Melissa Miles McCarter

taking lemons and squeezing the life out of them

Melissa Miles McCarter

Melissa Miles McCarter
Ironton, Missouri, USA
February 27
Publisher, Author, Academic
Fat Daddy's Farm
After meeting her husband in grad school, Melissa was seduced by the small town charm of Arcadia Valley, where she resides today. Her (better?) half is a Professor of English who commutes two hours both ways so they can live in the peaceful side of the Ozarks. Through her husband, Melissa became a stepmother to Britin, who gave her an unexpected--but welcome--chance to mother. She also a furmommy to two (soon to be three) English Bulldogs. Melissa has learned to adapt to life's circumstances, making the best out of lemons, and uses her challenges as inspiration for her writing. Not only has living in a small town been an adaption, after growing up in Houston, Texas and Southern California, she has had her fair share of challenges. In 2003, Melissa and her husband lost their 5 week old daughter to SIDS. This experience inspired her to publish and edit the anthology on motherhood and loss, "Joy, Interrupted." Prior to this tragedy, Melissa was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a condition she successfully manages today. Melissa was inspired to pen, "Insanity: A Love Story, A Memoir of Madness and Mania" to share her struggle to navigate the fine line between sanity and insanity. Currently, Melissa is working on a collection of essays addressing infertility in popular culture and social media, as well as its role in her own life. In addition to being a writer, Melissa is an academic whose specialty is rhetoric, composition and feminism. One of her research interests is how to address student resistance to feminist pedagogy. She has a PhD in English, Rhetoric and Composition from the University of Texas, Arlington and received her B.A. in Philosophy from Scripps College, a woman's school in Claremont, CA. Melissa is the publisher of a small press, Fat Daddy's Farm. As an editor and publisher, Melissa's goal is to help uncommon voices grow and flourish.

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DECEMBER 9, 2009 9:05PM

Texting will not kill English grammar

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Texting is an emerging type of communication that has its own rules, but its use does not mean an end to correct grammar use in written English language.

Whenever a new literacy develops, whether it is the novel, the television script, or the blog, questions are always raised whether the new type of language use will lead to the demise of previous types of literacy.  However, literacies do not emerge only to replace prior literacy practices.  For example, the novel did not replace poetry, and the television did replace radio.  Technologies do adapt and change when faced with competition, and the same is true of literacy, which is a type of linguistic technology.  However, this change does not mean a complete abandonment of rules or principles which make that technology possible.

One concern about an emerging technology involves texting.  Texting involves an abbreviation of words to the simplest form so that people can get information quickly.  It still uses the traditional rules of grammar such as verb use, tenses, and parts of speech.  Texting is not the same as regular written communication, that is true.  But the specific differences involve spelling and use of periods, commas, and other punctuation marks.  Text messages use words that can be understood in shorthand manner, such as text being spelled as txt.  However, the abbreviation does not mean the original spelling of the word is lost or isn't used in other contexts.  In terms of punctuation, when someone writes "I love you" without a period at the end, within a text or outside of a text message, the period is still implied. 

Thus, even in a text message, the traditional rules of grammar are always implied.  Just like in a poem which might play around with language and not use traditional punctuation to make its point, the text message does not create a new grammar or signal a break down in grammar.  In fact, texting in itself has certain rules or commonplaces that people must adhere to in order for their communication to make sense.  This standardized aspect of texting makes it a sub-language in itself, rather than a replacement language.

The underlying question of whether texting means the end of grammar involves a certain techno-phobia or a placement of traditional English grammar on a pedestal.  It is politically similar to people who feel that Ebonics will lead to the end of English or the idea of "English First" in many states in the U.S.  Language is evolving and changing over time--it isn't a static entity that needs to be protected.  Not is English an endangered species under threat from various literacies.  In fact, new forms of literacies tend to reinforce traditional language practices by making literacy in general more used and important in daily life.

from, "Texting is Not the End of English Grammar"

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I don't think television replaced radio any more than radio replaced the newspaper, although in each case, roles were redefined.

That said, this is thought-provoking, and brings to mind the work of Edmund Carpenter and Marshall McLuhan, as well as that of Northrop Frye, on the interrelationship of language, mass communication and literacy in a technological society.

One has only to re-read Shakespeare to understand that usage changes over time: It's almost impossible for any contemporary reader to understand great swaths of the Bard's writing without copious footnotes. (Although there are some of us who read the plays just for fun.)

I believe part of the reason that survey courses in English literature once covered the literary ground between Beowulf and Virginia Woolfe was to give students an understanding of the evolution of the language and patterns of communication. It's a valuable insight.

As for texting, I see it as a manifestation of change, but not necessarily for the better: If the objective is clarity, it certainly has its shortcomings. On the other hand, if one thinks about it, the use of Twitter insists on pithy condensation of thought into a limited number of characters. McLuhan probably would have loved it ... and I should probably have used it instead of rambling on.
if only it were that easy to kill english grammar. then we could start again with some rational language like spanish or mandarin.
Sorry, that was a typo--I meant to say that the television _did not_ replace radio...and thus the roles were redefined like you said.

but in saying that texting is a change, but not for the better, I think implies that language can be good or better. I think the standard is how useful language is or how widely used a type of communication is really is the standard.

I think there is a tendency for people to be language snobs about t(e)xting. Texting is just a product of the technology of cellphones...the language and grammar of texting reflects the small space. It is no more "bad" or "good" than shorthand was or the language choices in is just the result of economy. Twitter reflects this economy as well...
Do you know a lot of teenagers that can spell and have good grammar and can write coherently? I'm curious, because the ones I know have poor grammar, poor spelling, use text speak in their homework and don't get why they shouldn't. Worst? These aren't bottom of the class kids - they're average students.
ranting boomer--whether or not students know or don't know how to write well isn't connected to emerging technologies such as texting. I can remember when email was going to be the end of grammar. I remember when spell check was supposed to be the end of good spelling. There are so many factors in students not being able to write well, and texting seems to be the least of the factors...just a brief listing--
grammar being less enforced, personal expression being more important in the classroom
younger teachers not having training in how to teach grammar
students having less practice in writing--being taught to take tests is more important than actual writing
grammar is something we always complain about younger generations, but evidence shows it is a developmental issue--we tend to get better at grammar with practice and time
children read less, reading is connected to grammar

And, grammar does is flexible and adapts to situations. Language is never static.
whether or not students know or don't know how to write well isn't connected to emerging technologies such as texting.
children read less, reading is connected to grammar

Not sure I agree with the first, but I absolutely agree with the second. They do not read, they are not taught, and they use text speak in many of the emerging technologies, from cell phone texting to IM texting. Was it Aristotle that said we become what we repeatedly do? I can't recall.

Cool thing is what *I* think doesn't matter and I know it. Mine is an opinion and nothing more. Time is what will tell; it always does.
ranting boomer--I don't think I see the evidence for your hypothesis that text speaking makes people speak formal/traditional less fluently. In a way, it could make these text speakers bilingual. If they do text speak in an academic paper (and as a former college professor for almost ten years, I never saw this) it is out of force of habit or inability to understand their audience--it may become so normal to them they may forget that their audience isn't fluent in text speak. Text speaking adds to our language ability--I don't see any evidence that it takes away from it.
And this is from a non-text speaker!
My point about texting was this: If mass communication is the aim, it fails because it requires a literacy and/or a vocabulary that many simply don't have (nor want to have). Hence also the failure of other attempts to simplify -- or even internationalize -- language, such as esperanto, to gain widespread acceptance.

Your reference to telegraphy is interesting, because I spent much time working on Teletypes and Telexes, and adopted the shorthand that reduced the number of characters that needed to be typed: a primitive example of texting, one might say. But if I were to use that jargon in normal communication, few would understand it, except perhaps contextually. That's fine if the intent is to exclude the non-initiates -- a form of language elitism that I think that's one of the attractions of texting among today's global villagers -- but not if it's meant to be inclusive.