Cyberslang rant #1

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While the Internet has been great for enabling communication, aggregating information, and allowing us to self-diagnose a variety of ailments via Dr. Google, it has severely corrupted the English language. Influenced by texting chatspeak and the one-liner-rama known as Twitter, our everyday speech now contains jargon that violates all kinds of grammatical rules, flaunting syntactic delinquency and promoting verbal idiocy.

I admit to using a number of modern idioms in my posts, but some I simply cannot stand. The Spirit of Perfectionism compels me to advocate for more articulate, comprehensible dialogue by beating down ridiculous lingo.

For this first round, I’m going full John Wick puppy rampage on three trends that are successfully making the world a dumber place.

Let the editorial bloodbath begin.

Make. It. Stop.
I used to think excess exclamation mark usage was one of the most egregious stylistic offenses a person could commit. Sure, it’s tolerable in enthusiastic text messages to your friend about the One Direction boyfriend Tee you just snapped up at a thrift store, but in a work email? “Jennifer! Our numbers are down! I uploaded the proofs to Dropbox! When are you sending your TPS reports!” Total !nsanity.

Somehow, at some point recently, for no good reason whatsoever, the exclamatory frenzy gave way to another equally atrocious, linguistically laborious trend that is So. Freakin’. Annoying.

Yeah, I typed out all three of those dang periods, hating myself with every keystroke.

Who the heck got so infatuated with a typographical symbol designed to mark the end of a declarative sentence that they up and made it trendy to use when separating short and – let’s face it – usually simple-minded words?

Back in journalism school, we were taught to use punctuation marks sparingly to conserve precious print space, hence the AP style’s rejection of the Oxford comma. This period fetish is yet another way the Internet has screwed over the journalism profession and made us all highly informed yet stupid as muck.

As a blogger with a journalist background, it behooves me to warn you that period binging is a slippery slope. Right now, it’s cool to use three periods, but who’s to stop that from increasing to four, then eight, then 15? And how soon before it creeps into single words and makes our language even more dis.joint.ed.?

During this election season, I think we should launch a different, more productive campaign to Make Sentences Coherent Again and put the kibosh on this choppy, stunted speech pattern. Let’s find other ways to convey emphasis, such as using italics or underlining – something besides periods. Or, here’s an idea: Quit talking like a hipster. Bam! Problem solved.

Why is ‘thing’ a thing?
Now this is just embarrassing. Have we all grown so empty-headed as a society that we can think of no greater word for – well, anything – besides “thing”?

“It’s kinda my thing.”
“I want all the things.”
“I wish I had a thing.”

It might’ve been funny the first, maybe even the second time someone used this trivial word in a catchall type of way. But today, it has become an epidemic, infecting normal adult conversations from soccer mom chitchat to coffee shop discourse to Bible study discussion – even pseudo-intellectual TED talks.

What if – God forbid – someone starts combining this ambiguity-perpetuating buzzword with other inane expressions? Our language would become completely meaningless.

“Just sayin’ a thing.”
“Today be like things.”
“WHAAAAAT thing.”

This is middle school sexual innuendo-level humor, people. There’s a better way to say stuff. Lemme introduce you to a neat resource that’s handy for all sorts of items – like I just swapped out the potential usage of “things” with the ordinary yet less brain-insulting “items.”

It’s called a thesaurus, located under Tools in Microsoft Word, and also available for your convenience online at sites such as Merriam Webster. Let these resources help you find synonyms to build a stronger vocabulary beyond a single syllable word you learned as a toddler.

Get over this absurd addiction to “things” and start talking smarter than a stoner.

#Ihatehashtags
Yea, I know I’m a hypocrite when it comes to this fad. Yet at the end of the day, aren’t we all hypocrites who hate Wal-Mart but shop there anyways?

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The way I see it, hashtags are a necessary evil if you want to gain new followers on social media. But do the pros of using them always outweigh the cons of exasperating readers to the same level of annoyance induced by people who scrape their forks against their teeth?

On a pleasant note, hashtags can be clever and help people connect. On a practical note, they are difficult to read and come straight from the fourth level of linguistic hell reserved for group text messages and Kanye West quotes.

For your origin story of the day, the now-mighty # symbol has been known as the number sign, the pound sign (not to be confused with the British £ sign), a sharp in a musical context, and the sci-fi-sounding “octothorpe” – supposedly created by an employee of Bell Laboratories in the 1960s in honor of U.S. athlete Jim Thorpe.

Not sure whose bright idea it was to take the perfectly decent octothorpe and warp it into a mark looping a word or phrase to a broader online conversation on a designated topic. I’d say the inventor should be shackled to a stockade shaped like that wretched symbol of their own making, but it’s probably not their fault that social media users exploit it so profusely.

If you must use hashtags to promote your upcycled pop can Christmas wreath etsy shop or whatever, at least take a minimalist approach. A thought to ponder: When you have to scroll more than three times through the hashtag list on your Instagram post, you’ve probably ODed on tagging. Ain’t nobody got time to read through all that gibberish.

As a reluctant participant in this trend, I’m committed to reporting and rebuking hashtag abuse. We must stand up to reckless tagging of insignificant words and bizarre combinations of wordsjumbledtogether before we begin audibly speaking other symbols before phrases just to sound relevant and cool, as in: “Asterisk, this post is lit.”

Blogspiration and the nudge-nag phenomenon

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People blog for all sorts of reasons. Political, religious, financial; about sports, about entertainment, about how to cook beef bourguignon, or solve the Syrian refugee crisis, or upcycle a thrift store-salvaged dresser into a shabby chic armoire.

IMHO, the ultimate motivation underlying all these reasons for blogging is rooted in a universal human presupposition. We like to think that what we have to say matters to someone else. Our quest for significance drives our compulsion for utterance of our thoughts, feelings, and opinions.

I started blogging in 2008 for no greater reason than peer pressure. Everybody was doing it, way back then. It was part of the normal life pattern many of our friends followed after graduating from college – get married, move, get a job or get more education and then a job, start a blog, have kids, post their pics on said blog. My husband and I pursued this chain of events until we hit a snag.

This snag/pit of despair was characterized by years of longing for but not being able to conceive a child. After attempting to deal with my grief in my own strength and failing to find hope through that strategy, I began reading a friend’s blog describing her struggles with these issues. Her demonstration of vulnerability freed me to wrestle with my anguish more honestly and reinvigorated my passion for writing with a renewed purpose: to let others know they were not alone in this profoundly painful trial.

Once I had written about our failed IVF cycle, amazing adoption story, and surprise pregnancy, I became less motivated to blog except for occasional times when, as a good evangelical, I should describe as “God laid it on my heart.” My label for this is the “nudge-nag phenomenon.” God nudges my heart about a specific topic at a specific time and nags me until I write about it. His still, small, unrelenting voice is not like the nagging I do to my kids to hurry up and get ready in the morning. It is gentle, insistent, assuring, and dare I say, a whole lot more effective.

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That’s where I’m at now. God is nudging my heart to share my reflections about a variety of topics, not just infertility, though that is and always will be part of my story.

I don’t really have a gimmick to draw readers in; I don’t craft or cook or exercise or ruminate about politics or put together a wardrobe in such a way that would inspire others. I don’t even have a Southern accent with which to issue a “y’all” call to action. I just have my words and a desire to console, to teach, to encourage, and to preach.

While I’d like to feign indifference and declare that it wouldn’t matter to me if anyone ever read my blog as long as it glorified Jesus – adopting a creed like “I write for an audience of One” or some such spiritually conceited nonsense – I can’t, and I won’t. I do care if people read this; otherwise, I’d pick up where my 5th grade self left off and just continue ruminating in my personal diary (but probably with fewer contemplations on which of my friends has the cutest jeans … probably).

My preschooler served as my muse for how to explain my ultimate reason for blogging when he burst into an enthusiastic and surprisingly on-key rendition of the chorus to Big Daddy Weave’s “My Story.”

If I should speak then let it be
Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
To tell you my story is to tell of Him

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I want to tell you about my life to tell you about my Redeemer. I want to share my unruly weaknesses, sanctified discoveries, and sarcastic annotations on life so that others can find some measure of encouragement that refreshes their faith. I want to preach the gospel to myself and anyone else who cares to listen.

This is my story; this is my song; praising my Savior, all my words long.

[Cover photo: Green Chameleon via Unsplash]