Something we see far too often on social media are status updates that I categorize as “language butchery.” Language Butchery is a pretty straightforward term, but it can apply to many different types of updates. The updates might be full of spelling and grammar errors, or lacking punctuation, or written in ALL CAPS, or just completely nonsensical, but the thing they all have in common is a general lack of clarity. It could take the average Facebook scroller two, three, or 10 reads to understand what the hell a language butcherer is talking about, and even then those answers might not be making any sense. I’ve tried pretty hard to interpret some submissions that are totally illegible (if that word can apply to type), and in the end I’m left scratching my head in utter confusion.
What’s interesting about these types of updates is that they sound like they were written by people who aren’t educated, or perhaps whose first language wasn’t English, but much of the time that isn’t the case. In fact, I’ve received emails from submitters who go on and on about how so-and-so has a Master’s degree and was working on her PhD before she had kids, but ever since then she’s been writing “like a baby” or “like she’s ghetto” on Facebook. I don’t understand the correlation there, because I refuse to believe that women suddenly want to dumb themselves down after having kids, but I’ve heard that same description from several submitters.
What I wonder is, what causes some people to use stream of consciousness on social media, while others (like myself, I’ll admit) read through their updates at least twice before publishing them? I’ve even deleted tweets because of an overlooked typo. Granted, my mother was an English teacher who wielded a red pen for 30 years, but still, the lack of concern for what others think — or whether they’ll be able to understand what was written — is baffling to me. I don’t think anyone should feel like s/he has something to “prove” on social media, but I’ve always tried to post updates that don’t make me sound like an idiot. The people who commit language butchery, however, are oblivious to what they sound like. They actively don’t care, either because of apathy or because they’re in a moment of anger or because they just don’t know any better.
Inarguably, language butcherers write some of the most entertaining updates on Facebook. There’s an undeniable joy people feel when they’ve scrolled through several political rants and a few baby pics and maybe some Bible scripture, only to land at a fine example of incomprehensible language butchery. In a way, these are the updates that make participating in social media worth it, but at the same time, they serve a stark reminder that some people really are fucking DUMB. Or crazy. Or too dumb to know they’re crazy, or too crazy to care about being dumb. Regardless, much like stupid abbreviations in text messaging, language butchery status updates are here to stay. Here are some examples.
1. Verb Tense Agreement
I emailed the person who submitted this to make sure Jenny didn’t grow up speaking another language, and the submitter wrote back, “She’s American born, and English was her first language. She’s just…a wreck. She speaks the SAME as she writes.” Judging by the impromptu capitalization of SAME, I’m guessing Jenny is best avoided at parties.