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http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/statusicon/post_old.gif Yesterday, 12:53 AM wolflarsen (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=4964) vbmenu_register("postmenu_667897", true);
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LET'S THROW GRAMMAR IN THE GARBAGE!


Who Needs the Queen’s English?
Let’s Throw Grammar into the Garbage Can!
(Originally published by the Dana Society Journal in February, 2006)

An Essay by Wolf Larsen


Writers, poets, and playwrights should mold and bash language into whatever art form they wish to create. Traditional Grammar in creative works is unnecessary, and can often be an obstacle to the creative impulses of the writer. The writer should concern himself more with creativity, and less with correct grammar. The writer must do with language as he pleases. The writer should help destroy “standard” English, at least within the realm of contemporary literature.

Language must be the servant of the writer, and the writer must be a god over the realm of words. The role of language is to lie down in front of the writer and beg to be ravished by him. In order to create a higher literary art the writer should throw off the straightjacket of grammar whenever necessary. The writer must create with the intensity and passion of a freed madman rampaging on the streets.

Traditional grammar is not necessary in creative works. Take note that poetry and music are cousins. Literature often has a rhythm that makes grammar unnecessary, just as good verse has a natural flow that has made the rhyme obsolete. Many of the traditional rules of grammar are destined to go the way of the rhyme in poetry, at least in creative works.

Writers should think of their literary creations in much the same why they think of sex. Correctly obeying all the rules of grammar while in the throes of literary creation is like having sex with your clothes on. An artist of words should write with the same intensity as passionate sex. All boundaries to expression should be smashed open with pens that crash through everything like sledgehammers.

Grammar lends legitimacy to “standard” English, which is the spoken and written medium of communication of the elite. Of course, how convenient for the upper classes that their way of talking and writing is considered “standard”.

Why should the mode of speaking of the most privileged members of our society be considered “standard” English? Why shouldn’t the rich and constantly evolving language of poor blacks in the ghetto be considered “standard English” instead? People from all over the world do not crowd in giant concerts or tune into their radios to hear the privileged members of our society recite “standard” English. There is a worldwide fascination with hip-hop for good reason. Hip-hop glorifies the “standard” English of the black American ghetto, which is far more exciting and rich in contemporary culture than the “standard” English of Park Avenue. Take note that rap music has brought a resurgence of interest in poetry.

Standard English is constantly under siege from the influences of the black ghetto and immigration. Writers should stop defending “standard” English and should participate in its downfall. Gutting “standard” English and its rules of grammar will free the writer to express himself more freely than ever!

Another reason to throw “standard” English in the garbage is that it is not worth saving. The English language originates from invading barbarians of different tribes and races all babbling and babbling to each other for thousands of years on the British isles. This of course helps explain why English is such a course and ugly language in comparison with the romance languages. If it wasn’t for the civilizing influence of the French language brought over by the Normans English would probably sound as ugly as German.

The defenders of “standard” English who obsess over its grammar are obstacles in the necessary evolvement in what has become the most important language of the world. Instead of rejecting the growing international and cosmopolitan influences of an evolving language we should embrace these changes. The further that English evolves away from its barbaric Anglo-Saxon heritage the better. If purists and traditionalists want a language with unchanging rules of grammar then let them learn Latin.

More than ever the time is ripe for a rebellion against grammar and tradition. With the invention of word processing there is no excuse for literature to remain one of the most backward areas of the art world. Word processing, because it makes change, experimentation, and innovation easier, is an important development that can help writers, poets, and playwrights to free literature from its chains. Look at how painting has constantly revolutionized itself over the past one hundred and twenty years. Artists of the written word should do the same!

When we have sex most of us do not invent a bunch of rules to make the experience less enjoyable. Why not eliminate the rules in literature? Why shouldn’t literature be as exciting and decadent as sex? Let us free literature from the constraints of grammar like two lovers throwing off their clothes and diving into a natural frenzy of joy!

Established rules of music, painting, and sculpture have been thrown in the garbage by innovators like Stravinsky, Picasso, and Rodin. The result has been a constantly changing art that is exciting and fresh. Painters and sculptors deposed of a rigid faithfulness to representation, and the result has been an explosion of artistic brilliance. Just as the painters deposed of rigid representation creative writers should depose of grammar whenever it gets in the way of expression. One obstacle to artists of the written word is the straightjacket of grammar, and its anal obsession with the placement of commas, colons, semicolons, etc. Who cares if a sentence is a fragment? Who cares if a sentence is a run-on? I wrote a 200,000 word run-on sentence. I slashed and cut it down to seventy-thousand words. It’s called The Exclamation Point! The idea of writing a run-on sentence occurred to me while I was sitting in a café in Amsterdam, Holland. I would never have dreamed up such a wild book if I had been loyal to the rules of grammar.

Writers should do with language whatever they please. Any obstruction to expression must be obliterated into dust with the sledgehammers of our pens. Imagine that while you’re trying to make love to someone an old grammar teacher is yelling at you, “PUT A COMMA THERE! AND CHANGE THAT COLON TO A SEMI-COLON! OH NO! THAT SENTENCE IS A FRAGMENT!” It would be terrible, wouldn’t it? Why do you write under the same circumstances?
Copyright 2005 by Wolf Larsen. All Rights Reserved


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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolflarsen
The writer should concern himself more with creativity, and less with correct grammar.


May I just say how grammatically splendid your essay... oh.

Quote:
The idea of writing a run-on sentence occurred to me while I was sitting in a café in Amsterdam
You don't say.

Sorry, I just came in off a nightshift, so I'm tired and humourless. You'll just have to tell me if this is a joke.
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http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/statusicon/post_old.gif Yesterday, 01:18 AM reph (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=12) vbmenu_register("postmenu_667930", true);
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolflarsen
Why shouldn’t literature be as exciting and decadent as sex?

Did sex become decadent this week? I confess I haven't had the news on.
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Quote:
The writer must create with the intensity and passion of a freed madman rampaging on the streets.
One or two rampaging madmen will do it for me. Then it gets, at best, boring; at worst, it's just not worth the effort to comprehend the mess.

There's no need to be a slave to arcane convention, but cacophony isn't all that appealing more than once. If the streets teem with madmen, the world will yearn for well-mannered, clever urbanity.

How many John Cage albums do you want to sit through before you just want to hear something that swings?
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Excellent. Not only a well thought-out response, but a strong practical attempt to disprove the OP's argument. High five!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolflarsen
I wrote a 200,000 word run-on sentence ...

... and it was so effective at communicating your point that you chose to use the 'traditional' rules when writing this ...

(Yeah, I'm sure it was just meant to be an advertisement for your book, but I can't resist taking it as a serious point of discussion.)

Mac
Last edited by Mac H. : Yesterday at 02:32 AM.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolflarsen





Painters and sculptors deposed of a rigid faithfulness to representation, and the result has been an explosion of artistic brilliance.



Owing to your non-traditional usage of the verb 'depose', we can only guess what you're trying to say here, Wolf. But if you mean what I think you mean, there could be some argument about the 'explosion of artistic brilliance' you mention. Especially if you're thinking of the pretentious w*nkers who can't be bothered to learn to draw or paint and crap on about expressing themselves through their dead-cow-with-custard 'art', which only attracts the jeers of an unconvinced public

Quote:
Originally Posted by wolflarsen

I wrote a 200,000 word run-on sentence. I slashed and cut it down to seventy-thousand words.





You may well find an audience for this among the artistically brilliant deposers you believe are your peers. Whether or not they'll be gripped by your story, they'll be obliged to marvel, like us, at your editing genius in being able to trim a gargantuan sentence down to a mere 70K words.
Last edited by pianoman5 : Yesterday at 03:31 AM.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reph
Did sex become decadent this week?


Only when the practioners are inept.
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As hyt ys y-knowe hou3 meny maner people buț in țis ylond, țer buț also of so meny people longages and tonges; noțeles Walschmen and Scottes, țat buț no3t ymelled wiț oțer nacions, holdeț wel ny3 here furste longage and speche, bote 3ef Scottes, țat were som tyme confederat and wonede wiț țe Pictes, drawe somwhat after here speche. Bote țe Flemmynges, țat woneț in țe west syde of Wales, habbeț y-left here strange speche and spekeț Saxonlych y-now. Also Englischmen, țey3 hy hadde fram țe bygynnyng țre maner speche, Souțeron, Norțeron, and Myddel speche (in țe myddel of țe lond), as hy come of țre maner people of Germania, noțeles, by commyxstion and mellyng furst wiț Danes and afterward wiț Normans, in menye țe contray longafge ys apeyred, and som useț strange wlaffyng, chyteryng, harryng and garryng, grisbittyng. Țis apeyryng of țe burț-tonge ys bycause of twey ținges. On ys, for chyldern in scole, a3enes țe usage and manere of al oțer nacions, buț compelled for to leve here oune longage, and for to construe here lessons and here ținges a Freynsch, and habbeț, suțthe țe Normans come furst into Engelond. Also, gentilmen children buț y-tau3t for to speke Freynsch fram tyme țat a buț y-rokked in here cradel, and conneț speke and playe wiț a child hys brouch; and oplondysch men wol lykne hamsylf to gentilmen, and fondeț wiț gret gysynes for to speke Freynsch for to be more y- told of. (John of Trevisa 1326–1412; translation of Ranulph Higden's Polychronicon)

And for ther is so gret diversite
In Englissh and in writyng of oure tonge,
So prey I God that non myswrite the,
Ne the mysmetre for defaute of tonge;
And red wherso thow be, or elles songe,
That thow be understonde, God I biseche!
(Chaucer. Troilus and Criseyde. Book V ll. 1793-98).

Ye knowe ek, that in forme of speche is chaunge
Withinne a thousand yere, and wordes tho
That hadden pris, now wonder nyce and straunge
Us thinketh hem, and yit they spake hem so
(Chaucer Troilus and Criseyde. Book II ll. 22-25).

For God's sake hold your tongue, and let me love,
Or chide my palsy, or my gout,
My five grey hairs, or ruin'd fortune flout,
With wealth your state, your mind with arts improve,
Take you a course, get you a place,
Observe his Honour, or his Grace,
Or the King's real, or his stamped face
Contemplate, what you will, approve,
So you will let me love.

Sir Tristram, violer d'amores, fr'over the short sea, had passen core rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war: nor had topsawyer's rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse to Laurens County's gorgios while they went doublin their mumper all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to tauftauf thuartpeatrick: not yet, though venissoon after, had a kidscad buttended a bland old isaac: not yet, though all's fair in vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe. Rot a peck of pa's malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface (Jamess Joyce. Finnegan's Wake. I.i).
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:ROFL:
So...what you're saying, Medievalist, is Wolf is trying to set English back a thousand years or so?

Good luck with that, Wolf.
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I'm saying that Wolf doesn't have a clue. I don't think Wolf knows what grammar means--he never defines his terms. The clue to cluelessness is that Wolf refers to "traditional grammar."

Err what? Whose traditional grammar? I probably should have stuck in some Anglo-Saxon, too.

Here's a a clue (http://www.bartleby.com/61/89/G0218900.html).

1a. The study of how words and their component parts combine to form sentences. b. The study of structural relationships in language or in a language, sometimes including pronunciation, meaning, and linguistic history. 2a. The system of inflections, syntax, and word formation of a language. b. The system of rules implicit in a language, viewed as a mechanism for generating all sentences possible in that language. 3a. A normative or prescriptive set of rules setting forth the current standard of usage for pedagogical or reference purposes. b. Writing or speech judged with regard to such a set of rules. 4. A book containing the morphologic, syntactic, and semantic rules for a specific language. 5a. The basic principles of an area of knowledge: the grammar of music. b. A book dealing with such principles.
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Ah! I wish you had.

Anglo-Saxon always makes me feel all goosebumpy, like there's about to be a thunderstorm.
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Quote:
Traditional Grammar in creative works is unnecessary, and can often be an obstacle to the creative impulses of the writer. The writer should concern himself more with creativity, and less with correct grammar.

Nonsense.

The writer should write plainly and specifically. Grammar is a tool, and deliberately misusing it can be confusing. It has nothing to do with "art."
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Two points. One is that grammar is just a tool. It is knowing how to move your fingers on the flute to produce the proper notes, not the music itself. Grammar is knowing how to blend certain paints to produce the exact look you want, not the subject of the painting. A badly structured sentence will grate on my eye as surely as a sour note will on my ear, no matter how artistic the attempt.

Second... I confess a strong loathing to the whole writing-as-ART-and-don't-you-forget-it style of writing. When I read prose, I want clear communication and an engaging idea. I don't want to have to spend the entire time trying to decode what the writer is trying to say.

You see, language isn't the servant of the writer. The writer is the servant of the reader. And if the writer does not use language to the reader's liking, then he has done nothing more than create a work like that "dress made of rotting meat" museum piece. Something vaguely interesting from a distance, but rather nauseating when examined too closely.
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Why am I reminded of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire? Could it be decadence and the throwing off of traditional values and norms?

To my way of thinking -
Poetry isn't poetry anymore - it's a mish mash of words put together by people too lazy to understand and use the art form.
Art (Paintings, sculptures, ect.) aren't art anymore - modern thrown paint art conveys a message only to those willing to be taken in by the creator's announcement of what the piece depicts.
Music is all but dead (and lyrics are just as bad) - dissonance and cacophany aren't pleasing to anyone with a clear head.

We've been duped by artists, writers, and musicians who don't have the ability and willingness to work that should be required to create something that will endure the test of time - and, people don't want to spend the time needed to do any creative work right. Quick and dirty - the battle cry of artisans in the twentieth century.

So, literature with its maintenance of the requirement for proper grammar is still standing in the way of the obliterators. Thank God! Puma
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Quote:
Gutting “standard” English and its rules of grammar will free the writer to express himself more freely than ever!
And no one will know what the hell he's trying to say. Least of all him. Try it -- write down anything you want without any regard to structure or grammar rules. Put it away for two weeks. Pick it up and read it again. Any idea what you were saying? Maybe, but I bet you wish it weren't such hard work remembering.

Rules don't impede expression; they facilitate expression. As Leslie says above, grammar's a tool. Use it, bend it, but if you throw it away, you're not going to be a freer musician by smashing all your instruments.

Quote:
Another reason to throw “standard” English in the garbage is that it is not worth saving. The English language originates from invading barbarians of different tribes and races all babbling and babbling to each other for thousands of years on the British isles. This of course helps explain why English is such a course and ugly language in comparison with the romance languages. If it wasn’t for the civilizing influence of the French language brought over by the Normans English would probably sound as ugly as German.
First, this argument is irrelevant to your main premise. It's rhetorical 'piling on', and it waters down your assertion. Your argument is for anarchy, and you bring in an argument on aesthetics and language purity -- the very thing you advocate destroying.

Second, this argument of a corrupted, barbarian language saved only by an injection of Norman invaders is itself crude. It wins no friends and adds no rational support to your thesis. Good luck winning over the English, much less the Germans.

As an aesthete, would you advocate ridding the world of 'ugly' languages? Doubleplusungood.
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I'm rather fond of grammar.
It keeps the masses in their places while also keeping dreck off the bookshelves.

Works for me. ;)
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*contemplating English as a "course" language....I've taught a couple of those courses, come to think of it.
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Grammar isn't a series of arbitrary rules and restrictions. That's usage, or possibly style.

Grammar is the bones of language. Grammar is part of how and why a language works.

That rant, while less than original, is largely grammatical; Wolf doesn't even violate the sacred cows of the nineteenth century grammarians.
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NOooooo!!!

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Wow! I won't bother adding my 2 cents because you all covered it brilliantly. Thanks.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolflarsen
Grammar lends legitimacy to “standard” English, which is the spoken and written medium of communication of the elite. Of course, how convenient for the upper classes that their way of talking and writing is considered “standard”.



Rubbish!

Every country needs a standardized language to facilitate communication. While touring Scotland, I once had a guide who told me about his daughter who had recently graduated from a school of engineering and applied for a job at a well known engineering company based in London. The woman participated in a group interview with four of her fellow graduates. Towards the end of the interview, a difficult technical question was posed by the interviewing panel.

The first applicant replied, "Ah dinnae ken."
The second applicant replied, "Ah dinnae ken."
The third and fourth applicants replied, "Ah dinnae ken."
The young woman in question replied, "I'm sorry, but I don't understand."

With all applicants being otherwise equal in terms of their academic standing and backgrounds, the company decided to hire the young woman. The reason they gave was simple. The engineering company in question served the entire United Kingdom and not just Scotland. The company preferred applicants who spoke, "The Queen's English."

In the United States, the use of Midwestern English appears to be the national norm.

I come from an immigrant family. My father was a Chinese refugee during WWII. He arrived in the United States at the age of 11, not speaking a word of English.

My grandfather could have emmulated many immigrants and remained in the comfortable cultural surroundings of Chinatown in New York City. He chose to live in Brooklyn. My father was the ONLY ethnic Chinese in his graduating class.

My father studied hard, worked his way through college, and became a doctor. One of the cornerstones of his success was learning the "standard" English of his adopted country. His fluency is such that he doesn't even have a Chinese accent.

The use of the "standard" English that you decry helped my father escape a life of abject poverty.
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http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/statusicon/post_old.gif Yesterday, 11:40 AM Jamesaritchie (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=184) vbmenu_register("postmenu_668484", true);
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grammar
Whoever wrote that article seemed to have a solid handle on good grammar. But I guess articles about grammar aren't considered creative.

As an editor, I routinely see manuscripts wherein the writer abolished the rules of grammar, and completely destroyed punctuation.

I can't say this ever made me think, "Wow, a work of art." My first thought i susually, "Why did he ruin all this perfectly good paper?"

But it is good to know I'm now upper class.

I am surprised to learn that Egnlish is uglier than French. Especially when many French writers greatly prefer English because Frech is such a small, limiting language.

As for learning Latin, at least this poster got one thing right. Latin is the mother language of good writing. But I suppose hip-hop has repleaced it in the hearts and minds of my countrymen.

And I would love to know how much you were paid for that run-on sentence, how many people have read it, and whether any of them are still sane. Of course, sanity is a serious concern for anyone who would write such a sentence, let alone read it.

In fact, the entire post, and the article, sound like the work of some very strong, and highly illegal, mind-altering drugs.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie
In fact, the entire post, and the article, sound like the work of some very strong, and highly illegal, mind-altering drugs.

The reference to Amsterdam didn't surprise me at all. The drug laws are different there.
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e e cummings is dead. Long live grammar and punctuation.
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I read the list of new posts very quickly. I thought the title of this one was:

LET'S THROW GRANDMA IN THE GARAGE!

Swear. I thought it was a very rude idea.
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Jenan Mac
07-06-2006, 07:46 PM
The thing is, writers who choose to do so are more than welcome to eschew grammar and spelling rules. What's being resisted is the notion that there is an equal and corollary right to enforce those choices upon others.

TsukiRyoko
07-11-2006, 09:37 PM
That's a marvelous essay, I must say.

However, I do think that writing should be as "correct" as it could be. Not only does it usually sound better, but even when it's used correctly, it's extremely malleable. Correct grammar can still be twisted into the rudest, nastiest, most vulgar comments the world has seen. It can also be something so proper that God cringes at the snobbiness. ::goes on to many other of the extreme personas of writing::

Basically, the writer who can bend correct grammar to his/her will is the writer that will be seen as creative.

Besides, why make something sound bad just because of a mini-revolution?

Still, the essay itself....ah. Wonderful.