“btw you do ‘street’ so well!”

09 +00002013-02-21T14:21:14+00:0028 2012 § 8 Comments

Words at Play

In the wonderful wordy world of Twitter, I have discovered wit and wisdom as well as utter tripe; philosophical musings and mundane mutterings; verbal zeniths and linguistic nadirs.  I arrived on this astonishing ethereal plane only last October, armed with a mighty prejudice against it, but told that it was essential to the contemporary writer’s existence.  I still don’t know whether this latter is true, but I have, contrary to my biased expectations, had a fun time of it!  I was certainly delighted to receive the above compliment about my idiomatic use of language from ‘The Grumbling Gargoyle’ (@LynnGerrard), who, btw, does a well bad tweet.

Fun time of it ?  That’s a bit colloquial, Christina!  Are you letting your standards slip?  That’s the trouble with Twitter: it’s full of acronyms and slang.  It’s like television, appealing to the lowest common denominator and debasing your every utterance…’  Oh, dear: the voice of a high school mistress, prim and proper and insisting on perfect phrasing and enunciation.

One of the really interesting (to me, at least) ironic things about having received a ‘formal’ education in grammar is the fact that it was a straitjacket that for many years constrained my own writing, even if it ensured that my expression was ‘correct’.   Over time, however, I let my creative hair down and played… and played.   I broke rules and loved being a linguistic iconoclast; the results were so much more interesting and original.  However, I do remain firmly of the belief that this works only if the rules to be broken are understood and the ungrammatical is deliberate.

An English teacher I know was bewailing the fact that her pupils in their conversation almost universally use street slang, such as ‘sick’ and ‘wicked’ and ‘evil’ and ‘bad’, all degrees of approbation; I’m not sure why anyone, least of all English teachers, should mind this, as pupils are consciously employing and enjoying irony in their daily interactions. What’s wrong with that?  Revelling in opposites seems like fun and kids like fun and learn from it; they are playing.  Give me a wicked (not ‘wickedly’!) ironic conversation rather than a formal Govean lesson on what irony is, any day.   I expect that most teachers are still doing their best (Rock on!) to provide a strong grammatical foundation and I can understand why they might be frustrated by the prevalence of, say, ‘could of ’ in pupils’ formal writing, as it reveals lack of understanding of the spoken corruption of ’ve, but I hope that they are also broad-minded enough to enjoy the verbal devilment of children’s experimentation with words.

Thank you, Twitter, for the best of your frivolity.  U iz well cool.

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§ 8 Responses to “btw you do ‘street’ so well!”

  • littlelise says:

    Absolutely agree with this. I teach creative writing in primary schools and whilst I understand the importance of grammatical correctness, it can at times stifle creativity. I agree that the rules and conventions need to be understood before they can be ‘broken’ successfully but I also think that more creative writing should be taught from a young age, withought the contstraints of the National Curriculum.

    • Thanks, Lisa. It’s a tricky one, getting the correctness and the creativity to meld happily together. Adults often are so distracted by mis-spellings or solecisms that they miss the gems within; children learn by making mistakes, but to be too heavy-handed with the criticism may make them afraid to try! I’m a great believer in constructive praise (i.e. a discussion which enthuses and advises!). The trouble with a National Curriculum is that it is driven by politicians. Nuff said! 😉

  • Firstly I’m not sure if Twitter does anything for our writing other than create yet another distraction. But I must say that we would not have crossed paths if it hadn’t been for Twitter so that’s a plus.

    Secondly, as a one-time teacher I know how frustrating it used to be to get writing littered with ‘cool’, ‘would of’ and all manner of colloquialisms in between. There’s a time and a place for ‘wicked’ and ‘well good’. While I accept that this approach might have stifled their creativity, I hope that it didn’t. I’d like to think that providing them with correct and more varied words armed them with the tools to be even more creative.

    • Thanks, Rosalind! I’m absolutely sure that teachers become frustrated, especially when they are judged on exam results; they don’t have the luxury of being indulgent over pupils’ solecisms and slang, but, as I said in response to Lisa, I’m of the view that constructive praise is the best way to encourage children and simultaneously to get them to be self-critical about their use of language. I think that there is in their conversation enough interesting stimulus to engage them in discussion about how language works and how to be successful with it. Learning to suit language to occasion is a skill which they do find difficult.

  • carol hedges says:

    There are some very witty and amusing people on Twitter – she whom you mentioned being one. I love Twitter – it hones my writing skills and I have met some great people (self included) Innit!

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