Language


As a semi-professional writer—I get paid to write stuff I don’t care about and can’t make a living writing what I love—I have amassed some solid skills:  a decent ability to bring much needed snark when it’s needed (3/4 of the time it’s needed ALL the time), amazing propensity for listicles (it’s like a list, but its an article), and an absolute love affair with parenthesis (I’ve got nothing).  But I also have a shameful secret.  Something dark and hidden within my very soul—I can’t spell worth a damn.

Recently, I was writing a thank you note to a friend.  It was in pen on personalized stationery—because I’m a classy guy.  I was writing a sentence in which I thanked the recipient for picking where to eat.  After I’d finished, I noticed that something was off.  I had spelled restaurant with only one “a”.  I then had to rewrite the letter, checking each word in the dictionary before I committed it ink.  Later, I was working on an article that was close to being past its deadline, when I noticed a simple typo yet no red squiggly line underneath it.  Somehow the spell check in Word had been turned off and after I activated it, my draft became a lit in red squiggles highlighting each and every mistake.  “Oh man,” I said, “I can’t spell worth a damn.”

Now, whenever something tragic like this comes out, there is always the search for who is responsible.   How could someone make it through grade school, high school, college, and graduate school and not be able to spell the word “restaurant” off the top of his? Who is to blame for this?

You know who’s at fault?  Modern technology.  If there’s was no spell checker in word processing programs and web browsers (including that blessed autocorrect that somehow managed to know by writing  “collegue” I meant “colleague”) I would have learned to do it on my own.  And I’m not the only one.  The Internet is littered with evidence of people who suffer from similar intellectual deficiencies, either posting a Facebook status message or writing a sign.  Could it be that having spell check, like when an overuse of antibiotics creates a stronger drug-resistant bacteria, is too much of a good thing?

It’s not that I don’t appreciate spell check (oh, I do), I just wish that having it around didn’t mean when I write something it looks like it as written by a dyslexic 10-year-old.  But what can I do? Spend my free time reading the dictionary and going through flashcards for SAT vocab words?  I’m twenty-six, I think it may be a little too late to learn how to spell “onomatopoeia” without having to look it up through Google.  I think my only course of action is to double check everything though the computer and just be thankful that I’m not so bad that I use texting abbreviations.  K, Thx.

[Pic via]

Can't sleep, clown will eat me.

Can't sleep, clown will eat me.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been having trouble sleeping.  This is nothing new, I’ve had periodic insomnia for years .  If you’re one of those people who have no problems falling sleeping (and I hate you),  you maybe unaware that one of the more fun aspects of it is  your mind running completely off the rails, making leaps and bounds in logic and constantly segueing between self-doubt and fear.  I think it has something to do with lying in the dark, like when you were a kid and heard monsters in the closet.  Only now, they’re in your head.  Anyway, last night I decided to keep a notepad by the bed and record exactly what I was thinking and feeling, keeping note of the ever slipping time.  Today, I transcribed it.  Enjoy:

12:15 AM: I’m probably dying of something.  Cancer, it’s probably cancer.  I smoked for over five years, so it’s probably lung cancer.  I think I have to cough.  I’ll probably cough up blood. [A half-hearted attempt to cough that sounds like a dog panting].  I probably have Lupus.  If I get really sick and have to spend days in the hospital getting treatment, do I still get paid?

12:30 AM: I wonder who would come to my funeral. [Insert long rambling narcissistic imagining of my own funeral/wake that I will save you from having to read.]

1:25 AM: God, I hate my job…God, I’m such an ass for taking my job for granted.  I know so many people who’ve been laid off.  Though, they all seem so much happier than me.  Oh man, if I got laid off, I’d be so happy.  I’d collect unemployment and write all day.  Maybe I could even move back in with my parents, that’d be sweet.  I wouldn’t have to pay rent, or buy groceries, and they have a Wii and premium cable.

1:57 AM: I distinctly remember when I was eight or nine and I was sitting at the kitchen table, writing out my English homework.  I looked up and asked my mother if I’d correctly spelled “friend.” To which she replied “I before E, except after C or when it sounds like A, as in ‘neighbor’ and ‘weigh.’

2:10 AM: I wish was more like Dr. House/James Bond/Spider-man at least when they have purpose.  I mean it’s pretty simple—as along you save the day you can pretty much do what you want. Cure patients that no one else can, you get to be an ass.  Fight villains bent on world domination, you get to be a man whore.  Fight cartoonish super villains, you get to be awesome.  Maybe I just need a marketable skill that I can argue saves the day?

2:40 AM: When I was a kid I thought my life would be filled with opportunities to say melodramatic phrases from TV and movies, like “We’ll probably never meet again.” Grown up, I’m a little heartbroken that I’ll never get to say “That’s just crazy enough to work.”

3:30 AM: Words that feature I after E without C and don’t sound like A: Weird, their, being, either, feisty, foreign, albeit, forfeit atheist, and reimburse.

3:42 AM: Words that feature I before E after C: Ancient, science, conscience, efficient, omniscient, concierge, prescient, society, efficient, and sufficient.

4:00 AM: My mom was wrong?

4:17 AM: What am I doing with my life? I should have accomplished something noteworthy by now…I really want a cigarette.

[This is about where I briefly fall asleep and have my most reoccurring nightmare that’s basically a zombie movie.]

4:28 AM:I wake up screaming “Get away from me, Zombies!”

5:00 AM: If I travel back in time and kill my father before I was born, then I would cease to exist.  But if I cease to exist, then I wouldn’t travel back in time and my father wouldn’t die and thus I would be born and then still kill my father and thus not exist. And so on, and so on.  I’m pretty sure that this could destroy the universe, but I would need a time machine to be sure.

5:30-6:30 AM: I go over the plot of the new Star Trek movie which I saw the night before and concentrate on how awesome it was.

6:45 AM: If there was a real Star Fleet Academy, I’d totally join.

7:00 AM: [Alarm goes off.]  I hate my life.

A Douche Bag I am.

A Douche Bag I am.

[Editors Note: This essay is based solely on the Star Wars films, excluding last summer’s animated Clone Wars feature.  Please do not e-mail me with observations or evidence found in comic books or continued novelizations. I’m a nerd, but Jesus even I have my limits.]

So recently I was running the entire Star Wars movie plot lines through my mind (I often do this when I’m on the subway and I’ve finished whatever I’m reading and there’s still a bit of time left in my commute).  And I realized something: Yoda is a total douche bag.

Never mind that when Luke (and the audience) first meets him in Empire Strikes Back, Yoda pretends to be just some random annoying alien instead of…well Yoda. Or that when Luke realizes his friends are in trouble and wants to rush off to save them, the Jedi master discourages him (Adventure? Excitement? Loyalty to friends and allies? A Jedi craves not these things) or even volunteer to tag along and help.  Forget that he tries to dodge Luke’s questions about Darth Vader being his father or that he never even bothers to tell Luke that Leia is his sister (though there is the definite risk of accidental incest).  Completely forget his behavior in the prequels: like scarring the hell out of a little kid whom he suspects will turn to the dark side because of “fear,” taunting that same child as an adult for being on the Jedi counsel but not recognized as a master, and then ordering two newborn twins (Luke and Leia) be separated and raised apart.  No, the reason Yoda is a douche bag is his total disrespect for English grammar.

Look, I get why Lucas wrote Yoda’s dialogue the way he did.  It implies a sense of otherness while making him appealing to the kiddies.  With Yoda’s success has a memorable character among fans it’s understandable that Lucas would want to try to repeat it with Jar-Jar Binks.   For Jar-Jar, the inability to form a proper English sentence at least makes sense because he’s an annoying moron.  But when you take the character of Yoda fully into account along with the fictional Star Wars Universe, it doesn’t add up  You’re telling me that a creature with seemingly omnipotent powers allowing him to kick ass via light saber fights, lift spacecrafts with his mind, and live on past death as a ghost/spirit can’t master the simple concept of subject-verb-object word order?

That’s when it hit me: the reason Yoda doesn’t speak grammatically proper English is because it’s the language of humanity and by not even bothering to learn or implement its basic rules he shows his passive aggressive contempt for the species.  “But why would Yoda hate humans?” You ask. Well, who wouldn’t be pissed at humanity?  What with their Galactic Empires and Death Stars. And although the motivation is understandable, the end result of Yoda’s shattered English makes him a douche bag.

So I was planning to a post an essay I’m working on about Yoda (I am a bit of Star Wars geek) and how his constant inability to use proper grammar, despite his practically omnipotent Jedi powers, is an obvious insult and a sign of his contempt for humanity. It’s going to be great. My working title is “Yoda is a D-Bag (the D is short for “Douche).” Yeah, I know. Awesome, right? Unfortunately that will not be appearing today.

Instead, I have breaking news out of New York, specifically Mid-Town,  that will affect the rest of the world. The modern colloquial term “Cougar,” defined by the Urban Dictionary as “Noun. A 35+ year old female who is on the ‘hunt’ for a much younger, energetic, willing-to-do-anything male,” is now officially done. Obsolete. Jumped the Shark. Dead.  The reason? This:

cougar

Please bury the phrase in the same dark pit of your soul in which “Bling-Bling,” “Talk to the hand,” and Yo Mama jokes are now kept. Thank you, that is all.