Clint McCance, an elected board member of the Midland School District in the Arkansas Ozarks, does not like the gays. Thanks to some timely screen caps forwarded to The Advocate, the whole world is now aware of his colorful opinions on the subject. I'll quote him at length in just a moment.

I am but one of hundreds of bloggers who will express outrage at his opinions, although I will say little in terms of his "argument" because it is so self-evidently stupid.
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You do not need me or anyone else to tell you that this guy is a bigot and a dickhead.

What is not likely to be discussed, and what bothers me almost as much as his anti-gay ranting, is the fact that someone who is on a school board (and thus making decisions relevant to the education of our next generation of adults) writes at something approximating a 6th grade level. Here, Clint, let me grade this for you:

Seriously (sic; missing comma) they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. The only way im wearin (sic) it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant (sic) believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves (sic) because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE. (…)

No because being a fag doesn't give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives (sic). If you get easily offended by being called a fag then dont (sic) tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that shit to yourself. I dont (sic) care how people decide to live their lives. They dont (sic) bother me if they keep it to thereselves (sic). It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I like that fags cant (sic) procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids (sic) and die. If you arent (sic) against it, you might as well be for it. (…)

I would disown my kids they were gay (sic). They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off.
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Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid christian (sic) beliefs. See it (sic) infects everyone. (???)


When did it become acceptable for adults to communicate with one another like this? I don't suppose we should be surprised that someone with attitudes like this would turn out to be…well, not that bright, but no matter the content of one's message it continues to shock me how much difficulty we have making ourselves understood in some approximation of English these days. I realize that the average Northern Arkansan is unlikely to take great offense to McCance's remarks – hell, the majority probably agree with him but are smart enough to keep it off the internet. Nonetheless, I think we can raise the bar just a little and find someone who can construct a profane, ignorant rant that does not read like a 14 year old's YouTube comment.

(Again, not to downplay the offensiveness of his opinions. I just can't believe how stupid we sound irrespective of the substance and content.)

92 thoughts on “ARKANSAS LEARNIN'”

  • I teach college composition at a bottom tier state school and I fear for the future.
    Writing takes a unique level of attention that many people simply don't seem to be able to rise to. Forget that I ended that sentence in a preposition. If you want my opinion on why, from a pedagogical view, students' writing is going downhill, let me introduce you to a assshole named Stanley Fish, who just happens to have hit the nail on the head with this one:

  • The really telling mistake is "thereselves" (and he types it more than once!). The others are within the bounds of what I've seen educated, intelligent people type when going too quickly or not proofreading. But "thereselves" strikes me as a fundamental linguistic misunderstanding.

  • Y'know, Ed, I had the same reaction. Clearly, the guy's a bigot and an asshole, but it's just as clear that he has no business advising a school district on curricula and hiring/firing issues.

    But hell. This kind of shit seems to be the wave of the future. Sarah Palin doesn't know shit about how the government runs? Put her in charge of the government! Ron Johnson's a fucking idiot who doesn't give a fuck about effective legislation? Put him in the Senate!

    It's like we've made the Peter Principle our national motto.

  • It didn't take me long to realize that most of the world is composed of Youtube commenters. For example, I'm grading midterm essays right now, and most of them would not be out of place there.

  • grumpygradstudent says:

    Ed, for someone who's pretty critical of power structures, you seem oddly willing to accept this arbitrary standard of "standard" English. Who do you think imposed that standard? It was the same plutocrats who are still fucking everyone over today, who you criticize daily. It's a remarkably useful tool for keeping the poor in their place! People who don't grow up around educated, middle-class people don't speak or write like educated, middle-class people. That doesn't make them stupid.

    That said, this guy is (obviously) egregiously stupid.

  • grumpygradstudent pretty much called it. Standards are more or less artificial (as far as what variety is chosen as standard, at the very least), and expecting adherence to the standard language on facebook is a little excessive.

  • To be fair, many grammatical rules are entirely artificial, like the proscription against split infinitives.

    That said, "thereselves" is just unforgivable. But it's the least of this moron's sins.

  • There is guy from Arkansas who has a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Duke and currently has a job at a pharmaceutical company. He also shares his name with a Major League Baseball starting pitcher who plays for the Atlanta Braves.

  • I too teach college writing and rhetoric courses, and the litmus test for "egregious," at least to me, is whether an error keeps me from understanding the point. There's nothing in his post that disrupts the message. And yes, part of the message is, "I'm a dumbass bigot."

  • Awww darn…"thereselves"…a new word soon to be added to the dictonary? I can't wait to see the definition. Palin and O'Donnell were doing such a good job with their handywork!

    You really have to love english, I had a boss that regularly said "irregardless" and it drove me up a wall. Look that one up.

  • Elder Futhark says:

    It's so obvious. He's eskeered of masculine punctuation. Commas and apostrophes are vaguely male genitaliaish.

  • Ryan and Grumpygrad seem to suggest that the rules of grammar and standard English are unimportant, or even a bad thing. I completely disagree, and it's not because I'm an English professor pulling my hair out grading papers written by people who think they're commenting on a YouTube video. No, I work in the private sector, and I believe that the rules of grammar and standard English are important because when people ignore them, the message they intended to convey becomes obscured.

    At least once every day, one of my colleagues brings me an email from a client or vendor and asks me to help decipher it. "What do you think they mean?" is the refrain. Our clients and our vendors are educated people who ought to know better, but thanks to the lax standards of modern written communication, they don't seem to care. This creates all sorts of difficult and stressful situations, and results in tremendous inefficiencies.

    Are the rules arbitrary? Sure they are. But the rules are what make language useful for communication. Without the rules, any combination of words and sounds could mean anything at all.

    And to quote Ed: (Again, not to downplay the offensiveness of his opinions. I just can't believe how stupid we sound irrespective of the substance and content.)

  • When I was a freshman in college, I was told by my English professor that I needed to write with a pen in my right hand and a dictionary in my left. It was good advice and has helped quite a bit over the years; so has spell check. Still, I feel that people's writing has gotten so incredibly bad that I am shocked that someone like me is on the side of the grammar police.

    People in the south do say that 'word' instead of 'themselves' but for Christ's sake at least spell it "theirselves"

  • I think some of you have thoroughly conflated "dialect" with a simple failure to learn how to speak or write the language.

    If your overriding argument is, "Rules are irrelevant as long as X achieves its purpose" I think you are on the wrong website.

  • I agree that poor grammar and spelling skills are atrocious these days (and I write as a spelling bee winner who once considered becoming a copy editor), but grumpygradstudent has a valid point. There is a Supreme Court decision which says that public school children are not owed a good education (that is, an education which meets minimum basic standards and would be relevant to the real world) under the Constitution. It was brought by the parents of lower-class and lower middle-class Mexican-American schoolchildren in the Southwest (Texas, I believe) who claimed that the disparity in the distribution of public school funding gave their children inadequate preparation for their lives post high school, and thus violated their Constitutional rights. I'm sure it was Rehnquist, that paragon of neoconservatism, who wrote the majority opinion denying their claim. Guess who is most adversely affected by the fallout from that decision.

  • It's a pretty simple fact that most people who exhibit pronounced bigotry are also profoundly stupid. No different here.

    Bonus points: Being in the southern areas, he's very likely to be one of those "immigrants should damn well learn English if they come here" types, despite his own tenuous grasp on the language.

  • I'm Just a Bill says:

    O.K., I just went to the hyperlinked site that holds the screen capture.

    (I don't care for the use of "screen caps" because there is only one capture and "caps" is the nickname for my Hockey Team in without proper capitalization.)

    In defense of his non-standard grammar usage, it is on facebook…
    Sorry, I don't know if those facebook comments have a special term. Also showing my lack of facebook understanding, maybe apostrophes don't work on that website.

    Meanwhile, I cannot condone the message or the use of "thereselves."

  • The fact is that his opinions are mainstream in Arkansas, and frankly throughout a large part of the United States. You're attacking him for holding an opinion that is no more controversial where he lives than the opinion that Mom, apple pie, and freedom are all good.

    Nor is poor writing any sort of strike against a school board member. People elect those who look like themselves (thereselves?). If that's how his constituents write – and I dare say it is – then it's a bonus to his re-election chances to write like that, not a detriment.

    The two things that you're criticizing him for are both major bonuses to his election chances.

    I'll also say, as others have already said, that standard language reflects practice, it doesn't dictate practice. Standard language 50 years from now will absolutely be twitterized/smartphoneized. "LOL" and "u" and probably "thereselves" will all be words. Apostrophes will be officially noted as optional in most words. "Teh" will be an official alternate spelling of "The".

  • Misterben(and everyone else decrying the fall of the English language): One thing that you really have to realize is that our dear Arkansan bigot posted this to facebook. It wasn't a campaign platform, it wasn't a letter to the editor, and it wasn't a memo to a client. It was posted on the internet, where norms of standard English don't apply like they do in the business world or academia. I'd wager that this guy wasn't bothering to even try and write in standard English, but was basically writing what he says, which is something the literate (yes, this man is literate) have been doing for the better part of thousands of years. Some people are lucky enough to have been born to a family speaking something closely approximating the "standard" language, and so when they write as they speak it's more or less impossible to tell; this guy wasn't so fortunate. Excoriate him for bigotry, but let's leave the language to the sociolinguists.

    Also, Ed, this post would make me think that you've not read a single sociolinguistic work. For shame, Ed, for shame.

  • No one is less a person for having weak language skills, particularly in his or her non-primary tongue. But does no one, of those griping about standard English, see that it's utterly inappropriate and darkly ironic to hire that person to a school board position? When I started first grade, my reading and writing test placed me at the 8th grade level; this guy's 6th grade skills make me wonder what qualifications they did have for the job — good Christian, pillar of the community, wipes own nose, can't think too well but understands God hates fags?

    For some reason, I suspect this genius may be a "learn English or get out of my country" type as well. (Homophobes who resent being lumped with illiterate English-only types may bite me.)

  • Monkey Business says:

    This is a textbook example of a language I've dubbed iBonics. It's a mishmash of hillbilly, ghetto, and Spanish slang combined hacker numerical replacement and shortening and approximately 6th grade English skills, that is used exclusively for online communication.

    What we're reading here is the birth of a new language, the retarded linguistic offspring of five monkeys having butt-sex with a fish-squirrel.

    That being said, this guy is still a bigot.

  • Ryan, I have read work by sociolinguists and I find your argument completely unconvincing and wrongheaded. Standard/high languages across the globe do represent "high culture" that is difficult for members of the lower classes/disadvantaged groups to attain and master. However, shouldn't easing the attainment of "high language" be the whole god damn goal! Instead, we have gone the other way.
    We are carving out more space for non-standard English in this age of mass publicity in which a nobody from Arkansas can become internet-famous for 3 days as the result of a facebook posting and fewer and fewer people spend time reading works in standard English. As a result there is confusion in much of the population (and especially amongst high school and college students) over where the "norms of standard English" apply.

  • McCance is a mean-spirited bigot, clearly. But to sit in the professor's chair and say that his use of a perfectly sensible and widely used word like "thereselves" is evidence that he's stupid, that shades into a kind of bigotry itself. The students that have the misfortune of having this asshat on their school board I'm sure use the word among themselves, and (while of course they should know that their betters will require they learn the rules of the standard dialect), I think it's just wrong to tell them that their use of non-standard dialect is evidence that they are stunted and stupid and probably an ignorant southern bigot.

  • Choosing to write poorly or informally is one thing. I don't believe in it personally, but I can understand it much as I understand that we must shift our language patterns from what he might use among friends to something more formal for a job interview, for example.

    However, in this case I'm not convinced that the man in question is capable of writing well-formed and well-structured sentences. I'm doubtful that someone whose informal thought processes are expressed so inelegantly has the mental discipline or grammatical knowledge to suddenly flip the "eloquent" switch.

  • Oxus: I'm not saying that it's a good or bad thing that this guy is writing non-standard forms of English. I'm saying that just because he uses a non-standard variety of English, that's no excuse to call him an idiot or mentally deficient.

    Ladiesbane: Again, I think it's dangerous to judge his mastery of standard English on the basis of a single sample of his writing in a place where we shouldn't necessarily expect a high-status language variant. Would you judge a college student's mastery of literary form on the basis of a single conversation they have with a bunch of friends or on the basis of a paper (or series of papers) they turn in for English or history course? We're comparing apples to oranges and saying the apples aren't citrus-y enough, goddammit, and we should expect citrus from our apples!

    All that said, this guy clearly shouldn't be holding office. But we can come to that conclusion based on merely what he says, not how he says it.

  • The argument that I fail to understand here is that somehow posting on Facebook excuses one from grammatical and spelling rules. I do understand that there is no reason to expect people to make informal posts in excruciatingly correct phraseology. I certainly don't comment in such a manner, nor will you find this post to be free errors(I dropped out of school when I was 14), but I find it hard to believe that if casual communication automatically drops below a certain level that it does not imply a lack of command of the basics. If it is somehow an effort not commit egregious errors when spouting nonsense from the top of your head, you probably don't know the language very well. Combine that with the presence of built-in spell checking being a common feature of browsers, and it seems astounding to me that anyone would put there name to something that appears to have been written by a small child.

  • I don't think it's irrelevant in this discussion to mention the relation of language to thought. (I think of Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" and its manifold progeny) This is not an point that I'm ideally suited to make, but I've gathered that the undereducated who can barely speak and write in their own language fall prey that much more easily to predatory sloganeers and demagogues. A self-consciousness about language leads inevitably to question terms like "Obamacare," "the death tax," not to mention vague concepts like "government has gotten out of control." The Teatards' massacre of their language is, I argue, no coincidence.

    I mean to underscore only the importance of those of you here who teach English, on whatever level: I think no other basic course goes further to build the discipline of rational thought. One additional vocabulary word can provide a wedge between two concepts that are different but have existed in the mind as one. Nuanced reasoning is critical to democracy, and I'm sure the decline of education has worked hand in hand with the decline of our democracy. One can't be reversed without the other.

    Not directly related to our Arkansas case study, maybe, but to some of the thoughts expressed above.

  • @ Ryan: I think we *can* come to that conclusion, though in a roundabout way. Viz:

    If we agree (we might not) that America, as a country with many versions of English–and many people whose first language is not English–needs a lingua franca in order to function as a mildly cohesive society, then Standard English, while its rules may be artificial and even arbitrary, serves a noble purpose.

    Few of us (myself included, and I'm a freaking English professor) speak/write instinctively in Standard English, and because of that, it's a good option precisely because it's a pain-in-the-ass for all who use it. Is it hard to learn, and thus excludes those without access to effective education? Yes. But pragmatism says that a choice has to be made, and until a better option is offered and universally accepted, it's better to require everyone to be on the same page in public discourse, so as to ensure that the discourse is genuinely public. (When we retreat into our own communities, we are of course free to use whatever English is the preferred tongue therein.)

    Thus, this guy's sub- or non-Standard English, when disseminated in a place of public discourse, reveals his arrogance ("if it's good enough for me, it's good enough for you, screw the rules"), his ignorance (no explanation necessary), and, yes, his stupidity. Because if you're going to make a controversial statement–and the fact that he spent so much time defending his stance means that he *knew* it was controversial–you need to make sure that it is perceived to come from a place of informed awareness–of knowledge. Which he did not display. Which makes his opinions appear to come from a place of ignorance. Which, as a rhetorically tactical move, is pretty goddamned stupid. In short, he isn't using non-Standard English just because he's stupid, he's stupid because he uses non-Standard English in a forum than demands otherwise.

    Also: Wow. That guys sucks.

  • Eric: You're missing the whole point. McCance is writing English that is not the English of the media. That doesn't necessarily mean he's mentally deficient, or uneducated, or a philistine, though he may be all of those. If he's not trying to write standard English (and since these are all taken from facebook, he very well might not be), then it seems ridiculous to judge him for not writing in standard English. He's not interviewing for a job, or writing a campaign platform, or doing anything that necessitates the prestige dialect. He's writing an ignorant and bigoted facebook post. He might have gotten caught up in the moment and found it easier to write what came naturally, which is just as much English as your or my or Ed's English.

    J. Dryden: Again, let's keep in mind where this discussion happened. It wasn't in the columns of the New York Times or even the local newspaper. It was on facebook. On the internet. A place where, regardless of what people talk about, norms are subverted or ignored or replaced all the time, whether they're as minor as consistent capitalization or as major as lolcat speak.

  • J. Dryden: Again, we can come to the conclusion that McCance is an ignorant bigot, certainly, but just be aware that it's not the form of his argument that let's us do it. We can't say "He used 'thereself,' what a rube!" We can say "his opinions are bigoted and ignorant," and that's plenty. If you want you might be able to make a roundabout case that he selected a socially inappropriate form of English for this kind of stuff, but it's a little gratuitous when the opinions themselves are already so clearly misguided and wrong, and it's a fine line to walk between saying that he made poor decisions about his choice of register and that his chosen itself is "substandard," which it isn't. It's not standard, but that's not to say that it's "below" the standard. It has rules like standard English, ways of telling you how to do everything any given language speaker needs to do. They're different, but not wrong, and as he's clearly not trying to pass of his English as standard, it's not fair to level the accusation that he's ignoring those rules or doesn't know them; he's simply using English that doesn't have them at all.

  • Ryan: Fair enough. And my argument does have a self-inflicted hole, to wit: "When we retreat into our own communities, we are of course free to use whatever English is the preferred tongue therein." (Such fun to quote oneself!) If we regard the internet's various communities as distinct entities from the proper 'public'–and that's a more than reasonable assertion–then he is free to use an "appropriate" English while writing in/for that community.

    It would just be nice to come across a person with intelligent, thoughtful things to say in non-Standard English on teh internetz, though. Just once. It seems, though, that we only notice it when the malicious/offensive use their English to express said malice/offense.

    Hilarious (though not in the laugh-out-loud kind of way) that this man's venomous bigotry becomes an occasion for the G&T community to engage in a lengthy discussion about linguistics. (And we're doing it in Standard English, no less! We rock.)

  • Ryan:
    I think you're missing my point, which is that while writing with the precision required for the sorts of things you mentioned is not necessary for Facebook, the level at which this character is writing is so far below that standard as to imply a deficiency, or do you not think there is some medium level at which we can communicate without arguing over dangling participles, but without indulging in a written analogue to mumbling and slurring?

  • For the record
    1. No, Realist, this guy is not representative of the predominant opinion in Arkansas. In his town — perhaps, I haven't been there so I really can't say. Can you?
    2. Yes, idiots get elected to school boards everywhere, but especially in low-population areas. Ever looked into that process? Not pretty.
    3. As much fun as I'm sure it is to joke about "those dumb rednecks in Arkansas", it usually gets in the way of the point.

  • I'm fairly stunned by this chap's naivete.

    If you live any kind of public life, and use Facebook, then you will probably have a number of 'friends' who are not close personal friends, and whose views you don't know. You are likely to be 'friends' with people who are political adversaries, even if you are cordial acquaintances. It behoves anyone in this position to think critically about whether posting an ill-tempered, homophobic rant is in their political interests.

    I live in a country with two official languages, and in which many things are published in a third language. It also has many dialects that use non-standard spelling, and grammatical constructions that are not found in the superordinate language. This is perhaps my ignorance, but I've never come across a dialect of which apostrophe non-use was a feature.

  • "Irregardless" is snark, right?

    That was too dry for me, if so. If not, then I offer you a "Based off of" and "Centered around".

    And I vote with the right-writers here. I think that there are liberties to be taken on the internet with comments and posts, but come on. Talking like a redneck doesn't mean a thing. Writing like one takes work (for someone that cares about writing and communicating). See what I did there?

  • Just a point or two about "language"…

    Like it or not, when you can’t spell common words correctly or write
    complex sentences coherently, it casts considerable doubt on your ability
    to understand complex issues of *any* sort.

    And it does not matter whether or not this diatribe was banged onto a
    FaceBook page without much thought of punctuation. The fact of the
    matter is that any material available in the public sphere is going
    to be your "fingerprint" and the measure by which people judge you.

    For many, perception equals reality.

  • Eric: What you seem to be missing is that I reject the idea that a standard variety of language is some ideal to aspire to, which one can fall short of to varying degrees. It's not. A standard language is a set of forms chosen on a political, historical, and socioeconomic basis. It's not the objectively right way to speak a language, and no one speaks "the standard" of a language. Language varies, and some varieties of language (like that spoken by people with severe cases of autism) are legitimately called deficient. But to say that a variety of southern English is indicative of mental deficiency when it's written down is nothing short of bigotry.

  • I always think of Switzerland when a disussion comes up along these lines. Switzerland is a tiny country with four distinct languages, Italian, low German, French and Romanche that are spoken at home. Long ago, however, they decided to unify the country and require that all schools, government offices, etc. use High German as their linga franca. Not only has it simplified running the country, it provides a sense of cohesion that has served the country very well.

    While we're all free to use whatever slang, patois, or foreign language in our communities, if we ever hope to reach a larger audience, we realistically must revert to a commonly accepted langage that we all share even if it seems to be overly rigid or formal. Without grammatical rules, there can be no common understanding.

    That being said, this guy is a bigot and is clearly unqualified to serve in his current position.

  • Paul: Let's not conflate general mental capacity with knowledge of a spelling system that disregards 400 years of sound change. They're not the same thing, at all, and to say so is pretty disingenuous.

  • Paul W. Luscher says:

    Well, dude, this is from a Red State. Considering how they feel about "ejum-ucated" people down there, this is the best you're gonna get.

  • Entomologista says:

    The only time I do not judge people for poor grammar, leet speak, no punctuation, etc. is when playing MMOs or texting.

  • It was the same plutocrats who are still fucking everyone over today, who you criticize daily.

    Citation needed? It seems to me the plutocrats are too busy doing other things than trying to craft language standards; it's more likely to me they're just requiring the language standards their education presented to them.

    Which would mean the problem is that public education has failed all non-plutocrats. I'm comfortable with that conclusion.

  • Like it or not, when you can’t spell common words correctly or write
    complex sentences coherently, it casts considerable doubt on your ability
    to understand complex issues of *any* sort.

    Agreed. Sometimes being able to conform to an arbitrary standard with no claim to the standard's perfection is simply a mark of having been educated and socialized; for example, eating with a knife and fork rather than one's hands is good, but being able to identify each of the 14 pieces of cutlery on your table and the order and food types they're used on is even better, even though arguably it's more efficient in every way to make do with a single sharp knife, a fork and possibly a spoon.

    Now, if you're going to insist that everyone set the table with all 14 pieces of cutlery every day, you're going overboard on the whole thing; but that doesn't mean you can't defensibly recognize the difference between using a fork and knife versus pawing the food into your gaping, table-level maw.

  • Ryan:

    I'm not suggesting that it is indicative of mental deficiency, but rather a deficiency of knowledge of the language. What reason is there to write in a manner contrary to the established standards (arbitrary though they may be) if you're aware of those standards?

  • Oh, and, BTW, lazy speech equals lazy mind. (The abbreviation is intended to be ironic….not gay) And, also, why is this guy so obsessed with really thrilled people (gay) who like to smoke cigarettes (fags)? Can someone clue me in? TIA….bitch.

    "Who will survive in America! Who will survive in America! Who will survive in America!?!?"

  • Unless you live near the boundary line between Arkansas and Oklahoma, you will never understand Clint McCance and the world he lives in. Ask a Largemouth Bass in the area. It knows what it's like.

  • "you seem oddly willing to accept this arbitrary standard of "standard" English. Who do you think imposed that standard? It was the same plutocrats who are still fucking everyone over today, who you criticize daily. It's a remarkably useful tool for keeping the poor in their place! People who don't grow up around educated, middle-class people don't speak or write like educated, middle-class people. That doesn't make them stupid."


    And I've had this argument a thousand times. People who consider themselves egalitarian liberals will jump all over those who don't use "standard English", whateverthefuck that is. The truth is, the highly educated of all political stripes scorn the less educated, openly describe them as stupid, condemn their entire culture except when they feel the need to ironically appropriate parts of it, and are perfectly happy using arbitrary markers like spelling and diction and accent to discriminate even if they'd find using arbitrary markers of race or gender horrifying.

    Now, that doesn't mean I don't think schools should teach standard English. They should, because it's a skill like standardized test-taking that is exceptionally important in the real world even though it's basically bullshit. But there's a difference between teaching something becuase you gotta and buying into the view that it makes a difference.

    All of that said, this guy is a fucktard who should be fired, but it doesn't have much to do with his writing.

  • Eric: Why not write the established standard all the time? Because your idiolect of English is sufficiently different? Because you're writing in a place where the standard isn't necessarily expected? Because you don't want to? None of these are sufficient reasons?

  • Ryan: I would say "I know the rules, but I choose not to apply them for the sake of expediency while typing" isn't really all that mitigating. All you've done is prove you're not ignorant of the rules, just shiftless about their application. I might wonder – does that carelessness extend to other standards, like cleanliness, hygiene, politeness or safety?

    Yes, there is an argument to be made about dialects – I won't argue that. but Mr. McCance is not demonstrating the use of any dialect aside from that borne out of sheer laziness, and that particular mode of writing is not marked by any internally-consistent standards of use that would compel me to excuse its idiosyncrasies.

  • Andrew: Missing the point, again. He very well could know the rules of standard written English, but it looks to me like he's writing a variety of English that has different rules. They're rules all the same, but they're different, and there's nothing about standard English rules that's any more inherently literate or better.

    There's an argument to be made about dialects, and it can't simply be dismissed as "sheer laziness." For what seems like the fifth time, that's bigotry plain and simple. English has all sorts of varieties, and they needn't be collapsed into one when we're writing on facebook, and to demand that is to tell every other speaker of English that their own English isn't good enough if it's different.

    As far as consistency in that writing goes, well, let's look at your claim that there is none. We have a fairly consistent use of "theirselves," which when considered along with the reflexive pronouns of standard English (myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves) is clearly a case of analogical leveling of an idiosyncrasy that's entirely arbitrary and unnecessary (and we see this leveling in English dialects across the Anglophone world). I could go on about how the guy treats contractions, but one example of consistency kind of shoots your comment down.

  • One of the other problems with advocating a "Standard" English is that the standard changes quite often. Not very long ago, saying something like "Someone left their purse here" would be entirely unacceptable, but now it is both common and (increasingly) accepted. English has no Royal Academy, like French or Spanish, so it evolves more quickly. Read writing in English from 50, 100, or 200 years ago and the stylistic and prescriptive standards, and grammar, differ–even things like spelling can change considerably. An Oxford don from 1900 would probably think even the educated among us write like barbarians!

    Fuzzy standards are obviously nice for communicability, but the more rigid they become the more stilted and foreign they are. At a certain extreme, I think they hinder rather than facilitate communication.

  • Aslan Maskhadov says:

    Aside from the fact that English changes rapidly, the main problem is that grammar is generally not taught in school or at least not taught past the elementary grades(at least that's what I remember). As a result good grammar depends almost entirely on correction, either by teachers, or by parents. If the teachers don't correct enough, and parents never learned good grammar, the child has no chance.

    When I took Russan in high school, our teacher often had to teach us English grammar which never appeared in any of our textbooks(though you could find it in any ESL coursebook), before we could comprehend Russian grammar.

  • God damn, I'm glad you mentioned this, too. I did "my part" (for what it's worth) and wrote an indignant email to the superintendent of that meth-addled school district asking that McCance be fired. But I was appalled at the "thereselves" (sic) as much as I was at the hate-filled rhetoric. Jesus Christ, this man is an elected school board official? No wonder the education system has gone to shit.

  • Ahm… Ryan? That whole "one example of consistency kind of shoots your comment down." thing?

    First sentence – "…themselves".

    Kind of shoots your comment down, no?

  • You have to admire Ryan's determination here. And it's true that spelling and punctuation and grammar and such like are not, in and of themselves, foolproof signifiers of intellectual strength. There are people who spell well but who are morons, and people who do not spell well but are extremely intelligent.

    The latter group, however, seem (anecdotally, anyway) to be more common than the former. This suggests at least a statistical correlation, but probably not causation. But I think most of us can tell a smart person who simply writes poorly from someone who just doesn't give a shit. The content of McCance's tedious jabber is obviously the most irritating element of his Facebook graffito, but it is his shabby presentation of it that seals him as a doofus.

    It's the same as a college professor can spot a lazy asshole who can't be bothered to read books, much less convey ideas in the standard conventional format which they were taught for twelve years. And that's really all writing and language are, the conveyance of ideas, and sometimes the lack of them.

    McCance manages to provide an insight not only into a spite-filled, probably deeply-closeted soul, but also an extremely incoherent thought process. "If you arent (sic) against it, you might as well be for it.", whatever the fuck that means.

    Then again, perhaps Ryan's sociolinguistic assessment is correct, as that field frequently denotes non-standard usage as a class or cultural signifier. Which means that McCance may even know the "proper" rules, but if he abided by them, his friends would probably think he was a fag.

  • Missing the point, again. He very well could know the rules of standard written English, but it looks to me like he's writing a variety of English that has different rules.

    No, actually, I addressed this point quite explicitly. Whatever rules he's following, they're entirely his own. "Lazy typing" is not an internally consistent dialect and varies between individual users. It's not a type of English in the way British and American English are.

  • Ahm… Ryan? That whole "one example of consistency kind of shoots your comment down." thing?
    First sentence – "…themselves".

    Kind of shoots your comment down, no?

    To clarify, the consistency of which I speak (which would be required to call "lazy typing" a dialect) would not have to be a consistent usage by Mr. McCance alone, but by many other lazy typers as well.

    Just because I have a tendency to overuse hyphens, dashes and semicolons doesn't make "Andrew's English" a dialect unto itself and my prose is still perfectly able to be criticized. I can't retreat into sophistry in order to make my style of writing immune to grammarians.

    Neither can Mr. McCance or his white knight use the same tactic to prevent anyone from correctly pointing out he is a lazy typist, a terrible speller and generally an awful writer. The absolute best you could argue is that it's not representative of his best work, provide some better samples, and I'd revise my opinion. Until then, just because be refuses to use apostrophes in "can't" on a consistent basis doesn't mean he can't be criticized for it.

    And before someone makes the tedious comparison to e.e. cummings, please note that Mr. McCance has yet to demonstrate his mastery of the English language prior to his torture of it.

  • As the comments have gone WAY off on the tangent of whether or not the guy typing like that means he's stupid or not…

    I challenge anyone to find an anti-homosexual screed of around this level of vitriol that is written in proper English. There is, anecdotally anyway, a correlation between the level of disregard for basic English language constructs, and the level of bile contained within the writing.

  • English has no Royal Academy, like French or Spanish, so it evolves more quickly.

    Although even the Académie française does work on modernising orthography, despite its conservatism. (Perhaps someone should seek their opinion on 'theirselves' versus 'thereselves', which McCance appears to have misspelled by the rules of his own 'dialect'.)

    Other bodies who share purposes with, although are vastly less grand than, the Académie exist in other European countries, to coin neologisms and to revise spelling in line with popular usage. The clearest indicator of this is often in guidance written for markers by public exam boards.

  • An Oxford don from 1900 would probably think even the educated among us write like barbarians!

    Likely, but luckily we don't have to appeal to such a person. English isn't such a fast-moving target that we have no standards today at all. Yes, there is an ongoing battle to maintain the distinction between their, there and they're, but at least there is a distinction.

    Yes, the use of the comma has changed, from Dickens to today, but, we still have a standard of use, that if is it violated, looks odd, and perhaps, even wrong.

    I refer back to my previous analogy. Just because I don't expect everyone to have a full assortment of three knives, three forks and three spoons alongside various specialized utensils at dinner doesn't mean I can't object if they just start serving themselves mashed potatoes with their hands.

  • Aw man… I am so Jonesing for an NPF right now… C'mon, Ed, maaaannnn… help a brother out….. just a taste…. just a little taste… I tried scrubbing some Daily Show across my gums, nothin!…Don't hold out on us baby… you got somethin squirrelled away, yeah? For a rainy day, like?… that Alli shit last week? That was the good shit, man. Primo, primo gear…got any more of that stuff on you?…sure you do…cmon, dude…aw man…

  • @John: "There is, anecdotally anyway, a correlation between the level of disregard for basic English language constructs, and the level of bile contained within the writing."

    The ironic quality of this statement written HERE at gall bladder central is stupefying…

    Late breaking, the Arkansas butt-head has resigned…


  • Lol "white knight". How dare I suggest that we not immediately jump to the conclusion that someone's an illiterate hack on the basis of a couple of facebook posts! How ridiculously unreasonable of me! What gall I have to suggest that someone's being a classist dick. Keep on keeping on, Andrew, clearly you've got as big of a beef with non-standard English as McCance has with fags.

  • Not really. What I have a problem with is the insistence that there is no way to judge Mr. McCance, even though we have several writing samples.

    Sadly, public postings on the internet are fair game. If you're not more careful, I might start assuming you're a mendacious twit.

  • It was in the earlly 70s and I was on a corporate training mission in the middle of New Jersey. We were being fed in a dining room at the training center. As Andrew noted there were lots of knives, forks, and spoons at the ready.

    I was quietly concentrating on my wonderful meal which included a pork chop. With my recently well washed hand, I picked it up and commenced gnawing on that sucker. I happened to glance left and then right…wait, about 17 people were staring at me as if were buck nekid right there NJ.

    My culture said pork chops, chicken, and ribs are "finger" food. In NJ, not so much..

    I was not intimidated.


  • Andrew: We have "several" samples from the same place at around the same time. People use different registers of language in different situations, and facebook/the internet aren't exactly prototypical situations for expecting high register language. What we can say at this point is "Okay, when he's not in a formal situation McCance doesn't write formally." You could go the extra step of saying that McCance is incapable of writing formally, but we have no writings from McCance that are supposed to be high register.

  • Given the content of his Facebook screed, as well as the operational logic underpinning it, I don't think it's unfair to assume that, if McCance had occasion to inflict his thoughts on a "high register" audience, he might at best remember how to use apostrophes, and use the "correct" "their" for "theirselves". It's like an alternate-universe Insane Clown Posse song — "Fuckin' reflexive pronouns, how do they work?"

    The way people write is a reflection of three things: how and what they read, speak, and think. People who write the way McCance does, even extemporaneously and on Teh Intartubez, typically are engaged in only speaking and reacting.

    Reading and thinking do not enter into that miserably derailed train of thought. How dare those fags ask people to wear purple to celebrate those other fags? I mean, Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ, incompetent thinking like that cannot possibly produce competent writing, anywhere, anytime, on any subject.

    Even extemporaneously, and on the internet, and regardless of content, no adult who writes like that should have any say whatsoever about what and how children learn at school. Good riddance to his dumb ass.

  • Andrew, you are being a classic peevologist. Look up Language Log for the opinions of linguists on people who act like you, and be startled to learn that what you use is not really Standard English either.

    Given the huge problems there with measuring intelligence using an IQ test which is frickin' designed for the purpose, what on earth makes you think that your imperfect formal understanding of English's rules allows to accurately determine somebody's native intelligence on the basis of a Facebook post. Sheesh, he was perfectly clear in what he was saying – there is no use in pretending otherwise.

  • I have been convinced by Ryan. The ability to construct a sentence in English is in no way indicative of intelligence.

  • Look up Language Log for the opinions of linguists on people who act like you, and be startled to learn that what you use is not really Standard English either.

    Perhaps if you read what I wrote instead of what you thought I wrote, you'd see that I admit this very thing.

    What I contend is that my nearer adherence to standard convention makes me more comprehensible, and that arguing I can't criticize someone else's grammar until my own is perfect is nonsense. No one's grammar is perfect; it all lies on a continuum.

  • Pork chop, finger food… good
    After fifty some odd years,
    someone told me it's ok to grab and gnaw

  • Fifth Dentist says:

    Years ago I was at St. Patrick's Day in Savannah with friends (most of us on acid, but that's another story for another day). Anyway, my female roommates boyfriend was a programmer for the F-16 flight simulator used at the Air Force Base in our town. He spoke proper English, but with a Southern accent. Somehow we got some rugby player from some Maryland college in our entourage during the evening. He mercilessly teased Al about the accent all night.
    So, about 4 a.m. we hear gut-wrenching puking going on in bathroom and it's the rugby guy in there. Guess who goes in and holds the guys head up out of the toilet? Yep, Al.

    That being said, this Arkansas guy is a real tool.

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