Out Of The Past 4

Stopping The Rot

August 12, 2008
7:55 AM CDT

Finally, someone has taken a stand:

A judge flew into a rage in court yesterday after being presented with a charge sheet littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

In an extraordinary outburst at the Old Bailey, Judge David Paget bemoaned declining standards of written English and branded a bureaucrat from the Crown Prosecution Service an ‘illiterate idiot’.

In the papers, the official had consistently misspelt the word ‘grievous’, four times accusing the defendant of ‘greivous bodily harm’.

The judge also slammed the bureaucrat for stating that the defendant had used an offensive weapon, ‘namely axe,’ instead of ‘namely an axe’.

After reading the charge sheet the judge threw the papers down on to the bench in disgust and fumed: ‘It’s quite disgraceful. This is supposed to be a centre of excellence. To have an indictment drawn up by some illiterate idiot is not good enough.’

That noise you hear in the background is thunderous applause from the Literate Nation.

I am so sick of seeing misspellings in public documents (to say nothing of in newspaper articles). And for those who would substitute the stupidity of “alternative spelling”, allow me to castigate them as fucking morons.

I don’t mind the occasional misstep, especially in a live format like blogs or comments thereto. What I detest is repetitive misspelling—because to me, that indicates a drift towards illiteracy. And I don’t excuse “their” for “there” (and vice-versa), “your” for “you’re” (ditto), or any of the onomatopoeic blunders which bedevil the English language.

I am especially harsh when people refuse to use basic spellchecking software when they have it available.

Words are important. Spelling is important: it’s a basic tenet of communication that the people doing the communicating have a common method of discourse—did I say “basic tenet”? I meant axiomatic.

Spelling is the first building block—some would say the foundation—of shared language. To litter the place with “alternatives” at best slows the communication process down (like trying to decipher “cn i haz yr tlno?”), and at worst it undermines the language itself.

And don’t give me that shit about how English is a “fluid” language or any of that jive. I have no problem with introducing a new word to the English language, especially when an equivalent is non-existent; but if a perfectly decent descriptive word already exists, why clutter the language with a bunch of “near-spellings” which serve only to confuse, and render the lazy the equivalent of the diligent?

Gah.

16 comments

  1. There is no stopping the “rot”, which is found now in all the tiniest of corridors of human interaction, which will continue to decline until such time as the violaters are removed from the planet. You don’t have to look hard, it will find you. I long for a time….

    1. …a time for when one may flog such miscreants with a cane without fear of legal retribution?

      Me too.

      And I think “M’Lud” in the above article longs for that day too.

    2. There’s also the little thing how you define things. With language it’s not that hard, but other interactions…
      There’s so many people wanting to police “morals” and “ethics” that all have often contradictory ideas of what those should be, and all exclusively going from externalities.
      Wanting to ban “revealing clothing” because it makes women “immoral”, which is complete BS of course as morality is defined by one’s actions, not one’s looks.
      I’ve seen nude people at a naturist resort or beach behave a lot more moral than the people claiming that all nudists are immoral who are wearing 3-4 layers of clothing and only have their hands and face showing for example.
      I could walk the streets naked (were it legal) and be more moral than the person berating me for that who goes home and jerks off on child porn (just an example).

      1. Well, when you frame it narrowly like that, sure.
        Know how I deal with other people’s idea of what morals should be? By being around them, or not. If, for example, you came prancing around on the road in front of my house sans garments (legal or not) I’m probably not going to invite you in for a cold beverage. I might, however, garb a 12ga and decide to do some target practice. I mostly allow other people to make fools of themselves without my assistance.

  2. The Rot encroaches, apace. To wit, “Txt Speak” is even showing up in actual resumes and online job applications. Emoticons, included.

    Amusing to think of the advantages you’ve instilled in your three kids, when comparing them with their peers in the “modern world”. Any of them could write a management report, head and shoulders above the illiterate herd. They’ll stand out like bright beacons in the darkness.

    Oh, and if you’re still in New England. In Boston, try Davios Restaurant. https://davios.com/bos

    Obscenely delicious. My former boss’ son owns the joint, and his culinary training and accomplishments are just out of this world. Another Shining Beacon, if you will.

    Bon Apetit!

    Jim
    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

    1. Just looked at the lunch menu and this caught my eye:

      Roasted Turkey Club, Bacon, Beefsteak Tomatoes, Bibb, Aioli, Harvest Bread

      Sounds tasty, un-heavy, especially the Harvest Bread part.
      No prices.
      With a side of potato salad and a glass of tea I’d expect to pay $15 to $20.

  3. You should have heard His Honor Irving Kaufman on the topic of the murder of the English language: by lawyers, no less.

  4. Not just “alternative spellings”, but people who are trying to sound more intelligent than they really are by using words they’ve heard but don’t quite grasp. For example, to use a sentence from your article, I’ve seen people write “basic tenant of communication”. It gripes me, truly it does.

    1. Me too. Add to that the frequent written press abuse of intact; e.g., “After a harrowing trip, he arrived late but in tact.”
      What’s that mean – that he apologized nicely for being late?

  5. re:
    spelling and grammar assistance

    I, like so many others, rely on spellchuck.
    It helps in my work as a Perfessional Edtior (I that hope came out right).

  6. IANAL, but I work in a law office, in litigation. If one of our attorneys were to submit something to the court with a single misspelling in 20 pages, that attorney would be having serious, “come to Jesus” discussions with partners in the firm concerning their future at the law firm.

    There is no excuse. None. The machine checks the spelling for you.

    A spelling error indicates carelessness. Multiple spelling errors indicates either stupidity (a widespread problem in law, especially on the public side) or a reckless disregard for your work product.

    It isn’t a text message. It’s not a comment on a blog. It’s a court filing that you have drafted, revised, presumably sent for some sort of approval and editing, and then submitted to the court, for the purpose of removing someone’s liberty by force. People are going to be going to jail over that file.

    You can fucking well spend the time to make it right.

  7. The power of attorney paperwork the lawyer my dad went to produced had some pretty obvious grammatical errors, but no misspelled words. I was surprised, honestly; I expected better then that, given the stature of the job. Come to find out later that she is a part time judge, as well.

    My own personal pet peeve is when someone says “I feel” when expressing a thought. No, you grammatical cretin, “I feel” is for feelings, “I think” is for thoughts.

  8. For me, gratuitous apostrophes are particularly grating, but then, I also object to what I refer to as “Spellcheck spelling.” Spellcheck is fine, so long as you know when it didn’t work. My view on spelling is that it is the way a writer unlocks the concepts in the mind of his audience. Misspellings and using the wrong word are like badly made keys, that one has to jiggle in the lock before one can unlock and understand what the writer is trying to say.

    1. What’s the worst are people who shrug off spelling errors with “well, I can use spellcheck.”

      DO SO, then.

  9. I subscribe to a version of the late Michael Crichton’s Gel-Mann Amnesia Theorem on spelling and grammar; if the writer screwed up on spelling or word choice – Roy’s (above) “lose” and “loose,” the ubiquitous “greengrocer’s apostrophe,” the familiar “your” for “you’re,” and ending a sentence with “at,” all of which are granted the spellcheck engine seal of approval, I assume he or she has made similar errors in content and accuracy of the entire document and is deserving of my complete distrust.

    I had the misfortune of growing up with an attorney, one who specialized in contracts, and I and my siblings suffered from an early age the mandatory excision of vague and imprecise language. No opportunity was foregone to stress the importance of proper word choice; “words mean things, specific words mean specific things, so choose the right one, use it correctly, supported by proper grammar. Otherwise it will be impossible to know what you mean” perpetually hung in the air over the dinner table.

    Turns out Purgatory may have a purpose after all.

    I’ve thrown books across the room and never picked up another from that author for identifiable egregious errors in content, the most common being “safety catch on his revolver” or “clip” when it should be “magazine,” blatant disregard for the laws of physics or industrial-strength geographic ignorance. Maps have been published for centuries, Mssrs. Webster and Roget completed their work long ago, and now, nearly the entire compendium of human knowledge – including spelling, grammar and geography, all with examples – is as close as one’s pocket and instantly searchable. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, lowering one’s IQ to single digits quite another.

    Such incompetence is often excused as the work of technically ignorant editors at the publisher, but, first, the author’s name is on the cover and as such he or she owns the content, lock, stock and barrel, and, second, why is a technically ignorant editor allowed anywhere near such a book, much less employed in the publishing industry?

    I’ve seen, and dealt with, the education industry’s effluvia, so no salvation is expected from that quarter; the wardens are as bad as the inmates, frequently worse. I wish there were the prospect of positive development but, alas, the decline seems both permanent and steepening.

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