Styling Evolution, or, the Elements of Futility

Does it count as Skitt’s Law if, despite being unplanned, it still manages to make the point, anyway?

I would, however, note that once upon a time I actually lost an internet argument about how language evolves. There is a word we use, from the Italian; most Americans get it from “mob” movies. In a world in which I am supposed to know, off the top of my head, that the word is now officially spelled “koppish”, because, y’know, language evolves, I have also learned to remember that some evolution leads the way of the dodo.

When you hear someone justify poor presentation with something about how language evolves, it does in fact behoove us to consider whether the “evolution” in question improves or denigrates communication.

There is an argument that says EoS only makes good people feel bad about their own writing, but there is also a way in which that argument relies on some contradictory notion about communication. There are a lot of good people who communicate poorly; somewhere between, say, failing to speak in a way that fails to frighten a stupid, frightened person with a gun and, oh, I don’t know, being able to write a sentence without netspeak shorthand, exists a viable question by which communicative skills really are a proper consideration for self-conscious good people.

It’s just hard to figure though, to what degree the Elements bring jittery self-awareness to people who don’t know what the book is, or have never tried to use it.

Did you see what I did, there?

The gaffe in the sentence about the stupid person with a gun really is a mistake of revising something or another in the moment as that jalope hit the page.





See also:

“Why ‘The Elements of Style” is out of style”. Public Radio International. 8 February 2018.

Literacy in the twenty-first century

Sure, it’s a little thing, but once in a while, you want to know you’re not the only one who was wondering about something. Charles Memminger explains:

Because of the noise created by the various mechanical pain inducers, the only way to follow what’s happening on the overhead television sets is to read the closed captioning. (It’s kind of interesting that the closed captions are not only there for the hearing-impaired, but also for the fitness-impaired.)

While reading the captions, I learned that a man who fled to England after allegedly killing his wife and child in America is facing “extra decision.” Extra decision? Did they mean, like, an extra decision on whether to return to the United States? Then I realized that what the announcer had said was the guy was facing “extradition,” which made a lot more sense.

So I started paying more attention to what the closed captions read versus what was actually being said on TV, and realized that the hearing-impaired were experiencing a different TV world than the hearing.

This is apparently one of those market things. You know, the idea that the market will fix itself? Obviously, not enough televisions playing in restaurants, health clubs, pubs, airports, and so on, are showing closed captions. Because one would think that it shouldn’t take so long for someone to notice.

I was sitting around one day at the Snohomish County Courthouse, orienting myself for jury duty with a sad video explaining the history, importance, and detail of this vital service. Though the video was itself subtitled, someone left on the captioning, as well. Unfortunately, these were captions printed in an opaque box, almost directly over the subtitles. I can’t tell you, then, about the subtitles, but I can only imagine they were more comprehensible than the captions.

To the other, though, the captions are still easier to figure out than SMS shorthand. Maybe the market hasn’t fixed itself because, well, so few people actually notice; they’re too busy trying to figure out how to spell chzbgr.

(Homework: Watch one of the baseball championship series games; turn on the captioning. Don’t make a drinking game out of it, though.)

(Random thought: A friend once suggested that one job she would like to perform at least once in her life is to be the union hand whose job it is to inspect the toilet paper factory and make sure the machine was counting out exactly five hundred squares of two-ply. You know, one of those stupid things one says after a few too many cheap excuses for beers. It strikes me, in a similar—albeit sober—context, that one of the worst jobs in America must belong to some poor bastard at DHS who sits around digging through people’s text messages for hints of terrorism. I once dreamed Tetris; some unfortunate soul out there dreams netspeak.)