Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You is not One

This isn't a political essay. I try to fragment my already discarded theories so that one may read articles without always being faced with political jargon and conspiracy babbling. This is about my other pet peeve: bad grammar.

I've noticed a trend that started long ago but now has reached endemic status: the improper use of 2nd person pronouns, especially in speech. This is an issue that few but Oggy will be annoyed by but that keeps me up at night. Even there in that previous sentence I referred to myself in the third person, and then in the same sentence referred to myself in the first person. I do this at times break up the first person narcissist that I believe I am at heart, my vanity, my literary selfie constantly reinventing itself in stilted vocabulary and self-conscious sadness. But to be so inconsistent in the same sentence is crazy. But I must obey my instinct and I refuse to censor some artifacts of my broken inner dialogue.

But the use of second person "You" when the person really means the impersonal or generic "One". It's like the "royal We" in England. "We will have breakfast on the porch," said the Queen, who would be dining alone.

Almost any interview on television is peppered with this awful mistake.
Interviewer: How did it feel to throw an interception to end the game?
Quaterback: You prepare for a game and do the best you can. You learn to take the good with the bad.

What the fuck is that quarterback talking about? You? Who? The interviewer? The interviewer has never played football and isn't asking for a lecture on what he should do to avoid throwing interceptions. The question was asked to the quarterback specifically but the quarterback responds with a second person response. "You do this and that." I'm so irked by this awful trend in speech.

This grammar is all wrong. But the problem is that it is entrenched since the likelyhood of a quarterback saying, "One trains all year until one is prepared, and then one does his best." is zero. Why not say, "I did my best."

The word "You" should never be used as a generic you. Of course even wikipedia approves this ugly and barbaric usage; I disagree. It sounds stupid and there are more sophisticated alternatives. I am making an effort to purge this generic you out of my vocabulary. And the best way to do that is to speak in first person, like the egotistical cocksucker that I am. If I tell a story then I'm going to tell it not like, "So you come into town and the first thing you see is a bus on fire, because the teachers are on strike."
Yes, this sounds natural, this is how most people would tell a story...but what I've seen is a dramatic tendency for interviews and stories to become these generic fables about an impersonal "you" who does not exist but really acts as a deceitful buffer between truth and lie.

I didn't really like the Scorsese movie "The Departed" but I watched it a few times. In one scene, the generically pretty psychologist is justifying her romantic decisions to Leonardo. "You get a job, you go on dates, you get married and you start a family."
The whole tone of that scene is that she doesn't trust herself...but doesn't know why...and Leo's character is her therapist. And to me, the whole tone is entrapped in her usage of the word "You" instead of "I"...and everytime I see that scene I keep waiting for Leo's character to say calmly, "You didn't use the word "I" in that whole explanation of your life."

THAT is why I have a problem with this generic usage of You. It's become a substitute for ownership of actions. I watched an interview of the late great Robin Williams and he was asked if sobriety made it hard to be funny. He said, "No, you find your humor when you're sober." Well, fuck, Robin, if that's true then why don't say, "I found my humor when I got sober."? I felt the same way watching that interview as I felt watching the scene in The Departed; the person wasn't convinced so they used a generic YOU to deflect the question. Furthermore he's talking bullshit because the world is way funnier when I've been munching on cannabis enhanced cookies than when I sit around eating stale Ramen Noodles. Sobriety ain't funny at all to ME.

So, I accept that the use of "One" sounds a little too Queen's English to stick in the modern tweet world on idiots on smart phone. But I hope to make a case that the use of "You" to deflect a question and speak generically and impersonally when the question was specifically personal is something that must come to an end or life on earth will steadily decline; taste and decency will perish.

Try this: if someone asks you a question that is specific and personal and directed to you then answer in the first person. This habit of turning everything into a fucking generic fable where an unnamed "You" does all these heroic things has to stop.

This has all come to my mind because in the Spanish language the word "Se" is used to death...and "Se" is the exact same as "One" It's an impersonal generic pronoun. The first thing I learned in Spanish was, "Como se llama" which doesn't translate to "What is your name?" although that's basically the question; the translation is "How does one call you." And "Como Se Dice" translates to "How does one say..." Se is an important word as the word "Tu" or "You" is a direct and personal pronoun reserved for close relations.

In English I ask someone, "How did you like the movie?" and the person responds, "Well, you get your hopes up and then you pay all this money and you sit in a big room and you...." like he's telling a fucking biblical tale about Solomon and the gold mines of Bethlehem. Fucking shit. When did we start using generic pronouns to explain something as simple as a fucking movie night? I believe it's a problem associated with media and celebrities being such false personalities that they cease to refer to themselves in the first person..."You go on set and then you have to kiss Brad Pitt and you jump off buildings and you just get overwhelmed..." Well, that's total bullshit because I will never do none of that don't try to deflect your experiences on me you vain cunt.

Now everyone wants to be a fucking movie star so we are all getting in the habit of speaking generically. I need this to stop now. I catch myself doing it still and I have to start the whole conversation over using all first person pronouns. It's hard at first but it's a bad habit and I don't care what wikipedia says; it's all wrong. If one is actually referring to a specific person in front of one then you are permitted to say, " take a left and then go down the steps." But never generically, "You have to ask yourself, is this a dream?" BULLSHIT!

I'm not going to let this go because it irks me. I'll start a nickle jar where if I make a video and I accidentally say, "You" in a generic usage then I put a nickle in the jar. I still will use "Oggy Bleacher" in the third person even when I am Oggy Bleacher because I think it's amusing and I'm trying to deliberately create a mythology around Oggy Bleacher and until someone starts an Oggy Bleacher fan/hate web page then no one is going to refer to Oggy Bleacher in the third person. So I must report on Oggy's actions as though he were a separate entity. I'm really perplexed by the state of the world so this is how I amuse myself. (Imagine if I had written, "You get really perplexed by the state of the world so you invent ways to amuse yourself." What an asshole I would be)

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.