing and as a result the wesite is constantly changing.

When I first joined Tumblr, I would have been about 14 or 15 years old. The website was a treasure trove of ridiculous posts – words misspelled for comedic effect, inside jokes from every ‘fandom’ possible, GIFs of puppies, everything I could ever have dreamed of.

By the time I had turned 16, however, the website had transformed. I received my first bit of “anon hate” as Tumblr changed from a land of hilarity to a website filled with hate messages and the romanticisation of mental illness. I did not like this version of the website. Honestly, the anonymous hate messages were the least of my worries of that time – it was the idea of this “beautifully broken” characteristic that made me sick to my stomach, the “thinspo” blogs, the rise of the self-diagnosis. The movement served to make issues such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders both a “big deal” and “no big deal” simultaneously, ultimately making it even more difficult to deal with these problems because there was pressure on you to feel the exact same all the time, to write heartfelt posts about how everything affected you, how everything was awful, how Tumblr is the only place you feel safe, etc etc etc. I was not willing to blog or reblog any of this nonsense. I did not, and still do not, want to be considered “beautifully broken”. Just let me slam on a “damaged goods” label and get on with my own life as I please.

I left Tumblr because I was sick of being told that I had to be sick to be interesting, but that I had to be completely normal to be allowed to have opinions on anything else. And the thing about me is that I am one hell of a lot more interested in Doctor Who and music and cartoons and comics than I am in any of that stuff.

But anyway.

I just recently returned to Tumblr (hey, I need something to mess about on while all my flatmates are out having social lives!) to find it majestically transformed yet again, this time for the better. Not only am I constantly stumbling on posts clearly left over from the end of the Great Mental Illness Fad saying things like this:


But it would also appear to have been taken over by LGBT+ people, straight allies and social justice bloggers (or social media activists).

While SMAs get a lot of criticism for being oversensitive on some matters (tw: mild negativity) without actually /doing/ anything (tw: reality), I think that, overall, they are a good thing. The SMAs of Tumblr preach acceptance and equality for all sexualities, all genders, all races, etc. While their views and statements can seem a little extreme at times and give cis-white-males no other option but to “check their privilige”, it is an extremeness that will no longer be required if/when society eventually reaches full equality.

So well done to the people of Tumblr for turning from a community of depression-glorifying health-shaming teens to one of (slightly extreme) social activism. And well done for keeping up your tradition of cat GIFs. I’m excited to see where our online adventure will take us in the future.

Stuff I’d recommend checking out:

Hope you all had/have a great day, wherever you are!



The Importance of Exercising your Zygomaticus Muscles

I’m a smiley person by nature. Unless I’m thinking about something particularly unhappy at the exact moment you look at me, regardless of what sort of day I am having, I will be smiling.

Laughing, smiling or just passing gas?

I’m not a happy, floaty positivity blogger that believes in a one-size-fits-all solution for all problems ever. I don’t believe that if you have a cold, smiling and thinking about kittens will make it go away. Similarly, I don’t believe that if you’re not in the mood for smiling, forcing yourself to smile will change that in any way. If anything, you’ll feel even less like smiling because you’ll be angry at the injustice of having to smile when you don’t want to.

I do, however, feel that smiling for no particular reason does have its benefits. If I’m walking down a street and I see someone walking in the opposite direction, smiling uncontrollably, I will smile too. The fact that that total stranger is having a good day and feels like smiling will put me in a better mood too. And generally, when I’m walking down a street, I’m on my way to class. So I really appreciate that sort of pick-me-up. It makes sitting in a steamy room and talking about cultural capital in contemporary literature just that little bit more enjoyable.

Speaking of class, I have a fantastic lecturer for my skills module. His name is Malte Urban (I know, cool name, right?), and he’s the only member of staff in the School of English that I feel comfortable approaching with questions. You know why I can approach him? It’s because the second he sees someone approaching him, he beams at them like he’s having the best day of his life. It’s a though no matter who walks towards him, it’s always the exact person he wants to talk to. “What luck! This student whose name I am not entirely sure of wants to talk to me. This is the BEST DAY EVER.”

The positive impact of this way of regarding students makes me wonder whether I might have better luck with my education if every tutor smiled that much. I mean, I’m pretty sure that if my other tutors looked a little happier to see me, I wouldn’t have such a problem when it comes to taking part in tutorials. I might even have the guts to ask my context tutor what the devil this exam next moth entails, and as a result know what exactly I’m meant to be doing over this study period (or am I just meant to learn these seven novels off-by-heart? Yes? Okay.)

So what makes me smile? Well, pretty much everything.

Music makes me smile. Music makes me smile a lot. Which is a good thing, since I’m listening to it pretty much all the time (Right now, for instance, I’m listening to Royseven. Royseven makes me smile a lot). It doesn’t have to be overly happy music, pretty much any type of music works. If it has ridiculous lyrics, I’ll smile. If it has a happy little tune, I’ll smile. If it’s incredibly catchy, I’ll smile. If it has a lot of different parts that I have to replay and replay in order to take note of every last little note, I’ll smile. If it’s an old song that I listened to growing up, I’ll smile. If it’s a new song that I only just discovered, I’ll smile. Basically, if it has any qualities at all that allow it to be considered music, I will smile while I listen to it, and then I will play it over and over again until all of my neighbours hate me (J). Right now, my absolute favourite tracks are this and this and this (and this and this).

Cartoons make me smile. Right now, I’m a big fan of Adventure Time and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. I just find them hysterical, partially because of the outrageous nature of their story lines, but also because they also mirror the stupidity of pretty much every thought I have ever had.

Above all, it is the people in my life that make me smile, my family and my friends. And I like to think that sometimes, I make them smile too. If that is something I can achieve, I know that there is some point in my existence (and that makes me smile).

Technological Tragedies and Digital Disasters

This morning, I woke up and turned on my laptop to check my emails.

An hour later, after some successfully toaster-burnt toast, my laptop had finally installed enough updates to allow me to log in and check those emails (it wasn’t worth the wait – some suggestions of what to buy from Amazon and Upworthy’s most recent collection of feelgood twoddle were not exactly the heartfelt message from a long-lost relative I had been hoping for).

My current phone is the best phone I have ever owned. It is a £10 Nokia 100. I do not love this phone because it’s cheapness means that it isn’t the end of the world if it goes missing on a night out (though that is certainly an upside) or because I’m “keeping it real”. I love this phone because it does exactly what it says it will do. I can send and receive text messages. I can make phone calls. I can check the time and set an alarm to wake me up in the morning. I can even play “Snake” if I’m feeling particularly antisocial while I’m out and about. It doesn’t have wifi, it doesn’t have apps. It doesn’t even have a camera, but it is a great little piece of technology and I wouldn’t replace it for the world.

The problem, then, is not that technology has gone too far, nor is it that it has not come far enough. There are some amazing pieces of technology out there that do some pretty outstanding things. The problem is that a lot of the technology we have access to shoots too far and just isn’t quite there yet. I love my little Nokia because it lets me text and call, but if I had a swanky iPhone and all it could do was call and text I’d be pretty darned disappointed. And while smartphones are getting cheaper and more accessible, the cheapest smartphones are trying so hard to have functioning ‘apps’ that they quickly become slow and struggle to send so much as a single text message.

I guess this is just a cry to all of the developers of new technology out there. Please, please, please, instead of inventing some £1000 phone that rolls up into a ball and allows you to take photos of people from 3 miles away (or anything along those lines), why not just take a look at what we already have and try to make it so that it just does what it says it’ll do?

Oh, and while you’re at it, Windows 8 needs a little bit of work too 🙂

Yours exasperatedly,


Sidenote: For the Blogging 101 ‘Zero to Hero’ challenge, I was meant to write an introduction to my blog or something about myself today. Unfortunately, I already wrote these when I started in March. If you want to see them (though I’m not sure why you would), my About Me is here and my Introduction is here!

On Issues of Gender


This is me, right now, in prime blogging position. As you can probably tell, I’m a girl. I was born a girl. I grew up a girl. I have always been a girl. Why would I ever question it?


The problem is that I don’t think, act or dress like a girl…


… And I never have.

This fact worried me a lot when I was younger, say, in my early teens. I was worried that maybe I was transgender – a boy stuck in a girl’s body – and while this is something I have no problem with in other people, I don’t think it is something I could have handled myself. Certainly, it is not something my family would have been accepting of, which is an awful shame considering it’s 2014. 

But the plot thickens, as I’m pretty damn sure I’m not a boy. At least, I’m no more a boy than I am a girl. The realisation that I didn’t fit into either gender bracket perhaps hit me even harder than the thought that I might be anything other than female. The confusion and unhappiness that came about as a result of my inability to relate to either grouping lasted until just a few weeks ago, when I stumbled upon this post. With a little bit of internet research, I discovered the definition of “androgyne” and realised that this is the closest anything has come to describing me. 

I don’t plan on openly identifying as an androgyne, but knowing that the gender identity exists and that there are other people like me has made me much, much happier in myself. I know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. My gender has had no effect on what subjects I chose in school, what I am studying at university or what I plan to do for a living when I have finished my degree. My gender has had no effect on the way I act or the people I hang out with. The only effect my gender has really had on my life is that period of darkness I experienced while I did not know what I was or what was “wrong” with me. For the sake of keeping things simple, though, I’m going to go ahead and continue publicly identifying as female because, frankly, I don’t have the balls to identify as anything else (pardon the pun). 

Gender is nothing more than a social construction, and a fairly destructive one at that. There is no reason that the fact that I’d rather wear a suit than a dress, or rather play video games than go shopping, should have thrown me into such a downward spiral. The way in which we are judged should not be based on which pronouns we use to describe ourselves, but on the way we act in regards to ourselves and others. I am not saying that gender identity should not exist. It’s a way for people to define and label themselves, and there’s nothing wrong with that. All I’m saying is that it shouldn’t matter. But it does.

I know that this is a fairly pointless ramble. I’ve achieved nothing by writing this, but I would have achieved even less (if that’s at all possible) by not writing it, so here it is. 

If you want to read more on this subject, check out CN Lester’s fantastic posts, Uncloseted’s “LGBTQ – RSTUV?” and this page on androgyny

Stay incredible!


Que Sera Sera

What is fate? Destiny? Are we really in control of our own lives?

I am very much of the belief that we have complete control of our own lives. As much as I would love to believe that our actions and futures are all controlled by the man upstairs, I just find it very difficult to keep that sort of faith. My desire to believe in a greater being is balanced out by my inability to see any reason to believe, keeping me very firmly in the agnostic bracket of religious groupings.

Many things are, of course, controlled by laws and systems set up by society. I can’t alter my own destiny by simply waking up in the morning, thinking “You know what? I think I’ll be a millionaire now” and going down to the bank to take out money that isn’t mine. That would be ridiculous.

More control lies in the hands of my background. For example, I was born into a line of artists on my mother’s side, to two parents with art degrees – it was highly unlikely (though, of course, entirely possible), then, that I would pursue a career is physics or neurobiology. It was much more likely that I would end up doing a degree that falls under the title of arts or humanities, for example, an English degree. And here I am.

This does not mean I am trapped on this path, however. I could very easily drop out tomorrow and decide that I don’t want to do this degree, resit my exams, and reapply to study a science subject. I’m not going to do that, but I could.

I would love to believe in fate, destiny or God. It would give my life much more of a sense of purpose. But my mind just doesn’t work like that – everything has to be logical, systematic, realistic. 

So to all of you that have a faith that keeps you going, I salute you. You are more strong-minded than I.

And to all of you that just can’t make yourselves believe in anything like that, high five. If you manage to find the meaning of life, PLEASE let me know because I have no idea where to look.