Tuesday Apr 03, 2007

A rant for good english

I am not a compulsive essay writer. Never got the urge for verbal
diarrhea every day around morning or noon or even night. What gets my
goat or sheep or the whole flock is, any long standing irritant. The
equivalent of Chinese water torture without the water or the Chinese.
The water in this case is prose or what passes by with that name and
the Chinese is substituted by countless bloggers, article writers and
emailers. If I missed your favorite group feel free to add it
mentally. But what am I ranting about here? English. Plain, simple
English. Something that seems to exist rarely now-a-days.

"Whut u doin n d wknd man?" - babbles a friend on email. "That
experience was like awesome and stuff, you know?" - guzzles a product
reviewer. "Your making no sense!" - exactly! "There are three
configuration files are to be modified" - 'are' fetish ;)

Having been in this (computer/software) industry for 10 odd years I
can read variables of the kind - fls_idl_pkntr - without breaking
stride. There is some kind of justification for that; using 'i' and
'foo' and 'retval' too often can be injurious to health. But, I don't
see the extra effort of typing "t h e" instead of "d" bringing on RSI
or exhausting your alphabet quota for life. An apostrophe isn't a
mustn't, it is your choice, you are writing it.

Now for the big question. WHY? Why should I get all worked up over
this? Tolerance, allowance, extrapolation, experience and mind reading
is enough to get through all of the above and more. Then WHY am I
getting worked up? I feel insulted. I feel the other person isn't
serious about communicating. Heated rinse water from a suitable dish
is soup-ish, but is not exactly soup. You wouldn't wear a broad banana
leaf to office, though that too is clothing. (okay, I may some day.)
Why the difference there? Because you know there is a limit to the
deviance expected from a normal human being. Also because you are
showing respect to others in the same social/work circle.

Why shouldn't communicating in English follow the same principle?

To me, reading a well written article or a book or a blog is a joy. I
know everyone can't be a Steinbeck or O'Henry or Terry Pratchett. The
least you can do is complete your words, use words in the dictionary
and use words as they are meant to be used. Not like you know awful
stuff like 'like and stuff'. Punctuations aren't very difficult.  If
in doubt don't use don't - use do not. You're right, using you are is
your choice. One of them is less confusing.

Spell checking isn't rocket science unless you have the wrong
dictionary installed.  At least, when you are publishing something to
the big wide world, do a spell check. Weather you goat it rite will
depend on wot you rot. Read it after the initial spurt of adrenaline
that made your start has worn off.

Arrgg... now I sound prissy enough to be hated ;) But I'll tell you
this.  Writing about "how someone else should write" is fraught with
danger.  I would have to read the above many times to make sure there
are no silly grammar mistakes or non-deliberate spelling mistakes or
bad language or ... think before you write.

I will conclude with a story my father narrates (17 times as of last
month ;) ) whenever I deliver a well thought argument point.

There was a priest who was well respected in the village. One day, to
the horror of the villagers, they found him being dragged through the
paddy fields by a buffalo. Apparently the priest's head had got caught
between the buffalo's horns. They caught the buffalo and managed to
extricate the priest mostly unharmed.

The village elder asked: "Priest! What stupidity is this? Couldn't you
have thought a bit before doing something like this?"

The priest grew angry: "Who told you I didn't think? For the last
three weeks I have been watching this buffalo and it's perfectly
curved horns. It's after three weeks of deep thought that I decided to
put my head between it's horns. Don't you call me stupid!"

The moral of the story for me is to not argue with my father. For you
it is to do spell check or to think before you write.



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