“Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak; this verbal class distinction, by now, should be antique*.” The aforesaid lines are from the song “Why can’t the English learn to speak” from the Hollywood blockbuster and classic My Fair Lady. One of my all-time favourite songs, I have happily borrowed from the meter and intent in my favourite lament, sung each time I despair over grammatical errors I see in some content or the other. Mostly, my tearing my hair over grammar, or rather the negligence of it, happens when I review content submitted by various marketing communication agencies who work with my organization in India. Here’s my take-off from where Henry Higgins left off….
Why can’t schools today teach children how to write,
Don’t they know the Grammar has to be absolutely right?
It’s the Price of Admission, don’t they see?
The professional world has so decreed!
The advent of the Internet has brought in its wake much good. I would even go to the extent of saying that the Internet is virtually the last bastion of true freedom. But, and there is a but, the Internet has also led to rapid changes in the way we live, transact and communicate. The written word, for example, is now often unrecognisable and undecipherable for older generations schooled in Wren and Martin. To illustrate, I had to ask the youngsters around me as to what ‘bff’ meant. Much to my relief I learnt that ‘bff’ is not profanity (as I thought) but stands for ‘Best Friends Forever’ in its expanded form. The experience made me wonder as to what A Future Tale would look like.
Youngsters, in their impatience and hurry, may be finding hieroglyphics an easier way to communicate. I accept that. I even accept that everything, including language evolves. I am sure people from Shakespearean times will shake their heads in despair at the way we seem to have murdered their English language. Just like I sometimes lament now at the Internet’s “cold blooded murder of the English tongue*.”
Be that as it may, I still tend to get on my high horse when I see poorly researched and worded content. Because, all said and done, consumers tend to judge a brand by the refined language it uses to communicate. So, professionally I have to ensure that ‘propah’ English is used in content I sign off on. As for personally, I’m afraid it just goes against the grain – what with certain principles of communication being so ingrained by all those years of schooling. Not to forget the time I spent in the advertising industry.
So, confession time. I am a content snob. There I said it!
And, yes, I can hear my team mates in my office cracking up as they read this. They may even be doing a jig, singing, “She admitted it, she admitted it.” I don’t blame them if they are doing a jig, what with my constant R2-D2* like eruptions over grammatically incorrect sentences.
I am sure, to start with, the title of this post itself may have delighted them. And made them curious. Well, without any further ado, let me explain why I am speaking to you today about ‘The Day I Stopped Being a Content Snob.’
Recently, I was invited by Anirban Saha to join a Facebook group – Indian Bloggers Discussion Forum. The forum had a conversation thread going on what objectives the forum should achieve. Having long lamented over poorly researched and crafted content, I jumped in and expressed that the forum should aim at taking up the standards of blogging content. The response I got from a young man, Sourav Ghosh, both shamed and humbled me. The response also served to remind me that the Internet stands for freedom of expression at its very core. Here’s what Sourav said…
Latadi*, My humble request would be to encourage writing and intention to improve. Quality will come with time. I always loved writing, but I was never good in English. I was blessed to have supportive friends and seniors, who appreciated the message I conveyed through my writing, inspite of countless grammatical errors. They gently corrected my mistakes and helped me improve. I am still learning and improving. Though, to be very honest, my target audience doesn’t care at all about linguistic correctness, as long as they get value from my posts. I know many people who want to start their blog and write about the topics they want to, but hesitate just because of this reason. They think that their writing is not quality enough. Let a blogger have full freedom to express whatever they want, in whatever way they want or can. I guess Internet is the only place, where all of us can have that kind of freedom.
Need I say more? Thanks to a young man called Sourav Ghosh, I stopped being a content snob on April 13, 2015.
The conversation also made me reflect that I can’t, on the one hand, lament society’s choice of style over substance like I did in Price of Admission while still looking for ‘propah’ English on the other. So, I stopped being a content snob and since that day focus on the message and not the grammar. And, you know what? I am now enjoying reading many more blogs because I have got off my high horse.
On that note, I leave you to enjoy the song Why Can’t the English Learn to Speak from My Fair Lady.
#GrammarPolice #content #MyFairLady #writingadvice
Thank you for reading this post. If you enjoyed the read and found value, do check out these related posts – Price of Admission, A Future Tale and Jolly Good to Jolly Bad, I Say! May I also request that you help spread the good word in this post? All you need to do is take a second and click on any one of the Social Media buttons here. Of course, I would also be delighted if you subscribed to my blog site. Or, connected with me via LinkedIn or Twitter where I regularly publish my posts on my feed:)
Featured Image Credit: My Fair Lady Poster: Image by Pat McGrath (Flickr.com CC BY 2.0)
- lyrics from the song “Why Can’t the English Learn to Speak” from the Hollywood movie My Fair Lady.”
*R2-D2 – one of the characters in Star Wars.
* Di is often used as a suffix to respectfully address an older woman as elder sister in the Bengali language. So, Latadi means Sourav is respectfully addressing my status as an older woman. In India, even strangers are called brother and sister as a sign of respect.
Lata Subramanian – Jolly Good to Jolly Bad, I Say!