Having a MySpace account at 16 years old was glorious. In between the BUH-DUH-BUHs coming thick and fast from MSN Messenger and the looming threat of the GCSEs you’d done little to no revision for, MySpace was there. No adults knew about it, you could befriend fellow big-fringed kids from all over the world, and it was a well-known fact that your profile was the one place you could truly express yourself:
“I love: people who don’t try to be something they’re not, Nando’s, boys in bands, and analysing From First to Last lyrics. I hate: ppl who spell lyk dis and everyone who doesn’t know the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’.”
Oh, Sophie. You pretentious little shit.
I have nothing to say in defence of that terrible paragraph, except that I was a very self-absorbed teenager who thought that my opinions and About Me sections were really good. They weren’t. But as weird (and as lame) as it sounds, it was very common at one time to proclaim how you were the Queen of Spelling and everyone else was a godless loser who needed to buy a dictionary.
In the height of Facebook’s ‘become a fan of…’ era (RIP never forgotten), I was a proud and active member of several fan pages, including ‘They’re, there and their have distinct meanings – LEARN THEM’ and the friendly-sounding ‘If you don’t know the difference between your and you’re, you deserve to be shot’. People who joined these groups would never stop talking about how smart they were, how dumb everyone else was and how our education system was going to the dogs. Woof.
Fast forward to 2015 and I’m kind of embarrassed of my time as a grammatically correct bully. When I see people getting angry on Twitter because someone has written “I guess your not coming tomorrow” or I spy a friend-of-a-friend writing “you’re*” in response to an argument on a thread somewhere (gr8 retort, eh), I want to give them a bit of a shake and remind them that this sort of thing doesn’t come naturally to all of us.
I’m incredibly lucky, in the sense that the English-lesson side of my brain works really well and I tend to remember spellings and grammar rules as soon as I’ve seen them in action once or twice. It’s the only time my brain seems to perk up and act like a friendly little sponge. But I still make mistakes – and the thought of someone gleefully reminding me how wrong I am every time I mess up doesn’t sound appealing at all.
You know what I’ve always thought was weird? The fact that some people don’t find writing particularly easy but still have to use it, to some degree, every time they want to get involved with social media or send some kind of correspondence. There’s no escape. I’m not sure how I’d cope if I had to answer a science or maths question every time I needed to use Facebook (WHY DO WE USE PI? WTF IS AN ATOM?!). I like to think it’d hopefully improve my god-awful talents in time, but if I had smug so-and-sos adding “Um…CO²*” or “Don’t you mean ‘4,843’?” to my statuses every day, I think I’d give up. It wouldn’t make me want to learn – it’d just make me hate them.
My grandma has dyslexia. When she gets an idea in her head, it’s brilliant, and it’s ready to come out – it just might not always translate to the written word so well. But she’s so sharp as she explains it to me in person. My grandma knows what she’s talking about. Remember that quote by someone-I-can’t-remember, about how everyone you meet will know something you don’t? I think it’s true. You might be able to recite the whole of Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Good for you. But what someone else can do with their eyes closed is probably something you’d puzzle over for weeks.
I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to be constantly reminded of your spelling-related shortcomings, and how many hot, angry tears must have been cried as a result of snotty know-it-alls like 16 year-old-me thinking that knowing the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ was the equivalent of understanding the meaning of life. Does it actually matter if someone uses ‘there’ wrongly? Does an argument really become void because the person who made it spelled one word incorrectly? Does grasping when to use an apostrophe make you infallible in all other areas of life? No. I’m not sure it does.