I used to love pointing out that the sadist who put the ‘s’ in ‘lisp’ was the same one that stuck an ‘r’ in “rhoticism”, defined as the inability to pronounce the letter ‘r’. Humans being the type of organism that would scalp your mother over undercooked peas, such a harmless observation about language has actually managed to piss someone off. That was the fun part: I could always count on that one illiterate prick arguing in double negatives that “nobody owns no language” to put that extra sniff in my Awesome Scholar’s Arrogance. Because everyone knows educated people don’t start sentences with because, curse, use slang, and most certainly never aim to boldly split infinitives, these little etiquettes have given us the “polished peasant” who delights in knowing he finds Sara Lee’s “Nobody Doesn’t like Sara Lee” grammatically offensive as it associates him with class regardless of how much of the dirt on his face is chocolate frosting. In 2003, Lynn Truss wrote “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”, a hilarious tale of a pedant mourning the death of punctuation: she refuses to board the buses at Victoria Station because posters on the side advertising Hugh Grant’s “Two Weeks Notice” were maliciously missing an apostrophe. Defining the capacity for nausea at the comma in “Bob,s Pets” as a Seventh Sense only the elite possess, she’d rather curl up in a box than live in a world where signs like “Waiter’s Wanted” exist to offend with their awful punctuation. Now, there is no question language is important: the human brain assembles the world a million ways a million times a day by juggling words in ways the best computers sweat through. It shapes culture in intriguing ways: the Australian aboriginal language Dyirbal classes nouns into four categories: 1) animate objects and men 2) women, water, fire, dangerous things 3) edible fruit and vegetables 4) miscellaneous. So where an English speaker, for example, is required to inflect nouns only in respect to number and verb agreement, the Dyirbal speaker must first identify that noun as either an animate object or male, if it’s female or poses a threat to his safety, and finally whether or not he can eat it before he can utter a single sentence. Isn’t that fucking interesting? It’s the closest thing to cultural empathy, learning to speak a language that forces your brain through so many steps that ultimately interpret women as measles. Some languages, like Latin and Chinese, have no words for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and even though it’s not true that Irish has no word for “sex”, it is true that it doesn’t have a word for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ either. Some languages, like Japanese, have the “adversative-passive” tense for verbs which, like the insanity clause, allows people to abdicate responsibility: Mishima didn’t commit suicide; he was suicided. But despite awesome German nouns like “Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz” or the Spanish word for handcuffs meaning ‘wife’, language, like all heroes, has a tragic flaw. Without a pinch of salt, it achieves the alchemy of transmuting the ugliest hypocrisies into a ‘spreading-of-democracy’ or arbitrarily vilifying human impulses by labeling them a ‘sin’. In a fell swoop, it undermines a person’s social class and therefore value by lumping how he speaks into a subcategory called ‘slang’ we’re taught to associate with imbecility without having to prove why that person is below us. It slaughtered Lenny Bruce, a genius smarter than the morons who never had to explain why Bruce was being arrested other than because he used words like ‘cocksucker’ and was therefore immoral and therefore disobedient. In 1966, two such cocksuckers conducted tests on black children and concluded that from their absent use of Proper Grammar they were little more than animals. So what else could condescending bigots do but set up a slew of “Bereiter-Engelmann” preschools, institutions where these awful little savages could be taught a little class by imitating white people ordering pork rinds on the telephone? Exactly how is being repulsed by the way a person speaks different than being nauseated by their skin color? It’s a bitter pill to swallow for us pedants: both are forms of willful negligence allowing you to assume value without having to create it. So what if it’s amusing knowing your gorgeous ear is sensitive to the erroneous modifying of verbs with adjectives? There is little qualitative difference between Ms. Truss refusing to board a bus transporting awful grammar and Lurleen refusing to because she’d have to sit next to a ‘nigger’. Who decided the ‘f’ and ‘b’ words were profanity anyway? How about some real nasty ‘f’ bombs like fired and Federline or even nastier ‘b’ ones like Bells, oops, I mean bills? So here’s the lesson: there isn’t a single person, group, or entity on this planet that has ever owned something as powerful as language and neither is it possible. The real moron is not the one blurting ‘fuck your asshole’ but the one presuming he knows what that person is because he buys into the myth of slang or profanity being intellectually and spiritually inferior and therefore forms of immorality: it grants him the petty narcissism of being able to show that he’s offended. But does this mean grammar is racist and we should therefore storm its Versailles of elitism and behead it? Before we start whetting blades, I leave you with this: In 1327, Welsh conspirators needed to murder King Edward II without clear evidence of their involvement. One of them sent this note to the perpetrators: “Kill Edward not to fear is good”. Purposely ambiguous, punctuation was left out in case the plot backfired. So poor little Edward did die at the mercy of a scalding iron shimmied up his anus where, quite frankly, the one thing that could’ve saved his colon was a colon.