Land Of The Free and The Home Of The Illiterate…

Be stupid @ Amsterdam

Be stupid @ Amsterdam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OMG! B4 I start, let me first consider where 2 begin. Cuz this issue runz deep, and can b found anywhere and everywhere…

All right. That was almost painful, but I did it. I proved I can mingle amongst the illiterate masses, with all the TTYLs, LOLs, OMGs, and the like. But why would I want to? The answer is: I don’t, and you shouldn’t, either. In fact, I think everyone would do himself or herself a huge favor if they cut this nonsense out—immediately!

I’m certainly not the first writer to take note of, or complain about, the terrible, atrocious, pathetic hodge-podge of words and symbols that people pass off as writing, and I certainly won’t be the last. I just wish more people would go tell it on the mountain. But in truth, I think there’s no stopping the illiterate train. It’s chugging along, full steam, and no one’s throwing Mama from the train. That is, if Mama is the illiteracy bug that everyone caught right around Y2K.

Why’s this a big deal, though, and who’s it hurting? Well, it’s hurting everyone. Deliberately illiterate Americans are changing the face of the English language, transforming it into a bleached-blonde, blue-eyed, Botox ridden, ample bosomed nitwit. That’s right—where once the English language was a classy, elegant, well-postured beauty, we now have Barbie—with her cheesy clothes and Malibu dream house, and all her equally illiterate friends, from lifeguard Ken to Tiffani the flight attendant. That’s America people. If you roll us over, you won’t see made in China printed on our backs. It’ll say Mattel. We’ve become a cheap, plastic version of ourselves, and the English language is feeling it.

There are so many areas of life and society that have been impacted by our repugnant use of our mother language. It’s like the circulatory system, with arteries and veins, vessels and capillaries. Spill the poison in one major artery and before you know—BAM—we’re all writing acronyms and abbreviations, swimming in a virtual sea of typos. And the worst part is that we don’t care. One day our dictionary will look like codes, only to be understood by the Justin Beiber loving tweens of the world. We’re breeding a generation of people who not only look down upon education, but who seem to feed off each other’s stupidity, like a festering wound, spreading out its tentacles until everyone has dumbed themselves down. To understand where this epic fail took place, let’s party like it’s 1999, right around the time when home computers were becoming commonplace, AOL was still blowing our minds, and cell phones were replacing pagers, with the promise of immediate contact and zero privacy. Little did we know that our common means of communication would be the written word, but that’s what happened. Call me crazy, but in the way that we tend to improve at…well…anything when repetition is involved, I assumed that people would have become better writers, but that didn’t happen.

Before I go on, let me be the first to say that I’m no stranger to typos. In fact, I make a ton of them, and I’m usually the last to spot them. Because of my great memory, I tend to gloss over mistakes. I know what I meant to write, my brain fills it in, and my eye doesn’t catch the typo. I do it all the time, but I’m always mindful of my writing, and my typos can’t be blamed on laziness. Sometimes I simply don’t understand a specific grammar rule, or maybe it’s too subjective for 100% certainty. For example: affect and effect still kick my ass, and I’m sure I’ve flubbed them on several occasions. But enough about me.

Back to where we were. Yes, home computers…everyone started chatting…then came texting. Time went on and as they say: the rest is history. Now-a-days we do nothing but write; we hardly even talk on the phone. We text, tweet, email, blog, post on Facebook, yada-yada-yada. There was once a time when writing was considered formal. If you sat down to write a nice letter, you wrote in long-hand, you tried not to torment your reader with typos, and you certainly wouldn’t have ended your letter with TTYL. Someone would’ve thought you were possessed, I’m sure. Or just stupid.

How is it that in a society and in a time when we write so damn much, we’ve managed to lose all respect and appreciation for the English language? We’ve butchered it to death. I’m not sure these young people understand the dangerous power they wield. What was once considered a grammatical error is now accepted as proper simply because it’s a common error. There are college professors who’ve made exceptions for some of the most common typos, because society has conformed to failure, and teaching students the difference between correct and incorrect frazzles our politically correct sense. Because of these exceptions, we’ve replaced our rules with excuses, and now those excuses are the rule. Hey, if everyone makes the same mistakes, let’s file it under the acceptable category, because there’s no use teaching if no one’s going to listen, right? Yes, young, illiterate people, you are quite literally changing the rules of grammar, the rules of spelling, and the rules of punctuation, and not because you have a better method, but because your ignorance has trumped academia. That’s not exactly something you want your generation to be known for. As for me, I don’t want my language mutated by girls who think the mall is the Holy Grail and boys who haven’t grasped the concept of pants on ass – not under.

The most outrageous aspect of deliberate illiteracy is that the perpetrators don’t seem to mind other’s perception of their lack of intelligence. Take me, for example: I’m terrible at advanced math. I never advanced past algebra. Maybe you’re bad at science or history or art. We all have areas where we never excelled, and that’s fine. It’s totally normal, in fact. But when you show intentional and flagrant disregard for the written word, you’re making a statement, and it’s not the statement you want to be making. Here’s the thing: if I can write and speak well, no one’s ever going to know that I bombed algebra. No one’s going to know that I wasn’t a history buff. No one’s going to know that I thought beige paint was more exciting than science. No one will know because we don’t use these areas of academia in our every day lives, with every person, and in every bit of correspondence. You know what we do use, though? We use our voices and our writing. We speak and write every day, and it is the one and only indicator of our level of intelligence. Unless you’re walking around with an idiot sign on your face and pants below your ass, until you speak or write, not too many assumptions can be made about you. But then the clouds part and light shines on marble head. You open your mouth and speak, you open your computer and construct an email, and now we know what box to put you in and what to scribble on the side of it with a big, fat Sharpie. Will it be “stupid” or “intelligent”? That’s up to you. But make no mistake—we will put you in that box. Cool thing is, there’s a way out of the box you’re in, provided you don’t like it.

We fill out applications; we utilize our writing skills. We make resumes; we utilize our writing skills. Emails; writing skills. Texting; writing skills. Blogging; writing skills. Tweeting; writing skills. Interviews; verbal skills. Telephone conversations; verbal skills. Meetings; verbal skills. Every day dialogue; verbal skills. You see, we utilize the English language every day of our lives, and it’s one of the most powerful representations of ourselves. In fact, you can fail in all other areas, but if you excel in English/writing, you hold the power to achieve greatness, and all without anyone being the wiser. Just don’t try to become a rocket scientist, because you’d probably suck really bad, and no one wants to wear the “Suckiest Rocket Scientist” shirt.

I’m not judging or making jokes at the expense of the truly illiterate. There are those poor souls who suffer from learning disabilities, there are victims of terrible school systems, and there are those whom, no matter how hard they try, will never excel as writers or public speakers, because maybe they excel at something else. What I am referring to are the able minded fools who toss their privileges to the swine, opting for illiteracy. The ones who hold strong to the idea that education is for the weak, nerdy, unpopular kids. If you’ve got a brain and if you’ve been blessed with the ability, do yourself and your fellow-man a favor and pick up a book, take a class, read online. Do whatever you must, but please learn how to formulate a coherent sentence. And for the love of all that’s holy, learn the most simplistic middle school curriculum. ‘Their’ and ‘there’ are not the same. ‘Too’ and ‘to’ are not the same. Learn what an apostrophe is for and how to use it. Try to grasp commas. At the end of a trailing sentence, three dots will do — not seven, or nine, or twelve. And never, ever use texting techniques in your writing, because it’s not simplistic. It’s stupid, overrated, and it breeds laziness. Unless you want to shovel fries for a living, take one small step now to improve yourself, you little reading rainbow, you.

© 2013 Sloane Kady

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3 thoughts on “Land Of The Free and The Home Of The Illiterate…

  1. I believe you covered it rather well. As a society we have given over to technology as a replacement for the language skills necessary to maintain said language. This trend is focused mainly among the younger populous, whereupon they are replacing standard English for subset language of phone icon character speak. This isn’t much different than other disenfranchised groups of society who tend to develope their own language-speak. This says to me that these groups feel that the social body no longer represents them or their world view, so they create their own language to represent their world view, on top of the delicious desert of tweaking the system and the old folks that propogate it. Expected adolescent behavior. Robert Bly’s book “The Sibling Society” is a wonderful read on this phenomena.

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