But I also think it doesn't take a whole lot more effort to kinda realize that that is a choice; by which I mean, I'm kinda familiar with most of the rudimentary rules, formal and otherwise, that govern "correct" writing; I'm just not particularly interested in following them when I write, and, in some cases, I'm interested in actively subverting them3.
I want to make it clear that I didn't find this "challenge" (which is perhaps not the best word for it) to be irksome or mean-spirited or dickish, because it wasn't. So consider this a tone check; because I realize that some of what I said above and will say below may come across as peevish and petty, but it's not meant to be. In fact, even though I responded to the comment "challenging" (would "questioning" sound better?) my grammar — more than once, in fact; the second time at great length, though that second comment was nothing compared to the graphomania on display in this post — nitpicking grammar and grammatical one-upmanship are of little interest to me.
Don't get me wrong: I've done that, because, let's be honest here, I'm a dick. But it's precisely because I've done it that I consider it pointless and counter-productive and, often, self-kertwanging. Because back when Mr. Vanilly was still blogging, I was a regular reader of his blog and I enjoyed his sense of humor immensely and I liked the fact that he actively encouraged people to mock him in their comments. He also has a penchant for employing comma splices in his writing, which I found to be one of the distinctive, and frankly endearing, aspects of his writing style. But in a comment on one of his posts, I mocked his use of a comma splice; except I, inept typist that I be, wrote "comma slice", so, um, who looks like the idiot now, huh? And Mr. Vanilly himself wrote saying, essentially, "Glaven, I know I'm not the most grammatical writer in the world, but I have to confess I have no idea what a 'comma slice' is" (which is understandable because there's no such thing); and then one of his other commenters pointed out, Hey idiot (meaning me), it's comma splice and when you presume to throw stones you should at least move out of your own glass house because here comes a brick.
And both of these reactions were totally justified, I thought, because in rereading my comment, it really did come across as pedantic and dickish and mean-spirited, not to mention outright wrong because what the fuck is a comma slice?
And so after all of this I basically apologized in a second comment because I got the feeling that I had, for lack of a better phrase, kinda hurt Vanilla's feelings and had done so in the most dickish way imaginable because I "criticized" an aspect of his style that I actually enjoyed and I was worried that if he ever found out what a comma splice was he'd stop using them, which would be a loss for all. (He has since stopped blogging altogether; I am still kinda worried that this may have been some delayed reaction to my comma-slice kertwang, although I kinda doubt that my kertwangs have that kinda power. He also said, in a comment on my blog, that he had not been offended by what I wrote, which kinda scanned, because, thanks to my fumble fingers, I'm the one who ended up being bitten in the @$$ most severely by that ill-considered comment.)
Second tone check: It is not my intent to suggest that the interchange I had at this other blog — the one I refer to in the opening sentence of this post — is in any way analogous to the one I just described above that happened at half-fast.org, with the other person cast in the role of Dickish Glaven this time. Far from it, in fact.
That exchange merely got me started in to thinking about what it is I'm actually interested in when it comes to language and how it is employed. And hence to this post, with which I am currently boring all, what, two of you who have read this far? (I include myself in that estimation, and I still think it may be a bit high.)
And I think what I'm interested in is people's linguistic idiosyncrasies. I don't always like them, and God knows I myself have more than my share of them, but I think it is almost more interesting how people say what they say than what they say. (Sometimes though? Neither is particularly interesting.)
For example, one of my favorite bloggers is an Ultra-marathoner and a bit of a Science Geek. Now, anybody who reads this blog knows I have zero interest in running a marathon, much less an ultra; and I am simply not smart enough to understand the science-y stuff he writes.
But here's the thing: When he writes that science-y stuff, he does so in a non-condescending way, the assumption behind which, evidently, is You Are Capable of Understanding This Without My Having To Insult Your Intelligence By Writing It In The Fucktarded Style of A Sesame Street Segment. In my particular case, he is wrong in this assumption, but I appreciate the faith in me as a reader that it presupposes. It makes me want to try to understand4.
And I realize that what I write here can get kinda hobby-horsical and sometimes presupposes a certain level of familiarity with topics that not everyone is familiar with or even interested in.
But I intend that as an expression of faith in the ability of the two of you who have managed to read this far.
This morning's run: 5.94 miles in 56 minutes; 9:24 pace. Yesterday's run 6.45 miles in 1 hour and 1 minute; 9:30 pace.
1 Despite how it may look, I actually do put some (though not much) thought into not just the word choices I make, but also the syntax, diction, etc., of my sentences. Of course a lot of that is done with such a low level of cogitation that it barely qualifies as conscious thought. Other times, it is more deliberate; e.g., vis-à-vis the first sentence of this post, above: I originally wrote it thus: I recently had the grammar of a word choice I made in a comment at another blog challenged ... at which point I stopped and looked at the structure of that sentence and decided it had to be recast, not merely because it was in the passive voice (and there's nothing inherently wrong with that), but because there were a full twelve words between the word "grammar" and the adjective describing what had happened to that noun, i.e., that it had been challenged. That's pretty attenuated for an opening sentence; that sentence structure would have passed muster in my mind if it had occurred in a less "important" (however you wish to define "important" here, and I say that in full recognition of the fact that there are some who read this blog who would define it in this instance as "not important at all" and I assume those people have stopped reading this post by now) sentence; like, for instance, this one, where I had no problem jamming a 49-word parenthetical statement between the adjective "'important'" and the noun it modifies — "sentence".
There were other, lesser issues that I considered, as well, when rejecting the original formulation of that opening sentence, but I won't bore you by enumerating them ... or perhaps I should say, "I won't bore you further ..." since, if you are not fully bored by now, Dear Reader, it may be time to visit your family doctor and have your boredom-tolerance gland tweaked with sweet, sweet drugs.
Incidentally, there are problems with the sentence I ultimately went with up there; there always are1a; there always will be, no matter what grammatical choices you make. If you effectively make your point but your grammar is "incorrect", someone may well nitpick your grammar; if your sentence is grammatically impeccable (assuming for the nonce that such a thing is possible) but impenetrably obtuse and difficult to parse, someone will, rightly, criticize you for that.
I myself have more sympathy for the latter criticism since I think if you are managing to get your point across reasonably well then, in most cases, who gives a flying farg about your grammar? The point of language, in this view, being to communicate effectively.
The greatest sin of all is to be boring. But that — what's boring, what's not — is so hopelessly subjective that it seems hardly worth bringing up (he said after bringing it up). But I bring it up because I think there is a distinction between being "boring" or "ineffective" and being "challenging"; some things are worth the effort and are even more rewarding because they're hard1b. But then again, what is and isn't is entirely subjective.
1a Or should that be "There always is"? (This is an inside joke that you couldn't possibly get unless you read the original exchange to which I am referring in this post.)
A second barrier to your "getting" this joke? It's not funny. Not even if you read that original exchange.
1b THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!1! (I made this interjection its own footnote-within-a-footnote, forcing you to come waaaaay down here to read it, to give you an example of something that is definitely NOT worth the effort. Sorry. But now you really get my point on the whole worth-it/not-worth-it dichotomy.)
2 It is in fact not that much of a priority to me in just about all of the writing I do these daze, but how the fuck would all of you avatars know that?
I mean, how aside from reading this footnote and finding out. So from now on, don't go saying you didn't know.
3 Case in point: the footnotes, which I gather most people hate and which may well be one of the principal reasons I am down to a core readership of roughly seven people, presumably the seven most masochistic people in a Running Blogosphere full of bizarrely self-punishing and masochistic individuals. (You people have issues, but as a blogger, I'm glad that you do. And no worries: Today, as with all days, You Shall Have Your Linguistic Discipline. In fact, you're soaking in it.) It may seem weird and self-important to put it this way, but it seems most things that people assert as truth
But the footnotes are intended to serve as my acknowledgment that explanations other than the ones I offer are available.
Also? I use footnotes for extraneous fart jokes that I couldn't find a way to cram into the main text3a.
3a See that? How I subverted myself there?
4 Yeah, and how's that going for you, Glaven?