Mother Tongue

This post is actually a rant on a pet peeve of mine so please bear with me…

“I fink ds ishu has bn ovaflogd, lyk 4 rl. If yhu cnt undstnd me, dn sry. English is not my mutha tong.”

I think I just fried some of my brain cells trying to read this!🤯

But you see, this right here is an excerpt from a post some girl made on her Facebook page. This came after the comment section on her previous post had been flooded with comments from her “friends” complaining about her poor grammar. Needless to say, the reactions to this new post of hers was bonkers — the roasting was phenomenal. 🤦🏾‍♀️

I can understand perfectly where the comments under this girl’s post are coming from. I am a lover of words. I love to luxuriate in a piece of well-written prose. It doesn’t have to be any fancy words. Just a beautiful string of words to convey a message or point of view. As a kid, one of my favourite pastimes was reading the dictionary and learning new words — their spelling, definitions and looking forward to using them one day. As an adult, you would often find me neck-deep in some word game in my idle time. Just last week I learnt 3 new words: obstreperous, sisyphean, and senelophinia.💪🏾

Now, something that grinds my gears to no end is poor grammar. As humans, we all have that one thing (or more) which may seem frivolous to others but just gets under our skin every time. We generally call them pet peeves, and one of mine is poor grammar. Nothing makes me cringe like when I stumble upon a text fraught with grammatical errors. And to make matters worse, whenever I have a text in front of me, it could be as short as a caption or a tweet, or as long as a 500-word essay, my eyes immediately zero in on the grammatical errors and it always makes my skin crawl.

Arrrggghhhhhhhhhhhhh I hate it so!😬😬😬

I believe that in communicating, it is important that the person you are addressing understands your point in order for it to be effective. With all the progress and innovation and all the good things that have come with the digital age, it’s rather unfortunate that because of social media, most people cannot spell anymore. What started out as a quick alternative to conserving space on texts and tweets has become the vocabulary of choice for so many. And what’s even more interesting is that many of the words that are misspelt are usually only missing an extra alphabet. Would it have killed you to add the “o” and “e”? Possibly! Because there’s a very high chance that the person writing may not even know the proper spelling of the word!

Granted, when on social media or an informal conversation, abbreviations and slangs are perfectly fine – “U” instead of “You” or “Thx” instead of “Thanks” etc. But when you now type “now” as “nau” or “you” as “yhu”, who are you fooling? They have the same number of letters! So many people now believe that in some alternate universe, “who’s – who is” is the same as “whose” or “you are – you’re” is the same as “your”. And I must not forget the almighty misuse of “I’m – I am” and “am” or “it’s – it is” and “its”, which is absolutely wrong and annoying because they actually think it is right!

And speaking of abbreviations, there are folks out here who abbreviate words so much so that the words lose their meanings. I dread the day when our speech is reduced to simply alphabets or sign language. I wonder if it’s the time it takes to string a complete sentence that’s the issue or this need to join every bandwagon that seems to trend.

I mean, WTF is KK? Is it not “ok” you are trying to type? Whatever happened to the letter “O”? You now had to reach for the extra K. And what the hell is ‘fink’, ‘fanks’, or you typing “lurve” for “love” when the former even has more letters? And don’t get me started on the use of “cum” as modern speak for “come”! That one just takes the cake!

Like, you want to know if I’m cumming? Really? You really would like to know if I’m cumming? SMH I can’t even deal.

And something that is equally sad and even more offensive is when you receive an official mail with all these wrong abbreviations! Poorly written English is one of the reasons why some people have lost job opportunities. How do you want any manager or investor to take you seriously if your CV or business project is full of spelling errors and modern-day slang? Nowadays we have auto-correct, online dictionaries and all kinds of software to help with our grammar, so why not put your best foot forward and put in a little effort when trying to communicate?

And that is why the ‘excuse’ of “English is not my mother tongue just irks the hell out of me. Does English not being your mother tongue mean that you don’t need to at least (try to) speak and write it well? Whatever happened to self-improvement? If you grew up using English as a working language and were taught its usage in school so you could speak and write it properly, wouldn’t you want to continue in that same vein of speaking and writing proper English when communicating? 

At the end of the day, the way we choose to communicate is entirely up to us. So when we choose to use a certain language as our medium of communication, be it our mother tongue or not, I think it is just respectful to our audience, be it an audience of 1 or 1000, that we get at least the grammar right, at least so your message is not diluted by avoidable grammatical errors. That’s all I am saying. Social media is never in short supply of cool and fun slangs and abbreviations that enrich our vocabulary by the day, but remember not everyone is up to date with all these new words so you might want to restrict your new hip slangs to casual conversations with your close circle of friends and family. 

And I know to many, this is not that serious and they will say it’s just words and there are more important things in the world to get worked up about, but to me it is! Bad grammar is a pet peeve of mine and it makes my skin crawl. 😬 And really, I just feel disheartened by this new generation of people who seem to barely know how to string two words together coherently and cannot draft a coherent document or even a simple one-page letter, yet will be quick to brandish the “English is not my mother tongue” excuse instead of making amends, but hey what do I know?!

And excuse me while I hop right back on that soapbox once more …

How can you type “cum” as opposed to “come” with a straight face? This gets a big UGH from me, like UUUUUGGGGHHHHH C’mon man WTH!!!. This just annoys the hell out of me. A very disgusting something!🙄

Personally I think the “English is not my mother tongue” line is nothing but a cheap cop-out. I look at this situation as this: why not put your best foot forward when putting something out for public consumption, no matter what it is, how ever small. Because those words are a representation of you and what you stand for, and I am sure we all want to be seen in a great light. It’s common these days for us to take 100 pictures from every angle just to select one – the best one, to post on a social media platform, or spend hours editing our pictures before sharing them with the world. Why? Because we want to be seen in the best light. So why not do that with our words? We have all kinds of software applications to help with that. So why not make that effort? And as we all know, once something is shared with the world, it is susceptible to be judged, critiqued, nitpicked, pulled-apart; so why not save yourself from having your grammar be part of that and dilute whatever point you were trying to get across. I came across a beautiful profile picture of a young man on LinkedIn. He was looking very crisp, sharp, great smile, very professional. But his bio. 🤦🏾‍♀️ It was really disheartening to see that this young man had taken the time to have a good professional photograph of himself yet did a piss-poor job writing something about himself.

And if you really really feel the need to correct someone’s grammar, make sure yours is impeccable, and above all: mind your tone! Because oftentimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Some people are just plain mean and condescending with their “corrections”, and then wonder why what they were trying to convey gets completely thrown out the window. 

But as a simple guide to all of us; as much as we may spend a great deal of time on social media writing in slang and abbreviations, we just have to have enough gumption not to do it when writing some academic or professional work. And as much as I hate IM speak or bad English generally, I’m equally irked by the overuse or unnecessary use of big words. Like who the hell says “infinitesimally” in a conversation with one’s friends? Story for another day…


If you surrender to the wind you can ride it ... Toni Morrison

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