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Bitter Writer Advice Column

Dear Bitter Writer:

I have a pet peeve to air out. I’m always irked when people complain about something not being “proper English.” I maintain that there’s really no such thing; that English is only ever “proper” in a particular context, be it formal, academic, conversational, etc. What’s your proper take?

Tony Martins

Dear Mr. Martins:

I’m glad that you asked this particular question. The absolute worst thing that anybody could ever do to their life is get a master’s degree in English literature. (King Joffrey from “Game of Thrones” has a master’s in literature.)

jack-gleeson-as-arrogant-king-joffrey

This flimsy credential will give the holder an inappropriate amount of external confidence and entitlement but actually fill them with a crippling sense of insufficiency and self-loathing because they failed to advance any further in the world of academia. These “masters” think they’re better and more gifted than their less-certified peers but will have realized, deep, deep down in the burning pit of their anger hole that in failing to summit Mt. PhD they’re really not exceptional, just pitifully bound to the notion of external validation. Inevitably, they will take refuge in small, cruel pedantry, rattling on about things like “proper English” in the midst of the most benign, innocuous social encounters. They’re all a bunch of fuckers. There’s no such thing as proper English. We practically communicate through hieroglyphs now, okay? Get over it, fuckers. Whenever somebody says that you’re not using “proper English,” what that person is actually telling you is “I hate my life.”

Please send all letters for Bitter Writer to mm@michaelmurray.ca or post in the comments section of this page.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m searching for a grammatical error in here, but haven’t located it yet. I’ll get back to you.

    June 19, 2013
  2. What do you think of “bookishness,” a loose term that I think gives people the satisfaction of feeling literary by simply drinking coffee from a mug bearing a famous literary quote or face. “Bookishness” seems to examine everything about books without bothering to open one up. Am I wrong? Thanks.

    June 19, 2013
    • Siobhan #

      Ha! I went to school with a girl who spent an entire summer cycling around town wearing a cloche hat with a copy of Ulysses prominently displayed in the wicker basket of her bicycle. I am sure the spine was never cracked on that book.

      June 19, 2013
  3. Michael Murray #

    Jeff:

    I thank you for your question, and will most definitely answer it with great bitterness.

    June 19, 2013
  4. Siobhan #

    Well Kevin, if one wanted to be pedantic (in order to further embitter the Bitter Writer), one might suggest this sentence:

    “This flimsy credential will give the holder an inappropriate amount of external confidence and entitlement but actually fill them with a crippling sense of insufficiency and self-loathing because they failed to advance any further in the world of academia.”

    The writer started using the singular person “the holder” and finished with the plural “them” instead of “he/she”. This, as we all know, may be acceptable in lesser academic circles, but is simply not Proper English.

    Glad to be of help.

    June 19, 2013
    • Your alternative ‘he/she’ would be the singular expression to use instead of ‘they’, while ‘him/her’ would be used as a singular expression of ‘them’.

      Of course he already opined that such corrections were anathematic to him; I don’t know what you wanted to bring that subject on up for.

      June 19, 2013
  5. Vivian #

    The error is in the second sentence. “Absolute” and “worst” are absolute adjectives, and should not be used together. I’m pointing this out with a hate-free conscience, since I have no “Master’s” and am therefore not a “fucker.”

    June 19, 2013
  6. Michael Murray #

    Fuckers:

    A masters in not the sole criteria for being a fucker. For instance, many cinephiles, chess players and philosophers are also fuckers. Think of the person at the bar, the english person who does not speak spanish, who pronounces Nicaragua, Knee-hah-rah-ha. This person is also a fucker.

    See?

    Proper English is the sort of thing that the British Empire would go to war over, ( The Falkland Islands was all about Proper English) and grammar is simply a way for people who don’t play sports to pass the time. It is the refuge of the Internet Troll, a secret 12-sided die or a concert t-shirt signed by Sting.

    June 19, 2013

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