I have become aware that I am a snob. Not a very pleasant thing to know, see, or feel. But, far worse for a North Wisconsin Hillbilly, who lives in jeans and over-sized t-shirts, only slides shoes on when she must go out on an errand, and eats most of her meals on the couch in front of the television, or worse, while peering at a computer screen.
That simply means that my snobbishness has a very narrowed in perspective. It has to do with presentation. When I write in my journal, I use dashes, draw arrows from one line to another, scratch out words in preference of others, leave gaps because I’ve wondered off on some thought tangent or another, and very seldom use punctuation of any kind, other than an occasional period, that denotes an end to a certain thought process, rather than a sentence. And although, I now, for the most part, do my journal on the computer, I have found ways to do all of the above there as well.
But, my journal is private, not meant for public consumption. It is first and foremost, meant for my own convenience. No more than notes on my daily existence. Poem fragments, disjointed thoughts and tangents, things I need or want to remember, and the repository of my more unseemly responses to people and situations. A series of exclamation marks does not mean a deeply profound insight that needs emphasis. It usually means I’m pissed as hell and need to make that apparent. Or that I lack the words to really express the depth of my feelings. That doesn’t happen too much anymore, the loss of words, I mean.
And all of that would seem to point at the contradiction to snobbery. But, I’m not speaking about my journal writing. I’m addressing the issue of public speaking, here on the Internet. I have a routine that I use when I post on any of my blogs. I come here, pull up the blank space for a new post and begin writing. I don’t often have more than a vague idea of a subject matter, and work it out as I follow the words. But am always aware, even at that beginning stage, that this is not my private journal.
So, even as I am working through whatever it is I want to express, I structure it into sentences and paragraphs. Use punctuation, where it is needed, and pay close attention to spelling (like most writers, I have a tendency to sound things out first, then check later). If I have a question about said spelling, I’ll hit the safe draft button and go find the correct letter formation for the word I want to use.
When I have all of the words in place, I save it again, copy it and paste it to a separate document and run it through my word processor. This may sound like a bit of work, but it really isn’t. It’s part of my process. Rereading it, making sure it says exactly what I intended, sometimes finding better ways to express an idea, by using different phraseology etc., is all a part of the process. And yes, I keep a notebook handy to mark down any changes I find necessary, as well as misspellings and typos. It’s a red letter day when the notebook has no jottings on it.
Then when I’m done, I copy it and file the hard copy, come back here with my notes and make the changes necessary, reading through it once again before hitting the publish button. This is my personal routine, and I am not suggesting that anyone else do the same. What I’m getting at is how different this behavior is from the eat in front of the television, jeans and t-shirt, bare foot creature I really am.
So, why the departure? I find the comparison rather striking. I wasn’t always the jeans and t-shirt person I have become. I grew up in a generation where most females wore dresses more often than not. Attended parochial school for my first eight years of education, and even in public high school there was a dress code that did not consider slacks or jeans proper attire for young women.
And what I remember, far better than any class room learning from that time period, was the social gaffe of having ones slip show beneath the hem of whatever dress or outfit one might choose to wear on any given day. It said something about you, and the way you felt about your own person. And even if it didn’t make that statement real, if it was an accident, a broken strap, or some such reality, it was an embarrassment to be told, “Ummm, Your slip is showing.”
Although, I could probably write an entire essay on that particular subject, I am grateful that we have come a long way from there in my lifetime. And I am definitely grateful that now a days, comfort is far higher on everyone’s priority list than back in that other time of existence. But, even in these less restrictive times, we still make some effort to put our best foot forward when entering the public arena.
Allowing your slip to drag below your hemline, meant you didn’t care, lacked self-esteem, or couldn’t be bothered to take the time to do those few extra things that allowed the public to know you actually wanted to interact and participate with the individuals you might have contact with. If you didn’t care about you, how or why would anyone else know that you might care about them and what they might be feeling or thinking.
And yes, it was usually one of the snobs, who would wait until you were in a highly visible situation, before pointing at that bit of slip and saying with exagerated care, “Umm, Your slip is showing.” Far better, a caring friend, who would pull you aside and whisper those words where no one could hear, and then step in front of you to shield you while you made the necessary adjustment.
Here, on the Internet, we don’t see one another. All we have to go on is the words and images presented. If those words are pockmarked with misspellings, misused phrases, or overused or wrongly used punctuation, that is all I, or anyone can know about the person behind those things.
I think it is obvious that I love language, the beauty and flow of words as they step out in their finest attire, seeking only to be heard, perhaps to find a home somewhere inside of even one reader’s person. What’s more, I want the same for you.
Each of us has a story to tell. That’s the main reason we are here. But, if I see that you don’t care, are simply in a rush to push and prod those words into my sphere, I might not listen as carefully as you desire, or I might totally misunderstand what you are actually saying and walk away confused, frustrated, or with nothing at all. I might return, but then again, maybe not. If you don’t care, why should I?
I’m not perfect, I don’t do it right every time. Far from it. But if I am a snob, I will be that one who leans in and whispers in your ear, “Umm, Your slip is showing, you might want to fix that.”
I too remember those days, though I attended public school my entire school career. We’d roll our skirts up once we got out of sight of the parents, but often, by the time we got to school, the slip had moved below the skirt hem.
I too am a cyber snob: but becoming less of one since my difficulties fixing my blog help me look careless.
Forgive us, Elizabeth!
Ahh Susan, so many thoughts run through my head at that final statement. But, I’ll be nice and of course you are forgiven, I know how hard you work at it.
I enjoyed this because so often I find myself strolling through the blogs of others wincing at every typo and misuse. I know I’m not perfect, but I reread my posts most of the time to check for inconsistencies and errors. It bugs the heck out of me! Nicely drawn parallel here.
Thanks hellesbelles, I do the wincing as well. But, it becomes a real flinch, when after going through the entire process described above, then publishing the post, and only then finding what is simply a typo on my part, some easy, common, and ordinary word like book, or that, which I added after doing the spellcheck, so didn’t get caught. I’d much prefer to go back in and edit it, then let it make me continue to flinch. Thanks for commenting,
PS See Susan, I’m not the only one.
I guess I’ll have to join your snob community. 😉 I am an editor, have edited many a manuscript, done work on a dictionary and thesaurus, but even without that, I have always been this kind of snob. (Big surprise that I ended up making a living out of it!) I do have to say, though, that there are times when, for my own purposes, I deliberately mis-edit, mis-type, mis-represent the English language. Without a doubt, there are also times when some pesky error slips by me, in spite of my having read and reread…
What I think is important here – and personally, it surprises me that some people just don’t seem to get it – is that readers are predictably more likely to read the work of writers who have obviously taken some care with their posts before publishing. Surely?
Surely? One would think so, simply because it makes sense. But, then I think of texting and what that might do to clarity of thought and communication, and throw my hands up in the air and know that I just might be a member of a dying breed. Not a pleasant or happy thought, that one.
On the other hand, forgiveness given, by last count, there are three against one maybe here, so maybe we haven’t yet breathed our last. One can hope, I will do so.
Elizabeth you have made an excellent point here. I always try to be careful with my spelling because I do not have an English spellcheck on my computer it is in Spanish. Therefore I have to be just a little bit extra careful. I always enjoy what I read here especially on a day like today. Thanks for the nice comment on my blog.
In Spanish? That would be utterly useless to me. As it is I have plenty enough trouble with English and it is the only language I own. As a child in grade school, I excelled at spelling, but just as with math, out of sight, out of mind. I don’t do too poorly, but often do revert back to phonetics and that of course is an accident waiting to happen. And then, especially if you do what I do, find some change you want to make after taking it through the spell check. But, I’m not proud. If I find an error, even weeks after the essay has been neatly filed in the archives, I can’t leave it but most go back in and correct it. That dipping hemline is such a nag.
I’m glad you enjoy what you find here. And grief is a process that we get through, mostly alone and in our own way and time. You are welcome to the comment, and I return the thanks, especially on a day like today.
Hi Elizabeth. Alas, I remember those days of slips showing! (Thank goodness girls can dress more comfortably now.) I never drew the conclusion though that a person whose slip was showing didn’t care though. Perhaps it was the best they could do. Perhaps they only HAD one slip and the choice was to wear it or not.
On the internet too, I think it is an act of courage to put one’s work out there for others to view. And if a person takes that leap, I think he / she is probably sharing the best he/she can do. Thus I am tolerant and forgiving, as I would be of slips showing in the past.
But I also do know what you mean. I also continue to revise my work. The first draft of a poem I write (and share) is not the last. I often run poems through a critique process with others. Or sometimes I just take a look at a poem myself later and see something I want to change. Changes I make in my poetry are usually “tightening” changes. Or perhaps choosing more exact words. My poems are never ‘finished’ really, can always be changed.
Another thing, if you ever DO notice that ‘my slip is showing’ in my work…if I have misspelled something or whatever, please do feel free to ‘whisper in my ear.’ I would rather know! I would rather have my poem as perfect as it could be, even though I am tolerant of my imperfections and those of others.
I’m hoping that you don’t think I am the white gloved mother-in-law of the English language in any forum, especially not here on the Internet. As a matter of fact, because I was one of three girls in a family of extremely modest means, I was that one who only owned one slip. But, because I was also the definite tom-boy in that mixture, I was definitely guilty of not taking as much care for appearance’s sake as my Mother, sisters, and the nuns were determined I conform to. Being a rebel didn’t help any of that.
And, just as my Mother, sisters, and the nuns were probably desperate to impart to me, I have come full circle and want everyone to put their very best foot forward. I care deeply for the language, but even more so for clarity and less misunderstanding.
We write because we feel deeply about the subject matter. But, that deep current of emotions can easily blind us to the reality that if we want to be heard on any subject, then we must do so with a clear voice that has been calmed by reason. And taking that bit of extra time to spellcheck and untangle complex sentences is just such a calming and clearing of that voice of reason. In the heat of the moment, I might think that I’ve made myself as direct and clear as possible. When in reality that heat has a tendency to bring things to a boiling point where everything is dancing and moving and nothing is clear or even readable. That’s why, if I find my own temperature rising while I’m writing, I have a tendency to write it all down anyway, but then set it aside until I cool down again and bring simple reason to the reading, often after a day or two of letting it cool on an open window sill.
I am passionate about what I do and believe. That passion often causes my thoughts to run way out in front of my physical ability to type (never a strong point) the words I am using. My fingers just can’t keep pace with the words. Often get crossed between thinking and execution. When I go back to reread what I thought was a particularly definitive piece of verbage, I sometimes (not as often as before) find myself scratching my head and wondering what the hell I was actually trying to say. And if I’m scratching my head, what the hell is my poor reader doing? Lol. Unsubscribing from my blog, more than likely.
Which brings me to another point. I haven’t subscribed to other blogs until recently. There is one that I read, pretty much religiously, on a daily basis. And it has nothing to do with writing. It has everything to do with certain theories concerning psychology. And everyday, although I have learned an immense amount of knowledge from this individual, I wince because he does not proofread what he writes. I do accept that reality and see it as a part of my own process. I’m getting much better at the forgiving, Susan. Have to learn somewhere.
And, because you have asked, I will definitely lean in and whisper in your ear. I’ll even stand in front of you and spread my skirt to shield you while you make the adjustments necessary. Which, seeing as I haven’t owned or worn a dress in over twenty years, might be a sight to see, lol.
One final comment from me on this topic: When I was in one English class in college, I spoke to the professor about one thing that really bothered me about my father’s English. My dad always said “I haven’t saw….” I hated this, corrected him repeatedly. The college professor, with his doctorate in English, said to me, “Why does this bother you? Do you not know what he means?” I gulped and said, “Yes, I do.” He said, “Well, the purpose of language is to communicate. And he does.” Here I had thought the professor would be empathetic, would give me some hints as to what I could say to change my dad’s annoying expression. Instead he was saying to me in his own way, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
I have thought about the college professor’s words often in life. I have come to realize meaning is most important. If I understand what someone has said or written, that is good. If someone understands what I have said or have written, that is good. Of course, I do try to write or speak ‘proper English,’ but I am sure at times there is a typo or faulty grammar, even though correctness is important to me. I would hate someone to dismiss my words (or anyone’s words) due to mechanics if the meaning is clear. If the meaning is not clear, that is another matter.
But yes, if you ever see something glaring in my writing, feel free to write me by email. And…LOL…perhaps it is time for another skirt and a slip??? Live dangerously!
LMAO! Mary, I thought that was what I was doing when I got rid of all the dresses, skirts, and slips. I got comfortable.
I like your example of the college professor and his interpretation. And yes, he is right, of course. If there is understanding, than why sweat the small stuff? My worry is about the level of understanding if one becomes too careless, or like me, too comfortable. You make an excellent point, and I thank you for that.
But dresses, do I have to?