Monday, February 5, 2007

Grammar, Spelling, and the Internet

You could write a book about this, but for me it will just be a paragraph or three. May I just say that I absolutely adore the way the internet embraces and codifies crappy grammar and misspelling? For all its glorious YouTubishness the web remains, for me, mostly a text medium, one that can proliferate an amusing mistake all over the world in a matter of hours, and gather it up into the shaggy, loving arms of its accepted lexicon. The rallying cry of this new world of intentional awkwardness must certainly be "All your base are belong to us," a poorly-translated-from-Japanese phrase discovered in a 1989 videogame called Zero Wing. It's perfect in its earnest near-meaningfulness, and earnest near-meaningfulness is what the internet is all about.

Take, for instance, the typo teh, which never ceases to amuse me; there's a whole freaking Wikipedia page about it (see link), which contains this glorious bit of dorkitude:

Furthermore, teh is sometimes used in front of a verb in a novel form of gerund. The best-known example of this is the word "suck". Thus, the phrase "this sucks" can be converted into "this is teh suck"; the word pwn can be similarly converted (teh pwn). The latter phrase is primarily used by the computer gaming community, and often intended humorously.

Aren't you glad you live in the kind of world where that paragraph can come into being? I think my current favorite use for intentionally-awkward internet slang are these little jpegs you see here and there that feature a cute kitten surrounded by boldface-courier type that reads "Is this teh intrawebs?" or "I made you a cookie, but I eated it." These images, friends, are the "Hang in there, baby!" of our generation.

Of course having a retard for a President only fuels this movement; Bush has given us "the Google" and "the internets," but I'm a little less comfortable using these malapropisms, as I strongly suspect that they aren't really mistakes, but coded messages to the base, assuring them that their Fearless Leader is still a down-home country boy and not some Frenchified in-touch-with-the-culture liberal. But this is Ward Six, not DailyKos, so I'll shut it.


Mr. Inertia said...

I have seen "teh" used as an adverb also, as in "OMFG, this blog is teh awesome!"

liz said...

I've had the exact same thought about the future generation of kitten posters. I'm currently endeavoring to enter the teaching profession, and while "hang in there, baby" will still have a place in my future classroom (for purely S&M purposes), I hope to deck the rest of my halls with the proverbial fruits of the internet's typographically-challenged love-children. .

On another note (in case you actually read this message), I shared your "Eight Pieces for the Left Hand" with a group of students (17-18 years old from Your Average Town, Wisconsin) to rave reviews. I've tried to bring in examples of things that I've enjoyed reading in an attempt to show that "contemporary American literature" doesn't dramatically end in the mid-1970s (when the text book was published). Your stories, however, received the highest praise.

I've always wondered how "real writers" feel about their work being used in the classroom. I'm sure it would be somewhat demoralizing to see the graphic organizer that I drew on MS Paint...but the students really enjoyed discussing your stories. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is thank you for writing what you did. And, if you'd ever like to say hello to the students at Central High School in La Crosse, Wisconsin, I would be more than happy to relay that message.


Liz Davison

jrlennon said...

Interia, you should be proud to be the only W6 commenter with an avatar. teh g33k!

And yeah, I think it's great when people bring my stuff into the classroom--I always disappoint the students who email me about it, though, wanting the definitive answer on something. Usually the stuff they want an explanation for has no explanation, such as why I chose a particular characteristic for somebody, or why I chose someone's name. I think students (of any level, including PhD's--especially PhD's) powerfully want to believe in everything being done for a reason...and artists powerfully want to believe in serendipity.

Anyway, yes, tell them hi, and hail Wisconsin! I lived in Madison for six months, if that means anything.