Tag Archives: language

I’ll never say whom, and semicolons are unnecessary

I hate when I’m trying to write something in Microsoft Word and it tells me via that super passive aggressive green squiggly underline that I shouldn’t have written the word “who,” that what I meant to say was actually “whom.” Nope, sorry Microsoft Word, sorry English language, but I refuse to ever, ever use the word whom. Except for that last sentence. And I guess any future uses of the word whom in this blog post are exempt as well.


I’ve never said whom in real life. And if anybody ever says whom to me, I’ll walk away in the middle of your sentence. “Rob!” you’ll yell at me as I fade away in the distance. “Where are you going? What did I say?” You said whom. Nobody says whom. It doesn’t even sound right. It sounds like you have something stuck somewhere on your tongue, and you’re simultaneously trying to speak in English while getting that thing unstuck from your tongue.

It’s the most unnecessary wordage in the English language, its sole purpose being to give word snobs a reason to talk down to people when they don’t use it. But like I said a million times already, nobody uses it. If my boss ever came over to me and said, “Hey Rob, I want you to send out this gift basket.” And if I said to my boss, “Hey boss, to whom should I send it?” He’d probably fire me. “Stop being such a smart-ass dick,” he’d shout to me before slamming the door to my back. Because really, you don’t sound smart. You just sound like that person who doesn’t get it, that real people don’t talk that way anymore, that languages evolve, and that the written word follows in step. It’s like, you don’t hear people saying thine and ye and shan’t and giveth. See, well, you can’t actually see it, but Microsoft Word didn’t underline any of those old English words as being misspelled. Because they’re technically words. But nobody uses them. And nobody uses whom. So stop. Just stop.

And while I’m at it, I’ll never use semicolons, I don’t believe in them. I’ll give the same exact argument that I gave for who and whom, they don’t serve a purpose in modern anything, not modern writing, not modern literature, Internet, nothing is better off thanks to a semicolon. It’s a poseur’s trick to make it look like you know how to write, and that’s what it comes down to, I guess, that just because you know the rules doesn’t necessarily make you good at the game. “But Rob, all of those clauses simply must be separated by a semicolon!” Why? It’s outdated. It’s stupid. It prevents the natural flow of words going from page to head. Having clauses separated by commas does the same exact thing, it’s easier on the eye, and you don’t need semicolons. Because they’re lame. You don’t need this symbol ^ either. What’s it called, a carrot? Yeah it’s for old-school style corrections, right? Yeah, sorry carrot, computers have made you obsolete too.

Chu wanna rite like dis? Go ahead, just do it, just write something, anything, because English is a language that’s constantly evolving. It’s why old English and middle English are barely legible to modern readers. It’s why we’re arguing about what the Founders meant when they placed that comma over there when writing the Second Amendment. And this is a good thing (not the Second Amendment part), because rules are important, sure, but you learn the rules in school and then you move on. If anybody’s criticizing grammar outside of a high school classroom, for real, that’s super lame. Just stop it. Super, super lame.

What does it all mean?

I remember when I was a little kid, a few times when I got really, really bored, I’d turn to a Spanish television channel and I’d try with all of my might to just do it, to just force myself to understand Spanish. I had nothing to work with at all, besides your basic hola mi nombre es. But I’d just sit there and try to will those words to make sense in my brain. And obviously nothing was happening, but it wouldn’t stop me from holding out just a little bit of hope. I mean, these people were communicating, there had to have been a way for me to access what was going on.


It’s like, I see some Chinese text on a billboard in Flushing, or the Korean church van that passes me in traffic, it has symbols or pictographs or glyphs or whatever they’re called scrawled along the side. And a part of me still tries the same trick. Like, come on, reveal yourself to me, just tell me what you’re trying to tell everybody else.

And again, there’s nothing there. But still I can feel my brain doing its best to stare intently at the line configurations, the two characters that look familiar except for maybe a slight difference that a non-native reader wouldn’t be able to pick up. Well look at that, I just picked it out. That’s something, right? What does it mean? Why can’t I read Chinese?

It’s like, when I go upstate in the summer, I like to stare up at the stars. I can always find the Big Dipper, I’m quick to point out Orion and his belt. But after that, I’m just like, where is everything? Isn’t one of these constellations supposed to look like a crab? And while nothing’s jumping out at me immediately, after a while I start to see claws, or one claw anyway, like something kind of looks like a claw. And it’s that same automatic process, all of these imaginary lines start getting connected in my field of vision. I’m seeing hamsters and racecars and, those can’t be real, right? I mean, there’s no way ancient people would have been able to spot stuff in the sky that hadn’t been invented yet.

Or if it’s a really nice day and I’m lying out in the grass, I’ll stare up at the daytime sky and watch all of the clouds mix and mingle. Here there’s not as much pressure to find something that I know is already there. Here I can just kind of let my brain do what it does, find something where there’s probably nothing. I’ll see an old man with a beard, and after I stare at him for a while he kind of morphs into a giant bowl of fruit.

And I just can’t help but think, why do we have to learn all of this stuff? Can’t we figure out a way to program it all into our DNA? Right? It’s like, you don’t have to teach a baby how to breathe. Why do you have to teach that same baby Mandarin? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could somehow inscribe all of those lessons right into our DNA? Think of the advantages our future babies would have if they came out of the womb already knowing how to read.

And Braille, man, I’m glad that there exists a system that allows blind people to read and write, but every once in a while I’ll be at some hotel somewhere, I see that all of the room numbers and elevator buttons have their Braille translations all embossed in metal underneath their alphabetical counterparts. And have you ever tried feeling Braille? Man, I’m sure you get better with practice, I mean, I know it works, but I don’t feel anything, it’s just a bunch of little bumps. How are you supposed to train your fingers to differentiate slight variations of the distances in between tiny little bumps?

And then, what if you do get really good at Braille? What if you’re able to slide your fingertips across a page and absorb information as fast as I’m reading with my eyes? Do your fingers get hyper sensitive? Do they start randomly trying to decode secret messages every time they grip a piece of sandpaper? Are they constantly struggling to make sense out of the nonsense bumps that constitute the skin of an avocado?

And what about Chinese blind people, do they have a different Braille than we do over here in America? What about sign language, is it its own language? Or do they have different signs for different languages? Man, I could ask questions for days. I should just look this stuff up. But I wouldn’t even know how to make any of these into searchable terms for Google. Wouldn’t it be great if we had like built-in search engines? I’d be able to do Google Translate right in my head. I guess I wouldn’t have to stare intently at Chinese billboards, futilely trying to comprehend messages that I’m simply not able to understand.

Say it like you mean it

Can we stop fake cursing? You see it online, on message boards and Facebook comments. People get animated, they want to express themselves, but instead of saying what they really want to say, they use code words to get at what they mean. But the code words are very loosely disguised. “I’m so freaking sick of the government telling me what to do!” or “When are these freaking idiots going to stop acting like such gosh darn jerks!”


You want to say fuck, you’re thinking fuck, but you type out freak. You’re not fooling anybody, and you’re not making the world a nicer place. You’re just making it a faker place. What’s the point of saying freaking? What do you think you’re accomplishing by peppering every noun in your vocabulary with the lamest of all adjectives?

I just get so fed up with the insincerity. And I hope I’m not coming across as too big of a dick here, I mean, I’m not trying to attack everyone guilty of using these unfortunately sugar-coated non-words. I get it, you might be just trying your best to be civil, to mind your manners. You probably grew up in a house where if you got caught cursing, your mom might chew you out for being a potty-mouth or whatever. And so now you’re an adult and for some reason those lessons stuck, like you can’t curse.

Or you can’t “cuss.” Again, maybe it’s just a regional thing or whatever, but whenever I hear or read someone use the word cuss, I just know that they’re probably the biggest freaking offenders. You can’t even say the word curse? You’ve got to come up with some fake word that kind of sounds like curse? You just sound like a little kid, worried about talking too loud because their mom might come over and start yelling.

And more often than not, the freaking people trying to be civil by not cursing, it’s just a big joke. You ever witness an online flame war? People hurling insults and invective across the Internet? I’ll see something like this:

“You FREAKIN idiots think you know so much better than us? Are you FREAKIN stupid? Open your FREAKIN eyes!”

I mean, maybe you technically didn’t curse, but the all caps gives it away, the sentiment is there. You’re telling somebody as strongly as you can, without actually saying it, fuck off. Fuck you, fuck your idea, go fuck yourself.

If you’re going to say fuck, just say fuck. What’s the big deal? Why are trying to cover it up? If you don’t want to curse, just find some way of saying what you want to say without saying fuck. Just replacing fuck with freak, that doesn’t count. Any sentence where you can seamlessly interchange freak for fuck or vice versa, I mean, come on, who are you kidding?

It’s like when you’re a little kid, and you don’t want to get in trouble getting caught giving someone the middle finger, so you extend the ring finger. And you do it and you make that “fuck you” face, like seriously, go fuck yourself. And then maybe you were being careless, and a parent or a teacher catches you, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing!” And you try to defend yourself, “No! No, you don’t understand! I wasn’t giving the middle finger! It was the ring finger!” You still got it trouble. The teacher was like, “I know exactly what you were getting at, and that is unacceptable.”

It’s the same online, when you write freaking instead of fucking. Don’t be a baby. You want to keep conversation civil? No fake middle fingers. No fake go-fuck-yourself. Either say it, or don’t say it. Like, here’s an example. Instead of saying, “Are you FREAKIN serious?” you could maybe say something like, “I couldn’t disagree with you more. I think your argument is crazy.” That’s pretty strong right? See, there are ways to go about expressing the same sentiment without having to succumb to fake curse words.

Or, just say, “You’re fucking crazy,” but own it. Just be an adult about it. You want to curse? Fine. Like I said, who cares? Honestly, who really cares about curse words anyway? Don’t you ever think that they’re only powerful because we give them power? If moms and dads didn’t warn their kids never to curse, do you think there’d be such a strong desire to curse? Especially when those kids then turn around and hear their parents saying stuff like freaking, or frickin, or friggin.

Friggin drives me nuts, because it’s just ridiculous, it’s not even a word at all. You’re just spewing gibberish. And when people write it out like freakin’ or friggin’ and it’s like, look, I’m not adding the g at the end of the word, but here’s an apostrophe. What’s the point? I just don’t understand.

It’s like when people write ‘em instead of them. “Just pop ‘em in the oven!” Why don’t you just write them instead of ‘em? Why do you have to type out apostrophe em?

Now I’m getting off topic. It’s just, I get so sick of seeing stuff online, fake words, fake sentiment. Just own it. If you want to curse, curse. If you want to avoid cursing, don’t use fake curse words, because it’s obvious that you’re just trying to curse without getting called out on cursing.

You want to say something, say it, but say it like you mean it.

Bonjour Montreal

I just spent the weekend in Montreal. Everybody speaks French. They speak English also, but French is the primary language. Someone told me that there are all sorts of strict laws mandating everything to be written in French in an effort to preserve its identity, I guess from being swallowed up by the rest of the mostly English speaking continent.

You walk into a store and it’s bonjour, and I never know just how to respond. Because everybody speaks some English, I don’t want to respond back with bonjour, because I don’t want to then give the impression that I speak French. They might then say something else in French, probably more than just a hello, probably a whole sentence. And I don’t know any French, none at all. So then I’ll have to get all awkward and say something like, “uh … sorry, I don’t speak French,” and they’ll be thinking, “Well, thanks for making me waste a whole sentence in French. Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”

And sometimes they never even give you the opportunity. Sometimes there is no hello, it’s just right into the French. Like somebody might approach me on the street and ask me a question. What’s the best way to respond? It’s definitely not to make a pained face and then stutter something out in English.

But I really don’t want to come across as arrogant. Even though most of the people there know English, I don’t want to just barge into a situation and impose my language. It all just stems from the fact that English, my native tongue, it just happens to be this quasi-universal means of communication. So where it would be crazy for somebody to approach me in New York and start talking in a foreign dialect, that’s eventually what I’m going to wind up doing abroad. Because yeah, it’s an advantage, and yeah, ultimately it’s the only way I’m going to be able to communicate.

On previous trips to Montreal, I’d get a little anxious after a while, like I’d rather not talk at all. But what am I going to do? It’s not like I’m going to stay totally silent. This time around I practiced a trick, where if I were greeted in French, I’d respond with the same greeting in French, and then immediately start talking in English. “Bonjour/Hello,” like so fast that the other person wouldn’t really have a chance to make it awkward or difficult.

I figured that I covered all of the problems that I was talking about earlier. I wouldn’t be ignoring their French but I wouldn’t really be participating in it either. I guess when I say it like that it still sounds kind of arrogant, but definitely a little less arrogant. It’s kind of like I’m acknowledging the French, paying my respects.

I’ve also heard that if you’re from the US and you speak French, if you try to speak French to a French Canadian, they’ll just switch to English. But that seems like a huge stereotype, and even as I’m writing this paragraph it sounds like a stupid generality. But I don’t know. Maybe it’s true. I don’t know French.

Also, how big is the difference between French spoken in Canada and French spoken in France? When I try to look for an answer on the Internet, it’s always people writing stuff like, “There’s a huge difference,” without really elaborating. Is there an equivalent in English? Like American English as compared to New Zealand’s? Like how dramatic are we talking?

I’d like to abruptly end by talking about how cool Montreal is. The food’s great. The people are really friendly. And yeah, even though it sounds like a foreign country, everybody speaks English. It’s a real win-win-win. Go see for yourself. Tell them Rob sent you. Tell somebody that. And they’ll just stare at you and say, “What?” but they’ll say it in French.