7.22.2018

If you're from the burbs, you're not from the South Side

Sometimes I talk to people about where they're from, and some will say "the South Side." So of course I assume they're from the South Side--literally. People don't refer to neighborhoods on the South Side like they do the North Side (a trend that evolved as real estate took off and more yuppies, hipsters, bros, trixies, etc. moved in and marketing certain areas became more important). So this is how a typical conversation will go with a so-called "South Sider":

Me: Are you from Chicago originally?
SSS (supposed south sider): Yeah.
Me: Where?
SSS: The South Side.
Me (thinking about streets in the 50s, 80s, even 110s): Oh, where? I've been teaching down there for a while.
SSS: Oak Lawn/Evergreen Park/Burbank/Palos/Tinley/etc.
Me: Oh, you mean the southern suburbs.
SSS: Well, I guess so.

Um, no, there's no guessing...they really *are* suburbs; they have their own territory, schools, police, fire, parks, etc. The South Side is very different from the suburbs, even if the burbs border it. When you cross the city line, you can already feel the relative stability and the different system. There's usually not as much chaos nor as much lurking below. This is not to knock the South Side, and there are some suburbs that are quite gritty, but they're not urban gritty. There's more space in the suburbs and birds and stars at night. Those are hard to spot in the city.

I grew up in a burb (technically a city) just north of Chicago's northern border, and I *never* said I was from the "North Side." I said where I was actually from...no big deal. And since the South Side doesn't have the best reputation, I'm surprised that people claim they're from there. Is it because it shows that they're tough in some way, not soft dough that's kneaded in comfort and trees? Have they ever been to the South Side? Maybe they ventured to Beverly or Hyde Park or Bridgeport, some of the few South Side areas that have neighborhood names, as opposed to most of the South Side where people just give coordinates, such as "I stay at 67th and Kostner," which really is the southwest side (because there's the general South Side, which is then divided up into near, southeast, southwest, and other areas that people deny are the South Side but really are).

Actually, I should've done some more research to find out why people claim they're from the South Side but really aren't. One person explained that their burb had a similar zip code as Chicago, thus the intended misleading statement. But really, it sounds wannabe to me. Meanwhile, there are lots of northern, northwest suburban folks who would never say they're from the North Side. But they do say they're from "Chicago," which is hardly the case, unless that's a way to explain to people in other states or countries where they're generally from. But drill down and you'll discover they barely know the city anyway.

7.15.2018

Stop using comma splices

I teach English as a Second Language, and naturally, I often see students use comma splices. That is totally understandable because writing in another language is difficult; I totally messed up pretty much every sentence I wrote in Swedish class, and I'm currently having trouble writing even super-simple sentences in my online French class (I'll blog about that at another time).

So anyone who is learning English is excused. This is for the native speakers who presumably got enough schooling to know enough grammar. (And this is also a continuation of my previous post about "However.")

I don't know why so many people use comma splices. I can understand if someone has trouble applying rules, etc., and maybe writing isn't their strong suit, but even very educated people use them.

And I'm not talking about people who are writing English creatively. Sometimes people text or write in a certain way to convey a feeling, or to sound casual. I myself (shocker) have used comma splices to express myself in a less-constrained way. But I know the rules, so I can break them to vary my writing style. And other people can break them, too. But there are those people who are not purposely doing anything; they are just messing up, and their writing has to be corrected. (See, I just successfully avoided some comma splices by using a semicolon after the first independent clause and a conjunction to connect the second and third.)

I could link to many articles or blog posts that I've read where there were numerous comma splices, but I wasn't nerdy enough to keep a list of them all (or even some of them). But that's fine, because I'm not the only one who's annoyed; in addition to the several grammarians who are complaining online, there's a nerdy guy who gets paid to write such commentary at the illustrious Financial Times, saying he's also annoyed with the situation, and mentions British Airways as one of the offenders.

Basically, here is a type of comma splice that I often see:
Please take a number, someone will be with you shortly.

"Please take a number" is a complete sentence. "Someone will be with you shortly" is another complete sentence. They each can stand alone, so they cannot be separated by a mere comma.

That is an example of businesses that are speaking to customers. So perhaps using a semicolon would seem stuffy:
Please take a number; someone will be with you shortly.

One way to get around it and still be friendly and creative would be to use a dash (which I use when I want to be in the ballpark of correctness, but not so stiff):
Please take a number--someone will be with you shortly.

Another way, which someone (a reader) recommended, is to combine them:
Please take a number and someone will be with you shortly.

But using a comma just seems wrong, and perpetuates the problem we have (at least what we uptight language folks see as a problem). It is especially egregious in academic papers, which I see if the writers haven't gotten a professional to look over their work.

Are texting and quick social media causing the decline? I can understand people who use writing to communicate with their friends or whatever, but professionals with degrees or people who make a living from communicating shouldn't violate the rule. Or they should get someone else to check their work.

But my concern will eventually seem anachronistic, because there is no governing body for English that puts forth linguistic decrees, and the language will inevitably change over time...Oxford comma, anyone?

7.02.2018

I am sick of millennials

Wait, maybe I should title this post: "I am tired of hearing about millennials all the time" or "I am sick of the obsession with millennials" because that's what this really is about: our culture's obsession and fascination, and even disgust, with millennials. I've been thinking about this for a while, and have even told people in that age group what I think. So let me be clear: I am not against millennials (who I will refer to as "that age group" or "M's" because the "millennial" label is way overused), but I am sick of people salivating over them.

There are so many examples...where should I begin? How about all the whining we encounter about them. As someone who has probably experienced age discrimination when applying to jobs (but can't prove it), I am disgusted when I read articles online lamenting the horrible work ethic that these supposedly entitled people have. If those in power are so horrified by their attitude, why hire them? If you feel you have to constantly figure out ways to entertain them and motivate them, why hire them? Are the M's really that bad, or are you people in power hiring the wrong people? Newsflash: there are many people in that glorified and reviled generation, so maybe your screening process is awful. Maybe you're one of those people who is so enamored with what you perceive as their tech savviness (yes, I created a noun out of a legitimate adjective) that you choose whoever seems the cutest and most "current" to the point that you don't look beyond the gadgets that they're playing with.

Or better yet, why don't you just look past the age of a person and hire people who would be good for the organization. I know, it's shocking to suggest that people not worship M's, but seriously, if you're going to complain that much, just be open-minded. But I'm not here to bash the M's or their opportunities, because they're doing what anyone would: applying for jobs and enjoying the fruits of their labor (or just the fruits of being in the right age group).

I would love to link to a company that I saw online, which I unsuccessfully applied to (luckily, since something way better and more prestigious came along, where age does not matter), but I obviously can't, because what I'm about to say is not complimentary: the company posted lots of pictures of the employees having fun and working together, which attracted me to it. After I experienced the rejection (for a vague reason, but as I said, I got something much better), I went back to the website. Then it dawned on me: the gray-haired owners *only* hired M's, and I wondered if they wanted to be surrounded by young, attractive, energetic people so the owners would be surrounded by eye candy all day. I wouldn't put it past them, because the obsession that I often see in blogs and other media is so shallow. I even know of large, successful companies that openly prefer to hire recent grads or those who are younger than Christmas cakes. There are a few "older" people there, because someone has to know what's going on, but when I pass by a building and see thousands of M's walk out, I wonder if the eye-candy motivation is present, or if they simply think "older" people don't understand tech or much of anything else that they perceive as important.

Another newsflash: guess who got online way before Fakebook and other entities spoiled it? It wasn't your precious M's. Who got educated, hustled, made due with changing times, and have plenty of years of proof of victories and overcoming obstacles? Yup, not recent grads or almost-recent grads. Yet we are inundated with information and advice and woes of dealing with such a spoiled generation.

If they're so spoiled, who do you think raised them? Who do you think didn't make them do chores, didn't make them get part-time jobs, didn't force them to apply to jobs on their own, allowed them to be boomerangs, bought them fancy phones that are more powerful than computers have been? And better yet, who do you think invented all the technology that has saturated our culture, separating people from one another, creating walls, promulgating misconceptions? It wasn't your beloved M's. That generation is a product of what the older folks created. They are simply living in the environment that was set up by others, so I don't assign them much guilt (I say "much" because at a certain age anybody from any generation should be able to eventually mature).

When the "millennial" label first emerged, and at the dawn of the non-stop analysis of them, I told folks that I think the baby boomers are envious, because for years people talked about BB's, wrote about them, the media shone its light on them, often turning it on themselves because they were the media, and they had plenty of opportunities to wax poetic about how wonderful and change-agentish (a noun that I purposely adjectified) they were. After all, they protested the Vietnam War, grew up in suburbia, duck-and-covered, rebelled against their staid parents, listened to thoughtful and daring music, and were being rewarded for all their hard work with good jobs, sanitized memories, and human potentiality. Then...the millennials. Uh oh, they're a large generation, they use technology, they post on social media. Who is this group, and why do they have control now? Waaa, the BB's cried, and they proceeded to work against the M's, causing people to deride them and praise them, yet fear them. They were coming up in the world...such a mysterious bunch, pushing buttons and smiling into screens on their phones. Why aren't they paying attention to us, the war protesters and popular-culture warriors? Now the M's were getting all the glory...where does that leave us?

Unfortunately, it left the rest of us with BB's who control the market and look away from non-M's. Somehow, they don't believe that it is possible for "older" people to...understand strategy, technology, complicated English, complex thoughts. One time, someone was commenting on my technical knowledge and activity, and said, "Well that's how people in your generation are," implying that I am part of the M generation. When I told the person I was not, that I was actually the same age as them, they were stunned.

But now that the doors have been opened to the M's, they are also running the market, and probably want to hire their own. That's expected, since that's what the culture has established. Back when the economy was more stable and wasn't so top-heavy, it was loyalty and hard work that could open and maintain doors. Now it's flash and misconceptions, promoted in the bubble that the M-obsessed populace echoes as it continues to keep discussing and praising and wondering about their precious bunch.

Even if I talk to someone of that generation, they'll preface a statement with "Well, as a millennial..." or "I'm not a typical millennial because..." which I find really self-absorbing. I'm not saying the person is arrogant or spoiled; I'm saying they're self-absorbed because instead of referring to him-or-herself as an individual, they're lumping in with the rest of their generation, because everybody talks about them. If people didn't always talk about them, it probably wouldn't occur to them that they are part of a group, and would speak not as a label, but as a human, which is really what American society is about. Our culture is about rugged individualism, not collective identification that looks twee in a marketing campaign.

Thanks to the taste-makers and powers-that-be, we have moved away from American ideals of what we actually fought for (as we approach Independence Day) and instead are grouping people together to pursue mediocrity, conformity, and control.

So if you're a millennial, don't buy into the hype. Just do what you're doing, and don't worry about what other people think. Not that you should be rude or anything, but don't believe the hype. Don't react to labels you hear, complaints of being less than what you really are. You're just a person who has different influences and societal conditions, and you have a right to pursue your dreams. You may have paid a lot for an education, studied hard to get good grades and improve your prospects, and been hit with an economy that hasn't responded in the same way previous generations experienced. Schools have promised you a future, but that was also a marketing ploy, and what you're encountered is not what they held out in front of you. So go a better way, and don't pay attention to the whiners on the sidelines.