Say What? Edition 8: When Native Speakers Sound Like They Aren’t

My roommate my first year in Russia told me that English was an easy language to start speaking and make yourself decently understood but near impossible to master because of all the idioms, nuance, unexpected pronunciations, and multiple ways of saying everything. No matter how long you speak it, you’re always going to encounter something a native speaker says or writes that baffles you. Russian is the opposite. It has a dense grammar with lots of irregularities that tongue ties you for a long, long time after beginning, but once you’ve got it, you just fly into proficiency. Today, I thought I’d focus on a few of the intricacies of English grammar that I’ve come across recently that I think wouldn’t be so obvious to fluent, non-native speakers or to native speakers, for that matter.

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Say What? Edition 7: More Than Words

No, this post is not an ode to that old Extreme song, although it’s still a great one! The post is a little bit about “code switching,” I started hearing about everywhere a few years ago. Code switching refers to the verbal portion of the many personas we all have. The words we choose, the way we say them, the tone of voice, affected accents, and sometimes even the language itself. It was weird to me that suddenly code switching was a phenomena because it’s something I’ve recognized myself doing, often consciously, forever. More on that later in a minute. But this post is also about much more than code switching. It’s about all sorts of language choices and language differences that help us relate in specific ways to the world around us and reveal a lot about us.

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Haven’t we all been adapting our speech since we were children? I know I have. I spoke one way at home with my family and one way at home with my friends. I spoke another way with my teachers and even another with people at church. Later, I had various sets of speaking mannerisms for work relationships: waitress talk, teacher talk, tour guide talk, boss talk. In my “performance” jobs (teacher, tour guide) my code switch was so strong that I felt quite self-conscious of people who knew other the other versions of myself hearing me in that role. While the degree to which I code switch now is less—for example, I’m now an adult who lives on her own, so I don’t feel I need to bend to my parents’ rules of acceptable speech nearly as much any more when I’m around them—I’m more conscious of it when I do engage in it. For example, sometimes I realize my speech is too casual with my manager orI feel like I’m crossing some line, so I’ll stop using certain words and will hold back expressing certain ideas.  Continue reading →

The Half Year Book Report (#4)

January through June 2018

Toward the end of this six-month period, I decided to start including sentences I love from these books. When I can remember to write them down, that is. I used to do the Sunday Sentence on this blog, but now think it makes more sense to include those lines directly here. So look for more of those starting with the next installment of the Book Report this December. 

 

Title: The Boys in the Boat

Author: Daniel James Brown

Date Finished: 1/18

Finished: No

Format: Hard cover

Ranking Out of 10: 6

Notes: This book was full of impressive research and gave a fascinating look into the world I know nothing about. but it kept going and going. After I read about two or three races, that was enough. I didn’t need to read about eight more. I did a lot of skimming over those parts but enjoyed the human parts still. The lives of the men of the team were interesting. I also enjoyed that, although Nazi Germany was part of the setting, the book wasn’t too political. The Nazis weren’t the main point.  Continue reading →

Say What? Edition 6: Where Are All the Words?

Auxiliary verbs are falling out of favor. Particularly, to be. I’ve seen or heard all of the following lately:

  • My car needs washed.
  • My shoes need repaired.
  • This couch needs gone this weekend.

When did this form of speaking start? Does this sound normal to you? I’m itching to put to be in all of these sentences. Continue reading →

You’ve Got Skills

And so do I. Our skills aren’t they same, but they are equally valuable. This is what I’d like people I work with to understand.

Part of being a technical writer or editor means being invisible and vastly underappreciated. We don’t get a byline or an author credit anywhere. People often toss our creations aside, preferring to figure out how the product works on their own. And for the most part, we don’t mind. We wouldn’t do what we do otherwise. But being devalued by your own co-workers and collaborators, the people who do the “real” work—the subject matter experts (SMEs), the engineers—can really get under our skin. Continue reading →

Kill Your Illogical Darlings

Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings. – Arthur Quiller-Couch

If you’ve taken a few writing classes, you’ve undoubtedly heard this piece of advice. I heard it many, many times, but didn’t really grasp its application until I started seriously working on novels and short stories a few years ago. I have since learned it well and have files and files of bits of writing that I am super proud of, and yet, for one reason or another, are fatally flawed and won’t ever make it into a finished piece.  Continue reading →

Struggles of the Wannabe Grammar Police

On my neighborhood Nextdoor site, I recently saw a post about a lost dog that was found. In response, one person wrote, “Glad this tale/tail has a happy ending.” I started to roll my eyes at her seemingly unnecessary decision to clarify that she was making a pun, but then I stopped. The truth is, I can easily put myself inside her mind. I’m constantly making calculations in my head about whether I should speak “correctly” or speak like most people around me do.  Continue reading →

The Novel: DOA at DIA

The novel is no more. If the possible reason that first comes to your mind is that my co-author is no more either, you are correct. I ended my relationship with Ironman a little while back and with it, the collaboration on our novel. When we first starting seeing each other casually last May, I thought we would always be friends and able to collaborate on projects even if we ended our romance. But the bizarre way he admittedly led me on for months, knowing that he no longer felt the way I felt about him, and then the way he instantaneously turned into a callous and cruel person without a single indication that anything was wrong even as we were making future plans together that very morning, now makes that impossible. Continue reading →

The Novel: The Real Writing…Doesn’t Begin

This was not a very productive month. We only wrote about 3,000 words total.

Ironman was working full force on a side project and I, well, I have no excuse. I was in a massive slump from the time I got back from Spain until my birthday. I didn’t feel like doing anything. I didn’t work on my short stories or on this novel, or even do any journaling. I barely even read anything. I’ve been wasting time on the internet and mindless shows on Netflix and tossing and turning all night with self-loathing over said time-wasting. Continue reading →

The Novel: Tough Topics

Progress continues, full steam ahead! We have written 31 total scenes now, and we started doing some compilation and review work. I’ve also been doing some more research and thinking in general about this book.

Our book deals with some heavy themes, so I’ve been reading some of the most popular YA books from 2017 to get a feel for how certain topics are being handled. I haven’t read YA in such a long time. Honestly, I can’t say that I remember reading YA when I was in the target age. I seemed to skip from Anne of Green Gables and Trixie Belden when I was in middle school right to Stephen King and other very adult books in high school.  Continue reading →