Speak the damned language, people!

I had always assumed that stupidity was an individual thing, that it cropped up in singular cases. Evidently, I was wrong. It’s an epidemic.

You’ve noticed, no doubt, the overwhelming number of people who, when posting their erudite, well-considered, highly educated, and inarguable thoughts on the interwebs who simply cannot spell! I admit, I am only 45 and have just three years of college to my name and am therefore highly ignorant of anything and everything that may come my way, but I believe I am at least intelligent enough to know some of the most basic rules of grammar.

You know the idiots I’m talking about. There is no differentiation between “their,” “there,” or “they’re.” “Loose” and “lose” evidently mean the same thing. Who knew a single female could be “a women?” “You” and “your” have apparently become far too complex to spell, reaching levels of difficulty far beyond words such as sesquipedalian, circumlocution, or pencil. “Its” and “it’s” have taken on a nearly indecipherable relationship that now requires Stephen Hawking to untangle their hidden meanings.

And when the f*ck did “conversate” become a word?

I have no idea exactly when this downward slide in intellectual capacity began, but I’m fairly certain it started some time in the mid- to late-seventies, back when I was in elementary school. Back in the day, shortly after the earth cooled but prior to the invention of this thing called “fire,” I attended public elementary schools in Colorado, Arizona, and California with a brief stop in (West) Germany in the 80s, thanks to an Air Force dad. I spent most of my school years in what were termed “gifted” programs for kids who were apparently ahead of their peers. All it really meant was that we used pointy scissors and generally didn’t eat the paste. I didn’t realize how badly my schools were failing me until I ended up in a DoDDs school outside of Ramstein AFB and got stuck with a teacher from the old school. (Boston and Fulton Elementary in Aurora, Erickson Elementary in Tucson, I’m looking straight at you.)

Now why did I get stuck in those classes and how does it relate to my rant? Simple: I blame this entirely on my dad. One of my earliest memories was of him reading to me from The Fellowship of the Ring—the “Old Man Willow” segment where Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin run afoul of the barrow-wight—and that was at about four or five. Later, at about six or seven, every time I’d complain about nothing being on TV or having nothing to do, Dad would aim me at the bookshelf or hand me a book at random. I would end up with Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and more. As a result, my exposure to the English language, in addition to being several years more advanced than most of my peers, came from people who were much more skillful in its use than even my teachers.

As a result, my locution seems a bit off, particularly in a formal setting, and I’ve even had less-educated people ask me if I’m really Canadian because I “don’t talk like an American.”

Really. (No, I’m not Canadian. I know the proper spellings of “favor,” “flavor,” “color,” and the like. Damned Commonwealth types, anyway…)

I understand that English can be difficult; I recall someone somewhere mentioning that while most languages, like German or Japanese, have rules with a few exceptions, English was more a collection of exceptions with a few rules thrown in. While that may be true, it’s not an excuse. The vast majority of residents of the US grow up speaking English and are exposed to it on a daily basis. To my layman’s eyes, that would make them native speakers, but perhaps I’m wrong again. I’m also operating under the impression that education is both free and compulsory—which means “you have to do it”—in the States, and that schools everywhere teach English skills as part and parcel of the curriculum, all the way to high school. When I was in high school, the requirements were only for three years of English, but your mileage may vary depending on your locale. With all that going for you, what is the excuse for not knowing the rules?

Bottom line: the educational resources are there. Use them. You’re exposed to proper grammar and syntax every day. There is no excuse for constant failure to speak or write correctly.

Let me point out a few refreshers:

  • There.” That’s a prepositional phrase. It indicates a direction or location. The clue is in the word: pre-position-al. It’s right there.

  • “They’re.” A contraction of “they” and “are.” A collective third person pronoun and a verb combined for your ease of use, yet totally unrelated to the other two except by sound. They’re entirely different words. (See how that works?)

  • “Their.” A third person possessive. It means that persons separate from you and the person listening to you own something, and you are discussing that item. Try this: “They’re talking about their car, which is over there.”  Bam.

Just because a word sounds close enough doesn’t mean it’s right. You can get away with saying “there” in spoken conversations and the listener will be able to discern whether you said “there” or “their” by context, but in written words, it doesn’t fly.

  • “Lose.” This is a verb. It means you aren’t winning or that something is being misplaced. You lose a race or you lose a key.

  • “Loose” can be a verb, but then it means “to release” or “to unleash.” As an adjective, a descriptive word, it is the opposite of “tight.”

For my money, how anyone can fudge that up on paper is beyond me, unless you napped through that part of your English class.

The root of conversation is the verb to converse. “Converse” is not exclusive to a brand of shoes. I’m certain this is where some of the confusion is generated. You converse with someone when you have a dialog with them. “Conversate” is not a word, regardless of what the pseudo-intellectuals on evening news programs want you to think. I recall Al Sharpton using this word once, and it bears mentioning that if you cannot grasp the most fundamental rules of a language, how can you be expected to formulate a cogent, rational, and coherent argument in that language? You certainly can’t be taken seriously by using your own made-up words.

Woman: a singular mature human female. Women: several of them. If you are really “a women,” thanks for referring to all your personalities in one tidy bundle, but actually you’re just one “woman.” I end up laughing at people who post and refer to themselves as “an educated women.” (Hint: you’re not.)

Another gem: “of.” Oh, dear God, the use and abuse of “of.” This one trips people up all the time, both in written and spoken forms. You’ll see people posting “should of,” “could of,” and so on. I know where this one was spawned. In real life, you might hear me say something like, “He should’ve seen that coming.”

What happened there is probably improper, a colloquial quirk that crept into the vocabulary through laziness. Either it’s slipping a contraction in where it probably shouldn’t be or it’s a habit of not aspirating words that start with “h.” Maybe it’s both.

When heard, it sounds like “should of,” but it’s obviously not. With the prevalence of contractions in daily speech, you’d think someone would recognize what was being said. Certainly the listener’s brain interprets it as “should have,” else the whole sentence would be misunderstood. (I’ve actually had to explain that to someone when I was speaking. I was corrected by someone who wanted to sound educated and intelligent and insisted loudly that it was not “could of” but “could have.” I ended up having to explain that I knew that already, followed by correcting him with a few quick tips on locution, diction, and their perception to untrained ears versus written text.)

While I’m ranting, quit shortening your damn words. “Convo?” “Illo?” “Resto?” Is it too difficult now to say “conversation?” (Wait…that’s twice that word has come up. It must be nigh-impossible to use in daily speech!) Can you not wrap your lips around “illustration” or “restoration?” I know you’re trying to make yourself sound hip and trendy and worthy of your Facebook avatar or something, but shortening words in an attempt to make yourself sound intelligent doesn’t work. It just makes you seem like a “reto.”

You should be able to figure that one out.

Yes, I know this sounds petty and I’ve got two words for anyone who wants to accuse me of being a grammar Nazi. You should be able to figure those out, too. There actually is a reason for this, and here ’tis. I’m well aware that English has more than its share of pitfalls and contradictions, but it also has rules to follow. The beauty of being able to follow those rules is not to be one of those that falls in line blindly or one of those who say, “It is because I say it is!” By learning to follow the rules and to master the intricacies of language—of anything—is to empower and elevate yourself.

You may hear people lamenting that they’re not “empowered” or they’re at the mercy of this or that. Well, I just gave you a tip in the preceding paragraph. Learning is empowerment. Using language effectively and efficiently is a key. You don’t have to be Shakespeare. That might actually be counterproductive in this day and age, but you should have a vocabulary suitable for not only everyday use but one appropriate for your field of work and you should be well-versed in its use. Your speech defines your image.

One of my English “teachers” in college took me to task on this matter when I stated this position to her earlier. In her words, text-speak and these related failings are the “evolution” of a language. I repeat here what I said then: it is not “evolution.” The mistakes and ignorance today are not the product of a language evolving and taking a new shape more suited to its environment. It’s generations of users who refuse to learn the language and make their own shortcuts because it’s too much effort to become educated. It is, more accurately, de-evolution. Raise yourself to the standard. Don’t dumb things down to your level.

Use your language correctly and well. It doesn’t matter if your language is English, Cantonese, Urdu, or Finnish. It is an invaluable tool that can help elevate you or help bury you in scorn. Your call.

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Attention, master race baiters (or racist masturbators, as you prefer)!

Whether you like it or not, the Zimmerman verdict was correct. I’m going to explain why—although this is for the benefit of clear-headed, thinking people, not you—and if you don’t like it, that’s your own fucking problem. You can check my analysis with any lawyer or legal source you like.

To arrive at the conclusion that a crime was committed, there must be at least three elements present and these three must always be present else there is no crime. First, you must have the mens rea, or the “guilty mind.” This is the intent to commit the crime, which may arise spontaneously or be preplanned. Secondly, there must be the actus reus, or “guilty act,” which is obviously the deed itself. Thirdly, you must have proof of the concurrence of the two, meaning that you must show that one caused the other.

Here’s an example. Person X wants to steal a watch. He sees one, sticks it in his pocket, and leaves the store. The mens rea is his intent to steal a watch. The actus reus is the actual theft. The concurrence of the two is obvious.

Time out: by use of the word “guilty” here to describe the act and the intent, I’m not using the word to indicate criminal or civil culpability. It’s an assignment of responsibility, not a legal finding. Back to the game.

Now here comes the kicker. For a finding of murder, there must be a fourth element present: malice. This is not an indicator of hate, but it means that the perpetrator must have previously considered killing a specific person. Although it’s a little different from the mens rea, they can overlap and we’ll see why and how soon enough. This also why the prosecutor failed to make her case in the Zimmerman trial.

Let’s revisit the events that were presented in the trial. Zimmerman tailed Martin despite being advised that it was unnecessary. Words were exchanged, and apparently after that dialog, Martin jumped Zimmerman and began beating on him. Zimmerman pulled his gun and shot Martin.

You will not be able to find all four necessary elements to prove a finding of murder here. The mens rea that Zimmerman intended to kill Martin is absent. Had he intended to kill Martin, Zimmerman would have done so from the get-go rather than waiting until he was getting beaten.

The actus reus, the pulling of the trigger that resulted in Martin’s death, is present, but absent the “guilty mind”–the intent to kill–there can be no concurrence of the two. Therefore, two of the original three criteria for murder are missing and because of that, there can be neither a commission nor finding of murder. In this case, the guilty mind was simply to shoot to preserve his own life.  There was no prior planning or consideration of killing anyone.   Zimmerman just wanted to wave his authority in Martin’s face and ended up having his butt cash a check his ego wrote. (And said check bounced quite like his head off the concrete.)

Let me briefly touch on the role that the “guilty mind” played here. The mens rea of Zimmerman deciding to pull his gun and shoot came on him suddenly, likely as suddenly as Martin’s attack on him did. The actus reus followed as soon as practicable afterward. Again, this is not a decree of criminal or civil wrongdoing; it is assigning responsibility for an action and nothing more. You can see here that the intent to commit an act, be it criminal or not, can arise spontaneously or with prior intent, as with our watch theft above. In this case, however, the “guilty mind” consisted only of, “I have to draw my gun and shoot this guy or I’m going to die,” and it appeared as quickly as the beating Martin was giving him.

The “guilty act” was obviously pulling his gun and shooting Martin and there is obviously a concurrence of the two, however even with these three elements present, this does not constitute a crime. You can have the three present in any activity: you are hungry, you eat dinner. Mens rea: wanting food. Actus reus: eating. And the concurrence of the two: one caused the other.

Now let’s talk malice. Used legally, it does not mean hatred, but specific intent to cause harm. Murder requires not only the three criteria we’ve been over, but malice in addition. Similar to the mens rea requirement, the perpetrator had to specifically intend to kill someone, not just hurt him, scare him, or anything of that sort, and it has to have been considered beforehand and not be a “heat of passion” instance. The way malice plays out in determining if a murder has been committed is like so:

X is angry at J and wants to kill him. Rather than being a spur of the moment act, X spends some time thinking about it, whether ten minutes or ten days or more. X decides that the only way to solve this problem is to kill J. X gets his weapon of choice, seeks out J, and kills him. This is murder. The “guilty mind” is his intent to kill J; the “guilty act” is the actual deed; the concurrence of the two—the intent led to the deed; and overlapping with the guilty mind is the malice, wherein X decided in advance he was going to kill J.

Here’s another twist. Absent malice, you can’t have murder, but you can have manslaughter, a lesser criminal homicide. In this example, X and J are arguing and X gets angry, pulls a knife, and stabs J. J is now dead. You have the three elements—mind, act, and concurrence—but not malice, since X didn’t plan to kill J. J is dead because of X’s act, but it was in the heat of the moment rather than planned, and because of that one critical difference, X dodges a murder charge.

Twist number two goes like this: X goes to kill J (who just can’t seem to catch a break) and finds J at home. X goes to shoot J and misses but kills Q instead. While Captain Picard is doubtless relieved, X is now looking at a manslaughter charge for killing Q as well as attempted murder against J. While we have the mens rea/malice requirements, the actus reus resulted in the death of someone other than the intended victim, which changes the entire equation.

While Zimmerman did confront Martin, he didn’t do so with the intent to cause harm or death. Like I said, he wanted to wave his power and position in Martin’s face. I also posted another entry on this topic elsewhere if you’re of a mind to find out my feelings on Zimmerman, which are not all that favorable. On the other hand, Martin assaulted Zimmerman with the intent of causing him bodily harm. Actus reus, mens rea, and concurrence, and had charges been brought against him, he’d have been guilty of assault or assault and battery, however Florida’s statutes would have read.

Now, perhaps, you begin to see why the Zimmerman verdict was not only correct, but was essentially the only one the jury could reach with the restrictions placed on them. The DA in the Zimmerman case lost because she set the bar far too high and the evidence couldn’t be stacked high enough to reach it. I don’t often call her the DA; she’s more of a prostituting attorney rather than a prosecuting one. She sold out justice to the screaming mobs to curry favor with them and gain political points and now, because of her ineptitude and incompetence, Zimmerman’s free.

You’re going to hear plenty of whining from all sorts of ignorant people about how Martin was going to use the Skittles and iced tea to make some kind of street drug by mixing them with cough syrup, or that he’d been suspended for this or that, or that he smoked weed. Guess what? That doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. The question of the trial was this: did Zimmerman commit murder when he shot Trayvon Martin? The jury never was or could have been asked to deliver a verdict on confection possession.

So Martin had Skittles in his pockets. He had an Arizona iced tea, too. Possession of candy and tea is not a capital offense, much less criminal, nor is it an indicator of criminal behavior or intent. I’ve bought Skittles, and I’ve seen estimates that 150 million individual Skittles are sold yearly. Skittle consumption would seem to indicate a nation of criminals, wouldn’t it? Or perhaps they merely lead to an increased recidivism rate. Bottom line: what Martin did before or intended to do later and what he had bought at the convenience store—and even what he wanted to do with those items—is absolutely irrelevant.

Let us also take a stab at the “stand your ground” laws. They are irrelevant here, too. Zimmerman, once assaulted, had no chance to retreat. Further, nobody at any time has any “duty” or “obligation” to retreat from an attack. Rather, the other guy has a duty and obligation to behave himself and not attack someone. SYG had no bearing here, which was one of the reasons the attorneys didn’t bring it out. Another would be they may be saving that defense for any potential civil trials, but in the end, “stand your ground” gave way to Zimmerman’s right to defend himself, which is a human right as inviolable as any.

I’m going to point out that as far as the confrontation and its outcome, Martin is far from blameless despite Zimmerman bearing the lion’s share of culpability. Martin should have called 911 on his own or gotten his dad involved, but being a thuggish little punk and a 17-year-old boy, he thought he’d thump Zimmerman a few times and teach him a lesson. That placed Zimmerman in fear of his life and Martin paid for the mistake with his own. However, none of that would have happened had Zimmerman kept his fat ass in the driver’s seat and kept to himself, so the ultimate responsibility for that night falls on his feeble shoulders.

The responsibility for the “not guilty” verdict, however, is entirely on Florida Governor Rick Scott and his “special prosecutor,” Florida State Attorney Angela Corey. The system worked. The players did not.