watch your language! (or don't)

Subject: watch your language! (or don't)
From: "diotima" <diotima -at- myway -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 30 Apr 2005 01:31:42 -0400 (EDT)


do writers and editors on this list ever feel pressure to speak "correctly" at all times when at work? in other words, do you feel any kind of pressure to always speak in grammatically correct sentences simply because of the fact that you are the writer or editor in the company? do you ever have a nagging awareness that your english is being judged even while you're just having an everyday conversation with coworkers? (to say nothing about your company email messages!)

i love language and languages and what we can do with them. not just that we can use our language skills to solve problems and get paid for it, but that we can play with language, break the rules, achieve delicious ironies, be utterly spontaneous, inhabit the worlds we create with language and visit the worlds that others create with language. really!

last week a professor friend of mine who speaks english as a second language was telling me about how self-conscious she is about how she speaks and how she knows she's constantly judged by it. (she happens to be brilliant and fluent english.) then today i happened to have a related incident.

i'm talking to a guy at work, and i say something like, "me and so-and-so need to get together to bla bla." and the guy laughs and shakes his head. i know the guy well enough that i'm thinking, oh god, please don't tell me this guy is laughing and shaking his head because i said "me and so-and-so" instead of "so-and-so and i." so i say, "what are you laughing at?" and he says, "you're our editor for pete's sake..."

instantly my heart-rate triples. "you're laughing because i said me and so-and-so instead of so-and-so and i?????" he winces and shakes his head, and now i'm so irritated and frustrated that i hardly know what to say or where to begin. i don't even remember what i said at that point. something about not being a grammar snob and bla bla. but really, there is nothing i can say to explain all that i feel about language (and the politics of language!) to someone who will never understand.

one would probably never guess from my email or oral conversation alone that i was a writer and editor who knows full-well all the rules of grammar and all that la-de-da. and i'm FINE with that! i happen to be a bit beyond the age where saying, "like, dude!" would be a complete non-issue, but guess what, dude, like sometimes i just talk like that and enjoy it and stuff, it's language, it's rich, it's ironic, it's fun, so like deal with it and stuff.

ahem, i probably should not have had that glass of wine before writing this, but my question is, do you ever run into these expectations that you are supposed to speak, even in casual conversation, with the same "correctness" as in your documentation?

for those of you who have never done it before, try intentionally sticking a grammatical error in your response. seriously. enjoy it. love it. embrace it. do it once in a while where it simply won't matter and i'm sure it will be a good thing for you. be alive. be free. use a word that your 13 year old daughter uses. say something grammatically wrong and enjoy it. i bet your sex life will improve because of it. maybe.

sigh. i need to watch a movie.


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