Let’s Throw Grammar into the Garbage Can!

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Let’s Throw Grammar into the Garbage Can!

Postby WolfLarsen » Fri Sep 22, 2006 5:48 am

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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Postby Malia » Fri Sep 22, 2006 3:07 pm

Interesting thoughts. :)
Being a person who often struggles with grammar and punctuation, I can see where "losing it" might be tempting. And I agree that a good writer knows how to mold language into new and exciting ways to get his point across. My only comment is that language--standard or otherwise--is meant for communication. If your reader cannot cypher what you're trying to say because you've taken language completely into your own hands, what's the point of writing? Then, you'd be writing only for yourself and the communion that comes from communication is lost.
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Postby dks » Fri Sep 22, 2006 5:54 pm

I agree with you, Miss Malia.

Besides, the word 'should' seems a bit odd when coupled with 'art.' If a poet/writer reserves the right to eschew the formal conventions of language, then he can also reserve the right to adhere to it.

A visual representation of said assertion comes to mind--think of the courtyard walking lesson in "Dead Poet's Society." John Keating (the name is no coincidence, assuredly) asks one of his students why he elects not to walk and display his own unique gait and style, to which Charlie Danner replies, "Exercising the right not to walk, sir." His ever romantic teacher praises him by simply saying, "Thank you, Charlie. You just illustrated the point."
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Postby Saturn » Fri Sep 22, 2006 10:19 pm

dks wrote:I agree with you, Miss Malia.

Besides, the word 'should' seems a bit odd when coupled with 'art.' If a poet/writer reserves the right to eschew the formal conventions of language, then he can also reserve the right to adhere to it.

A visual representation of said assertion comes to mind--think of the courtyard walking lesson in "Dead Poet's Society." John Keating (the name is no coincidence, assuredly) asks one of his students why he elects not to walk and display his own unique gait and style, to which Charlie Danner replies, "Exercising the right not to walk, sir." His ever romantic teacher praises him by simply saying, "Thank you, Charlie. You just illustrated the point."


Oh excellent example dks - and you are very right, Robin Williams character is not called 'Keating' for nothing.

I too struggle with grammar all the time but realise it is an important thing. If you've ever seen a scholarly analysis of Keats' work for example, whole books I'm sure have been written about where the comma should be placed in 'Ode On A Grecian Urn' and on how each slight difference can change the meaning of a whole scentence, or in this case, a whole poem.

As to your thoughts WolfLarsen, I agree to a certian extent, but as Malia has pointed out language is a two-way communication, not one-way. If someone writes something and sends it to me, and it is written in their own highly idiosyncratic style and I can't understand it, their language has failed - the writer has not succeeded in communicating with me.

Self-expression is all very well but if the recipient is unable to understand what you are saying, or what you have written then how can we communicate?

Language, especially English in this case is ever evolving and new and different influences are continually altering teh face of it but you need a basic set of rules, a bedrock, a universal foundation on which to build a system of communication.
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Postby dks » Sat Sep 23, 2006 10:29 pm

Saturn wrote:Oh excellent example dks - and you are very right, Robin Williams character is not called 'Keating' for nothing...

Language, especially English in this case is ever evolving and new and different influences are continually altering teh face of it but you need a basic set of rules, a bedrock, a universal foundation on which to build a system of communication.


I never get tired of that magnificent film...

Yes, well said, Saturn. I like to tell my students that it is my job not only to impart to them the mandated curriculum--spiced just the way Denise likes it *ahem*--but also to help them realize exactly why it is we study the conventions of grammar. The sage answer I deliver goes something like this:

"You're all asking yourselves, Miss, why the hell do I need to know about dangling participles and comma splices? Well, the literary folks back in the day were equivalent to your celebrities now. They would sit down with one another, amid bread, cheeses and the like and a stout bottle of some bastardly strong Port or Ale. So, the evenings would ensue with these especially erudite people writing and swapping luscious vocabulary tidbits, as well as philosophical leanings and the more they drank, the more they wrote and talked--and so would churn out these famous, metered and rhymed masterpieces while totally tanked and while straining to see in very poorly fire-lit rooms--so stop your damn whining and take good notes because my class is demonically difficult and you will have to wring out your own blood, sweat, and tears to get an "A" in here." 8)

:wink: :lol:

Actually, you guys would be surprised at how often I mention you and this forum in my classroom--I brag ceaslessly about you swank, literary folks.
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Postby Saturn » Sat Sep 23, 2006 11:20 pm

:shock:
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Postby dks » Sun Sep 24, 2006 2:04 am

Saturn wrote::shock:


You are shocked?
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Postby Saturn » Sun Sep 24, 2006 11:20 am

Yes :shock:
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Postby dks » Sun Sep 24, 2006 4:36 pm

Saturn wrote:Yes :shock:


Why?
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Postby Malia » Sun Sep 24, 2006 4:58 pm

Dks, now that we know you're talking about us off-line, I want to know what exactly you say. Come on, lady, give us details! Details, I say! :lol:
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Postby dks » Sun Sep 24, 2006 5:19 pm

Malia wrote:Dks, now that we know you're talking about us off-line, I want to know what exactly you say. Come on, lady, give us details! Details, I say! :lol:


Well, I don't tell them who you are and whatnot--I tell them that the literary forum in which I participate is replete with immensely brilliant people who read much and have an otherworldly sense of appreciation for the arts. This was a perfect example and segueway into my lesson on Thursday--before the hell quiz on Friday. We talked about different types of poetry and different modes of expression in art. You must understand--many of these kids won't even read a poem unless it rhymes--or has a sing-along quality to it--something like a nursery rhyme--they haven't been exposed to much literature/poetry--only what has been required of them. I tell them I am, at times, awestruck to be in said company on the forum. They laugh and say, "Aww, Miss. A literary forum? You are an English geek." :lol:

I hope it's alright I bragged in generalities.
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Postby greymouse » Sun Sep 24, 2006 6:15 pm

dks wrote:so stop your damn whining and take good notes because my class is demonically difficult and you will have to wring out your own blood, sweat, and tears to get an "A" in here."


I wish I had more teachers like you when I was growing up! Even in college they were usually so wimpy and allowed themselves to be bullied by students. I always liked the ferocious classes with high expectations because I figure it's more important to learn than to get a good grade. Thanks for making my day D! Keep up the good work.
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Postby dks » Sun Sep 24, 2006 6:32 pm

greymouse wrote:
dks wrote:so stop your damn whining and take good notes because my class is demonically difficult and you will have to wring out your own blood, sweat, and tears to get an "A" in here."


I wish I had more teachers like you when I was growing up! Even in college they were usually so wimpy and allowed themselves to be bullied by students. I always liked the ferocious classes with high expectations because I figure it's more important to learn than to get a good grade. Thanks for making my day D! Keep up the good work.


You're too kind, Greymouse. I love my job--I'm a very unconventional teacher, however. This can present loads of problems, as there are so many peripheral stipulations in teaching that truly hinder learning, but educators are expected to follow them nonetheless. I do not adhere to the ridiculous belief that piercings, facial hair, untucked shirts, or pink mohawks actually keep students from absorbing, digesting, analyzing and synthesizing information. Nor do I believe that eating or drinking in class is a hindrance to their learning process--I often tell my students that if I could get away with bringing a coffee maker into my classroom, I would.

I truly believe that if I afford my students respect, I'll get it in return. That means if they are having a bad day and they are taking my test and an occasional "F**ck, this is hard, Miss!" comes out--I nod and say, "Yep. But you can do it--keep working."

Don't get me wrong--you always have that student who doesn't give a shit no matter what. For instance, I had a student a couple of years ago who threw a desk every single time he walked in to class--it was like a rite of passage for him to begin my class. I remember just looking at him the first time he did it--my mouth slightly ajar, I'm sure! :lol: But after a week or so, I would put the desk right there at the door for him. I would tell him, "Go ahead, Danny--throw it-because we have alot of work to do today and we need to get started." Eventually, it lost its mystery for him and he stopped--he ended up really liking my class and reading Shakespeare out loud!! Those are the golden moments in teaching you go home with and think, "Holy shit, I'm exhausted. But that kid actually likes Shakespeare now."

I don't like "sending my students down" (that means sending them to the office) for discipline problems--I prefer dealing with them myself--unless it's outright criminal behavior and they are hurting others (very rare). Once you send them out and write them up--you give them the message that you've written them off--and that you no longer care to help them or deal with their problems--that's why so many teachers lose their kids mentally before the year is half over. :?
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Postby Malia » Sun Sep 24, 2006 7:11 pm

Dks, your insights in to the classroom remind me of Parker Palmer. Have you ever read any of his works? I HIGHLY recommend him if you haven't--especially his book: The Courage to Teach. He writes poetically and with such wisdom about teaching and what it's like to be a teacher. We're reading The Courage to Teach in my leadership class because so many of his insights can be applied to all sorts of leaders (including teachers, of course!)
I have a lot of respect for you teachers. I think it is truly a calling and not everyone is called! ;) My little brother just started teaching Jr. High this year and he absolutely loves it--though it completely wears him out as you mentioned it wears you out, too. I asked him what does it take to be a good teacher? He said, "a LOT of patience" and fortitude, and vision and imagination and logic. . .I could go on :)
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Postby Saturn » Sun Sep 24, 2006 10:30 pm

I'm in awe of teachers - it is one of the hardest and most important jobs in the world to educate the next generation of children.

I have often in moments of madness thought that I would like to be a teacher too but I know from my own experience at school that you need a very thick skin, an iron will and an ability to communicate with people and to impart knowledge to them - none of which I have :(

Teachers, when I was at school got such a hard time it's painful to look back on those days and remember how those poor men and women were treated by a bunch of ignorant hormonal teenage boys :oops:

Some teachers I remember with real fondness, the ones who were cool had a sense of humour and a paitence and an ability to express themselves and to motivate a bunch of unruly kids.

Sounds like you are one of the cool teachers Denise.

If I wore a hat I would take it off for you :D
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