October 2008


Two or three weekends ago I did something I have been longing for: I had tea at Melissa’s in Kloof Street. It was a fabulous Saturday morning and I once again spoiled myself by reading all the magazines available. Isn’t it great when one can do that? Paying R20 for a pot of tea (yes, indeed) seems worth it when I can read Vanity Fair, Vogue, Marie Claire, Glamour, art, and decor magazines.

I picked up the Fair Lady and started reading here and there, turning the pages as I go along. And then I read a blurb that describes the Phaidon Press Wallpaper* City Guides.

They claim these guides are ‘discreet enough to fit in your handbag‘.

I was confused. Why did they call it ‘discreet’? I couldn’t understand why they chose this word. Do they want us to know the guide is not tacky? But why? We all know that Wallpaper is Wallpaper, and that they are a reputable brand, right?

Yes, their website also uses ‘discreet’, but not in the same type of sentence.

Perhaps they meant ‘discrete’, which means compact. That would make the Fair Lady blurb easier to understand, though it could just mean that I’m a bit dof.

I browse single ads every once in a while. My skill at picking up men has improved a bit. Sometimes I meet men in Fego, sometimes I even meet cute Israeli okes at Vida. But it is fun to read Gumtree ads and sometimes I respond to them.

I thought that I’ll write about this and offer you guys some tips. But instead of telling you what to write and what to do, I’ll write about what puts me off.

1. Not reading my ad. If I call myself a ’26-year-old non-supermodel type’, it could mean that I am 26 years old. So why do you still ask me how old I am?
2. Not using a spell check or a dictionary. I’m not the only one who appreciates a well-written email. It doesn’t have to be a 9304384-word email; a few short sentences will do. I’ll forgive a few spelling mistakes but might not be as forgiving over bad grammar.
3. Do not use text speak. Yes, I do love using internet acronyms but this does not mean you may use them in an email to me.
4. Find something in my ad that appealed to you and tell me. Use humour. Be smart. Be bold. Be anything but *yawn* and bland.
And that’s all, really. It’s not that difficult to impress me. I love a good chuckle as much as I like good writing.

I don’t know much about advertising but this is a great ad. It tells a story with humour and class. I found it in the latest copy of Cigar Aficionado (took me a while to know how to spell that word).

Some of you may know that I am a poor copywriter. So I take the taxi and the train to get home. And because I stay in the Northern Suburbs the taxi drives down the main road of Bellville. This is mostly a bland experience: it is a short journey and the taxi drivers and ‘taxi guards’ are pleasant.

Yesterday I saw a sign that might entice lesser beings to part with some cash: Gatsby’s. Sometimes, when reading certain websites I see people use fashionista’s. As a plural for fashionista. Gatsby is not a new word; fashionista, however, is. Do a search for gatsby in google.co.za and you only find about 9000 results. Fashionista has even fewer results: 4880.

Now, I’m thinking that perhaps, just perhaps, people treat new words differently. They might write balconies, not balcony’s, or even balconys; it looks wrong, innit? But gatsby’s and fashionista’s, to your everyday tuck-shop owner or 24.com editor, might look perfect.

And I wonder: when these words become slightly more mainstream, will we get their spelling right?

I love memes. Or, I like memes that I find interesting. So I’ve been tagged by Todd; he encouraged anyone interested to play along. Did I notice that it’s an old meme? Yes, I did. ๐Ÿ˜‰

1. What is the best classic you were โ€œforcedโ€ to read in school (and why)?
2. What was the worst classic you were forced to endure (and why)?
3. Which classic should every student be required to read (and why)?
4. Which classic should be put to rest immediately (and why)?
5. **Bonus** Why do you think certain books become classics?

My answers

1) To kill a Mockingbird. It was in Grade 11. I had English Second Language HG and this was our prescribed book. I wasn’t too pleased; it looked awfully boring. But as I read the story I became very interested in the characters. I don’t think I ever finished the book, even though I answered many exam questions on it. But I saw the movie in 2006 and might reread, and finish, the book eventually.

2) The Lord of the Flies. I’m sure it’s not an awful book. But it did nothing for my 16-year-old self. I’ll try to read it again someday but it won’t be soon. Perhaps I could not grasp the many metaphors. But I believe one shouldn’t look for metaphors in a novel; they will find you. Whatever happened to reading for fun?

3) The Color Purple. It’s not one of the easiest books to read. But once you are used to the dialect and the writing style it is enjoyable. I loved the writing. The chapters also helped with my short attention span. I blame the interweb for my short attention span. Reading this book on the bus to work every day was a treat. I didn’t want to read it anywhere else; it’s a short(ish) book and reading it at home would’ve shortened my reading pleasure.

4) Ulysses. Honestly, most people buy this book when they’re 16. Well, I did. And then they hope to finish it soon. It’s 10 years later and I haven’t even progressed beyond the first two pages. I would like to hear from anyone who has finished this tome. Did it impress you? Is there substance to the hype?

5) They’re ‘universal’; people can relate to their ideas and actions . They might not become popular in their lifetime; perhaps they only become popular after some years. But then someone picks it up, reads it and it becomes lost in the world or worlds conjured up by the writer. Word of mouth might spread and it becomes popular.

A short while back, I was asked to pitch a column article idea to the editor of one of my favourite publications. The pitch went fine and she asked me to write the article. I was so excited. I’ve been admiring the magazine for ages – my reluctant mentor introduced me to it at the beginning of this year. No, I won’t say who my reluctant mentor is; I don’t want to drop names.

So I start writing. And I wrote. And I wrote more. And somehow, I didn’t write about grammar; I wrote about spelling and confusing words and stuff that didn’t make much sense. *I cringe*

So what is Grammar?

I think it’s easier to write about what grammar isn’t than what it is. Especially for me. But let’s see what my Oxford Paperback Dictionary Thesaurus says: grammar (n) 1 – the whole structure of a language, including the rules for the way words are formed and their relationship to each other in sentence. 2 – knowledge and use of the rules of grammar. 3 – a book on grammar.

Notice how it didn’t say incorrect spelling or the inconsistent use of ampersands. Grammar is a branch of linguistics that consists of syntax, morphology, and phonology. It can even be split into two camps: prescriptive and descriptive.

It gets very complicated, this grammar stuff: Algebraic syntax; Restrictiveness; Wh-movement; V2 word order. I do not understand all the terms and need to do much googling. But it’s oh-so-interesting. And not just to linguists. Anyone can understand grammar without knowing what V2 word order is. If you can speak and understand a language, you can understand what good grammar results in – proper communication.

The two different types of grammar ‘movements’, prescriptive and descriptive, complement each other. Prescriptive grammar teaches us how we should speak; descriptive grammar describes how we are using language. The study of syntax teaches us how sentences are formed. Morphology studies the internal structures of words and how they can be modified to create new words. Phonology studies how sounds are organised and used. I won’t discuss everything I have learnt – I’ll only discuss that which is easy to understand. For now.

I’ll try to do a weekly post on something directly related to grammar. It’ll teach me something because I’ll be forced to research it properly. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now you know. LOL and OMW are my favourites, followed by OMG, BRB, ROFL and WTF. Sometimes, not very often, I’ll use IMHO, TMI and LMIMP. Please do not google the last one — it’s a tad dirty.

I might even use ROFLOL. I think it conveys a better image than ROFL.

But here’s the thing: I dislike it when other people who are not my friends or immediate acquaintances use it. Does this make me a bad person?

I’d like to think not. Yes, it is fun to use emoticons, but only when you are chatting on some Instant Messaging service. Or during a casual conversation when the person with whom you’re speaking will not wonder what the WTF is ROFLOL.

I read one of my MSN chat logs from last month and saw that often, the person I’m chatting to uses LOL to express something other than actually ‘laughing out loud’. She isn’t laughing and might not even find what I said to be funny. It’s become automatic. I even find this happening to me; the initialism LOL has become a filler.

The Royal Joyful: ag, i’ll be fine
The Royal Joyful: lol

Or it could be used to soften a statement.

So what I would like to know from you is this: do you use emoticons in emails and conversation? Disclaimer: I sometimes use LOL when talking to geeky friends. But only with them; anyone else would think I’m a bit dotty. I’d also like to know what you think of those who use emoticons in emails. Are they being lazy, too emotional or even childish?

Internet Slang Dictionary: lol – laugh out loud; omg – oh my god; brb – be right back; rofl – roll on (the) floor laughing; wtf – what the fuck; imho – in my humble opinion; tmi – too much information; omw – oh my word.

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