If ever you want to see what English grammar, spelling, and punctuation will look like the day after the apocalypse, just read the comments section of pretty much any pop culture-related video posted on YouTube. (That’s provided the uploader of the video has allowed comments.)
Before the advent of the World Wide Web, there was only printed media, which was checked by editors and sub-editors for errors prior to publication. But the Internet has for the most part removed that gauntlet of scrutiny. Now anyone, even the borderline illiterate, can post comments that are read by thousands, millions. One person’s bad English usage habits can become the bad English usage habits of a teeming multitude. For example, how many times have you seen disappoint spelled dissapoint or read a post by somebody who was afraid he was going to loose all his money? Websurfers see. Websurfers do.
Thanks to the popularity of blogs, online forums, and social media, where the demand for decent English is, well, low, basic literacy skills are tumbling into the abyss. And nowhere have they tumbled faster than on YouTube. We’re going to look at a couple of YouTube comments and see whether they can be rewritten into something approaching readable, logical English. We could leave them as is, but why let dirt lie when you’ve got a vacuum cleaner?
The Past and Future Chicken
Don’t spend too long reading this first comment. You might catch dyslexia.
i once had a eaten a chicken tommorrrow it was lovley i had it with rice and some sause yumyum
The author combines the future tense and the past tense in a way that defies all known rules of grammar. His flagrant disregard for proper spelling and anything vaguely resembling punctuation only adds to the confusion in meaning here. He is eating a chicken tommorrrow; it was lovley. How does he know the chicken is lovely if he hasn’t eaten it? Perhaps he purchased, or is planning to purchase, a chicken from a vendor whose chickens he knows from experience are delicious and thus is so sure it will be a lovely chicken that he writes of its loveliness in the past tense. Anyway, here is our redacted version.
I’m going to eat a chicken with rice and sauce tomorrow. It should be yummy.
Yummy isn’t the greatest choice of words, but this is a YouTube comment after all, so we don’t want to stray too far from the vernacular. More relaxed English, as opposed to deceased English, is fine in informal contexts such as an online message board posting or a YouTube comment.
The Least Cigarette Is the Most Cigarette
This next and final comment is deceptive. At first glance there doesn’t appear to be that much wrong with it in comparison to the previous comment. But like a Jackson Pollock, the closer you look at it, the more befuddling it gets.
It is one of the least substances but its nor harmless it does damage unless you don’t inhale its rare to get mouth cancer and throat cancer, same goes with cigars and cigarettes.
The topic being commented on is the demon weed, Marjorie-Anna. The author, despite tossing in the contradictory preposition nor, which is probably just a typo of not, seems to be saying that a joint is the least harmful type of cigarette. He adds that it can harm you if you inhale [its smoke], but you’re not likely to get mouth or throat cancer if you don’t.
The problem here is that the lack of punctuation, though he does include a comma just to be on the safe side, has turned what should have been two or even three sentences into one big run-on sentence. Reading stream-of-consciousness sentences like this is almost as tiring as reading all six volumes of Gibbons’ The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in one sitting.
The only way to see clearly the author’s meaning is to hose off his reeking syntax.
Marijuana is one of the least harmful substances you can smoke. But it can harm you if you inhale it. As with smoking cigarettes and cigars, though, it’s rare to get mouth or throat cancer if you don’t inhale.
So there we have it, bad English chopped, bent, and twisted into better English.
That’s two atrociously written YouTube comments down, 948,573,621 to go.