Friday, May 21, 2010

Grammar Police


When I first talked about the most common mistakes Arabs in general and Jordanians in particular make when they speak English, people were divided into two parties; first, there were those who called me a showoff and said that I had no right to make fun of their mistakes, the "Opposition" if you will. And then there were the supporters, and they outnumbered the first type :) fellow blogger Seleucid suggested we start a grammar and spell-check campaign on Twitter, I didn't think it was a good idea then what with the amount of hate I got the couple of days after I posted the list.

Then, the more I got into Twitter the more mistakes I saw, and being the obsessive type that I am I started to lose concentration, Seleucid suggested it again and this time he said that we would do it nicely, and with people that we're comfortable with, "correct the mistake and add a hashtag so that we would be able to search for it and see our work at the end of the day", he said. Hanin, a really nice Tweep, who also hates seeing mistakes, agreed, and so did 5hadz (but this dude takes it to extreme levels), next, we were looking for a name that would sound cute and non-threatening, like the Grammar Nazis, for example :) and we ended up with "The Grammar Predators" lovely, yeah?

We started among us, for every tweet that contained a grammar or spelling mistake, we replied with the correction and a #GPreds tag, then each one started with her/his followers, and boy did that spread quickly!

By the end of the next day, we had annoyed a large number of people. And our team grew.
But the rules had to be established so Seleucid offered his help; this is what he came up with:

  1. We are not a group of belligerence and hate. We seek to enlighten, to raise awareness.
  2. Our path is to tell you the correct way, then you have a free choice on deciding to use any kind of grammar you want.
  3. English is a second language to most of us, treat each case alone. Obvious mistakes for some are a pass for others.
  4. Love your prey: Make the person understand it's for fun. And if he gets offended, it's your duty to ask and apologize.
  5. Hashtag #GPreds. And try to add something fun and witty.
  6. Always try to recruit your prey, make the campaign viral.
  7. We have two goals:
-         To help people with poor grammar skills write better, and
-         To make lazy people more alert when tweeting

I'm posting this so that Tweeps who read this blog will understand what the GPreds are all about, and not take anything we say personally, in case they get GPredded someday.

If you're not on Twitter, and you've reached this line, I salute you! How did you do that? You should have stopped reading about 6 paragraphs ago :)

Update: For further explanation please refer to Seleucid's comment at the bottom of this page.


jaraad said...

I don't think people on twitter try to be grammatically correct. Still, I think it is a great idea. I wrote about this issue in my blog in terms of pronunciation not grammar. When I came to the US I found that I pronounce most of the words incorrectly.

Diana said...

2 thumbs up Rand! im definitely in..only because im kinda perfectionist lol and i do believe that ili bit3awad 3al 3'alat bidal 3aleh wil sa7 bido wa2t o momaraseh :)

Nice post..i liked it a lot :)

Ola said...

I think George Bernard Shaw would've liked this! (By like I really mean dislike)

You see, Bernard Shaw was an enlightened man, he saw how twisted a language English is, so in defiance he decided to join a movement of spelling reform. So, to make his point clear, he decided to re-spell the word "fish"

For the "f" sound, he used "gh" as in tough

For the "i" sound he used "o" as in women

For the "sh" sound he used "ti" as in nation

Finally the world fish was now spelled as "ghoti"

That's why English is so twisted, sometimes there are 10 ways to spell the same sound, it's natural that a non-native speaker would make mistakes! Let's cut them some slack

But you know what? I can understand where you're coming from because I do get irritated a lot when I see Arabic grammar mistakes (in my field of work), English mistakes are annoying but as I said, it's not our native tongue, what concerns me is people having poor skills in Arabic and thinking it's cute

I don't know if I'm playing the Devil's advocate here or not lol Let's say I'm a non-aligned peacemaker

Rand said...

Jaraad It's not a matter of being on Twitter, and it's not like we correct mistakes that are caused by the 140 character limit for Twitter status updates, we correct the mistakes that are just plain WRONG, again, why speak English if you can't? It's not like people don't have another language here.

Diana I love this "ili bit3awad 3al 3'alat bidal 3aleh" great point.

Ola Oh we do Arabic too :) at least I do, Taa marbouta, Taa maftou7a, jam3 mothakkar salem marfou3 bil Waw, the whole thing :) I do it at work too, because like you, I really hate it when people, who are good in Arabic pretend not to be because they think it's uncool to speak Arabic! At the end we are here to enlighten and not to tell people they're wrong. You can't deny it is working, some people are double checking their Tweets so maybe they'll start double checking what they write on official websites (see the UJ website fail post) or in official letters.

Marvin the Martian said...

Bless you for trying to hold back the decay of language, which is only exacerbated by the existence of Twitter. ;-)

Haitham هيثم Al-Sheeshany الشيشاني said...

I think the E-lingo had made the boundries so blur; shorthand writing is the norm. I can write how the/a word is pronounced irregardless of the grammer/missing letters/... provided that the meaning is conveyed in such a way that`s comprehendible.

Of course I`m talking about application like Twitter here, not in all writings - even E-ones.

*Gpreds does not clearly imply that spellingZ are alsO inclUded :P.


Rand said...

Marvin Twitter and text messages!

Haitham Oh Haitham, did you just say "irregardless"? I'm sure you meant regardless dude, wella you mixed a couple of words there. #GPreds ya Haitham.
Also, I don't think it's okay when you're botching the whole language, Arabic or English!

Seleucid said...

Further explanation:
If you were writing on your computer and the spell-check found a mistake, would you be offended?

Grammar Predators are like that, they're a helpful service. They make you realize mistakes in your writing you never knew. They help you be more alert, think more instead of bumbling clumsily on the keyboard. They help you improve. Every time I've learned a new language, most of my improvement came from friends who cared about me enough to correct what I wasn't pronouncing/writing correctly, and I owe it all to them.

What I didn't like was people acting all cocky on me because of my poor language skills. So if the person tagging you is offensive or condescending, he's working opposite to our goal. Notify our auditor Rand, and she will point out to that person where he/she has stepped out of the creed.

And remember, it's viral. Respect our creed, and anyone can join. Happy hunting everyone!

Tamer said...

LOL, anything to improve my english, support you Rand...
I wish I could do same thing with bad drivers, some people dangerous behind the wheel..

Tamer said...

correction: ...some people ARE dangerous...
OMG now i am frightened of being #GPredsED

Rand said...

Tamer, we're not here to scare people :) but it's nice that everyone is watching what they write now :P

Tamer said...

Abeer said...

Now I get it! :D

Post a Comment