Word.

Books and language have always been a huge part of my life and development. My mother read me bedtime stories, and on her days off we’d pass the afternoon with our noses in a book, sprawled out on her embroidered white comforter. When I got older, I grew increasingly more interested in etymology, and interest that flourished alongside my vocabulary.

And naturally, as any bookworm can tell you, I caught a lot of shit growing up for actually liking literature and for using “big” words.

The hope was that once I reached adulthood, everyone else would too, and the criticism and judgment would stop. Except it doesn’t.

A friend of mine used some word or another in front of her husband’s friend and was immediately met with disdain – “ooo, I guess someone went to college.” Really? My friend did, in fact, go to college, but I don’t see how that’s a requirement for not sounding like a complete fucking imbecile. I know plenty of educated, articulate individuals who have never stepped foot on a university campus – and I know even more who have, but still couldn’t diagram a goddamn sentence even with an instruction manual.

But I don’t feel that it’s remotely justified to call someone with an extensive vocabulary pretentious, or a show-off, or a snob. Why wouldn’t you want to know a million different ways to say beautiful, or funny, or kind? Or to say sad, happy, excited? There are so many things in the world, things to see and to experience – why wouldn’t you want to give yourself every opportunity to describe these things with as much detail as possible? Every time you speak to someone, you’re telling them a small piece of the story of your life. Every word you say is being converted in to an image – give that image some depth, for Chrissake.

If you do love the wonderful world of words, then you probably feel equal annoyance at people who take them too seriously, who take their passion language and expression and cross that line that separates the well-spoken from the dick-headed.

People like this.

 

The Corrector

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Are you this guy? Well guess what – no one fucking likes you.

While that is my profile, I would never post something so gloriously misspelled – but I also don’t troll around my news feed, looking for grammar and spelling mistakes so I can attempt to humiliate someone. Besides, if you EVER make a mistake, even if it’s just a typo, you’ve pretty much just douched yourself in to a corner.

The Overdoer

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Stop using words the way desperate bitches use makeup – which is to say, excessively. We get it. You have a stellar command of the English language. You probably also have stellar command of your own genitals, since you’re the only person who’s touched them since you took Advanced English Lit in college five years ago.

The Maker-Upper

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Don’t assume that you’re always the smartest person in the room, and definitely don’t go making up words like you’re the fucking Mad Hatter of linguistics. Eventually you’ll get called out. And everyone will laugh.

On behalf of all of us who are tired of being called snobby, stuck up, pretentious, or haughty just because we don’t walk around grunting and pointing like cavemen – please stop acting like a shit. You’re making it worse.

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I Don’t Give A Shit That You Give A Shit That I Don’t Give A Shit

Would you like to know a secret?

I don’t give a shit about The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones.

I’m so serious, ya’ll. I. Do not. Care.

I’ve tried watching both, and the entire time I was absolutely bored out of my mind. One is supposed to have zombies, right? Cuz it seems like a bunch of dirty people standing around having arguments while they hold their guns intimidatingly. WAIT HERE’S A HORDE OF ZOMBIES; SHOOT THEM! K, cool, they’re dead, let’s go back to fighting over who gets to eat this box of raisins.

And Game of Thrones? Right. Let’s just call it Game of Bones, since someone seems to be having sex with someone else (usually someone they aren’t supposed to) every thirty seconds. Tons of murder and whatnot, so I guess that’s interesting, but watching some waif’s meager bosom heave up and down is boring when I know full well I can just go to my room, look up pornhub.com on my phone, and shut the door.

Just so we’re clear: I am totally okay with the fact that these shows don’t interest me. So why does it bother everyone else?

Have you ever tried telling one of these die-hard fans you just aren’t in to a show? Or maybe you’re a total asshole like me and don’t even try to be diplomatic: “Yeah I’ve seen it, and it’s a steam pile of feces. Which is to say, I think that show sucks.”

OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS, THEY LOSE THEIR SHIT.

“How could you! How dare you! It is a work of art! It is brilliant! It is intriguing and fascinating and wonderful. It is written with ink made from unicorn love sauce sprinkled with glittery flakes of epic win!”

Or…it’s a fucking TV show. Get over yourselves. You want to talk to me about works of art? About brilliant? This is what I think is art.

 

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“Mrs. Cecil B. Wade” – John Singer Sargent

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Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

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Double-Double from In ‘N Out Burger. Don’t fucking judge me.

Stop assuming I just “haven’t given it a fair shot” or that I “just need to watch a few more episodes to get in to it.” It isn’t that I “don’t get it” (it’s fucking zombies and politics, not advanced calculus). It’s not that I am “too stuck up for TV”. 
I JUST DON’T GIVE A SHIT. AND THAT IS OKAY.
But here’s honestly what pisses me off the most about these people who are obsessed with these shows:
IT’S JUST A TELEVISION SHOW.
The Walking Dead was originally a graphic novel. Game of Thrones is a series of books. They are available for purchase at your local bookstore. Why the fuck don’t you just read them?
Like seriously, you’re throwing watch parties and going to conventions dressed up as these fictional characters, touting yourselves as fans and you haven’t even read the books? Did you people even know about this shit until it hit HBO and people started talking about it on Facebook? 
(For the record, a watch party for anything other than sporting events or a show/movie you have landed a role in is a stupid fucking idea. “Hey let’s invite a bunch of people over to eat snacks and watch an hour long show, but no one is allowed to speak or urinate or have an opinion until the credits roll.” Sounds like a blast. I love parties where I can’t socialize.)
WTF are you doing with your life if you actually have time to sit down and marathon a goddamn 60 minute show in the middle of the week? Do you not have outside where you are? Do you remember what the sun looks like? You just spent half your day streaming Netflix when you could have spent half the day on your patio, drinking a glass of iced tea, enjoying the weather, and reading the goddamn book.
I realize there are some people who don’t like to read, and that’s fine, I guess, but you can not be that person and be a total fucking snob about your “favorite show”. You’re not a die hard fan. You just like TV more than you should.
Now shut the fuck up, Big Bang Theory is on. 

Watch the World Learn

I’ve had this discussion with fellow parents before but have never actually put it in to writing. I was inspired to do so by a comment on my blog by ceruleanstarshine, who it seems has the same views as I do when it comes to children, vocabulary, and education.

To begin, let me just say that I hate baby talk. I have never used it with my girls, I have never used it with other children. Any time someone has used it with my children, or has spoken to them with that sort of dumb-downed language that one might use with a puppy, I have politely requested that they stop it and that they speak to them as they would any adult. Clearly, some topics are off-limits – we don’t discuss sex, or politics, and because I am an atheist, I try to avoid religion entirely. I have no interest in shattering their belief in fairy tales or wrecking their innocence by telling them there’s no Santa Claus. But, in most regards, the verbal exchanges with my 4-year-olds differ little from those I have with a 40-year-old.

It irks me to no end when someone points out that my child “doesn’t know what a word means.” Of course a preschooler doesn’t know the meaning of the word monotonous, or audacity, or pragmatic? Any guesses as to how they’d find out?

That’s right – you tell them. The four-year-old is an inquisitive creature; the strongest word in their arsenal is why, followed closely by what. As in, “What is monotonous?”; “What is audacity?”; “What is pragmatic?”. How difficult is it to give them a simple, articulate definition and then solidify the meaning by using the word in a proper context:

“Asking me if you can have a piece of candy ten times a day gets very monotonous.”

“You have a great deal of audacity, suggesting that I go to the bank and tell them to give me money to buy you candy.”

“It would not be very pragmatic for the bank to give out loans solely so that I can stock up on candy.”

The biggest mistake a parent can make is to speak to their child with the same vocabulary that the child uses. It limits them. Is your kid stupid? Of course not. There is no such thing as a stupid child; every child has the capacity to be a goddamned genius. So why would you talk to them as if they are anything less than brilliant? I’m not claiming to raise tiny little prodigies, but I’ve got a better shot at raising future Harvard grads simply because I do not assume that my girls are not smart enough to understand or curious enough to ask about that which they do not understand.

If your first grader is reading at a first grade reading level that is not, as far as I’m concerned, something to be proud of. You should want them to be ahead of the curve rather than fall in line with it, to exceed expectations instead of just meeting them.

Before my children turned four, they knew what gravity was. They can name the closest star to Earth, and they know that the sun is actually a star. They know the nearest galaxy is Andromeda and that the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy. They know what a black hole does, that there is one in the center of the Milky Way, and that they are formed when a star goes supernova. They know all this because Kyle and I were watching Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” and they happened to walk in the room. They asked us questions. And, rather than assume that physics was too far beyond the scope of their intellect, we answered them in a way that was both easy to comprehend and inspired them to ask us more.

So if you are the type of person who looks at people like me weird when I use polysyllabic words around my children, when I correct their grammar, or when I explain abstract concepts to them, I feel bad for you. But mostly, I feel bad that you don’t have the faith or confidence in your own offspring’s ability to learn. After all, school can only teach them so much – it’s up to you to fill in the gaps.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Don’t tell my kids this, but sometimes asking repeatedly for something does mean you’ll get it.

Faithful readers – and I am truly flattered there are 200 of you, when I barely expected 20! – you said you wanted me to read and review “50 Shades of Grey”, and who am I to deny the people what they want?

The eBook has been loaded to my phone and as soon as my wee ones are tucked in and dreaming of sugar, spice, and other assorted things I’m told are nice, I will begin my journey in to the land of what I’m assured is poorly written smut.

In the meantime, put on your thinking caps – I’m probably going to need suggestions for shitty book number three in about a week.

Everyone needs a hobby. Thanks to all of you for giving me a new one!

You CAN Fix Stupid

For the most part, my rather scathing review of “Twilight” received some pretty positive feedback but, as I expected, there were some people who voiced their dissent (and with only one or two exceptions, they did so respectfully and without resorting to name-calling and pettiness).

What concerns me is that many of the people who disagreed with me didn’t seem to disagree because they enjoyed the series – in fact, I actually got some “good job!” comments from people who did like “Twilight” but still found the review funny and, in some regards, accurate. Instead, the basis of their argument was that the novels were just “silly teen fluff” and that they were not supposed to be “intellectually stimulating” (mission accomplished). In one particular comment, the reader stated that some teenagers can’t read well, which somehow explains and excuses the sophomoric vocabulary.

I know it probably sounds like I’m about to launch in to another rant about Meyer’s sub-par work, but actually my focus for this post is the dangerously low expectations we have for the average American teenager.

Yes, I do concede that Meyer’s work was not written for people like you and me, who enjoy a more meaningful, challenging read. Yet the fact that it was written with the typical teenage girl in mind and that it wound up being so appealing to that age group (not to mention older women, many of which also have bookshelves full of Harlequin novels) makes me question just what in the hell we’re teaching these kids.

Of course it’s a good thing that a number of teenagers who previously had no interest in reading were compelled to start adding books to their library, even to start writing stories of their own. And perhaps there’s a good chance that as they grow older, they’ll branch out to different genres and expose themselves to works of a greater quality. After all, I read almost every single one of “The Babysitters Club” books by the time I was ten – but at 28-years-old, I’ve moved on to novels bigger and better than, say, “Sweet Valley High”. (Don’t act like you don’t remember “Sweet Valley High”, bitches. That was some racy shit for a 5th grader. You were titillated, and you know it.)

Reading is wonderful. I encourage reading. I am baffled by people who don’t enjoy reading, but I accept the fact that it’s not for everyone. I fucking despise algebra, and I bet that confuses the hell out of a mathematician. But goddamnit, if you’re going to read then read something worthwhile.

Being 16 is no excuse for being vapid. How many of you were 16 and reading things like Salinger, Fitzgerald, Dickens, O’Henry, Shakespeare, Poe? How many of you didn’t necessarily enjoy the classics but couldn’t seem to get enough Vonnegut, King, Sedaris, or Palahniuk?

Or, if reading wasn’t your thing, how many of you had a passion for physics or chemistry or calculus? How many of you were thrilled by discovering new things, learning new facts, exploring new subjects? How many of you took pride in being smart?

I did. I still do. Yet somewhere down the line, this fucked up society we live in has made us the freaks. We’re the weird ones, the exceptions, the ones destined to be outside of the box looking in. And we’re expected to applaud the majority for doing things that vaguely resemble academic pursuits.

When I was in elementary school, they gave out small trophies to the kids that had straight As in a little end-of-the-year ceremony. By third grade they stopped because they didn’t want to “discourage” the kids who hadn’t earned the trophy. Discourage?! If you want it, then earn it! Don’t punish the kids who do work hard to spare the feelings of those who don’t. And I’m not talking about the kids with learning disabilities, I’m talking about the ones who half-ass their way through all 12 years of school. You’re not encouraging them by refusing to set a bar – you’re reinforcing the idea that no matter how much or how little you work, you’ll get the same recognition.

It’s the same reason I take issue with giving kids money for getting good grades. You’re in school. You’re should be shooting for As and Bs. Now if your kid gets a D in English one semester and hikes it up to a B by the next, then sure – reward him. That’s impressive. But if you’re giving a child five bucks for every C, do you know what you’re really saying?

You’re saying average is okay. I don’t know about you, but every day I wake up with my children knowing god damn good and well they are strides ahead of average. And they’re better than average because I’ve spent the last four years explaining how gravity works, why the moon glows, what words mean, what makes it rain, how plants grow, and answering any question they throw at me. And you can bet your ass I’m going to spend the rest of my life doing the same damn thing because not a day has passed where I’ve ever said to them, “Eh, good enough.” If it’s not your best, it’s not good enough.

Unless we want to doom ourselves to putting up with a generation of self-entitled idiots, we need to stop thinking teenagers are stupid. Do you think books like “Twilight” were around in 1880? Hell no. Do you think your “average” 16-year-old today could read  and comprehend what a 16-year-old then could? Hell no.

The line “they’re just teenagers” needs to be wiped out. They’re not teenagers. They’re future adults. Demand more of them, encourage curiosity and a thirst for knowledge. Because if we don’t, it’s only going to get worse.

And if we let that happen, then we’re the stupid ones.