The Grammar police

I keep looking behind me but the problem is hear in front of me. Did you see that, I used the wrong one, the wrong spelling of it. Another act of rebellion. A moment when I did something you aren’t allowed to do anymore. They will call it a mistake, in a report somewhere. It was no mistake. It was deliberate, deliberative-there’s a word you never see now, can’t even use it in that context, who cares, it was a deliberative act. ..read more

I try three words, any combination. I pulled them from the dictionary. It is a manual dictionary. You know what I mean? It has pages, real pages, paper. Have you ever touched paper? Do you know what paper is? Look it up? No don’t look it up. They might be watching you too.

 It was hard to find a manual dictionary. Hard to even find a bookshop with real books. They don’t like you to have dictionaries. Dictionaries are powerful things. Especially old ones. You can find out stuff, stuff you aren’t supposed to know. They can tell you about the past, about the past of a word, about what it once meant. They can tell you about a time before a word even existed. The dictionary I have, the manual one, is old I think. It doesn’t have the word ‘email’ in it. Which means? You know what it means? There was a time before email. A time when ‘email’ did not exist. How did people communicate then? I don’t know. I thought they told us, email is the oldest form of communication there is. But the word ‘email’ is not in my manual dictionary. I huddle over my screen. I know someone, something, somewhere is looking at every word I right. Don’t tell! I used the wrong right, right? Yes? These words are just going out into the ether, but the ether is always watching. Collecting information. Informing. This machine is an inform-ant. I hyphenated when you shouldn’t. I must be careful.

I think there was another way of communicating before ‘email’. Those are radical words, revolutionary words. A revolution sent out into the ether.  ‘Verbal’! That’s a word I found but I don’t know what it means. I think it means ‘spoken’ which is about speaking but I am not sure what speaking is-but speaking is not emailing. I thought before it was, that when I was emailing I was speaking but maybe I wasn’t. I think I’m not. Emailing and speaking-they are not the same. I know that now. I have a dictionary. I fling a question into the ether-my fingers fly over the keys-what is speaking? But there is no answer. Only music comes back at me, notes and sound and melody. Noise but not words.

They think that if they can control what words mean they can control what words we use. We all write in Code, their code -but I have a dictionary. I wonder what it means ‘to speak’. The music comes from the ether, from somewhere inside the machine.

I type in another random search of three words. Three random words taken from my manual dictionary. Then I click on image. The images are random. The search engine does not understand what I am asking it to look for. That is my point. A random three word search. They don’t know everything. There are endless possible searches with my dictionary. If I do enough of these all in a row they will find me, but if I just do two at a time, every so often, I will go under the radar, or the data mining. I just have to be careful. I can make it work or not work just by carefully choosing three words. I type in three more random words, I don’t know what they mean. More random pictures.

I don’t want them to know everything about me. I want some control. I want the algorithm to be confused by what I am doing but not confused enough to report me. I don’t want anymore stupid targeted advertising. There is no opt out. The privacy policy is not an agreement, it is a rule, a law. There is no internet without agreement to the privacy policy. I sign up or else I am no longer part of the world. I am not the only one. Confused. Confounded. Annoyed. Three words I would not type into a search engine in a row because they would know then. Why do you think dictionaries are so hard to find? Bookshops are illegal aren’t they. Why would you need a bookshop when every book is on the internet? Why? Fair point but you still don’t need to make them illegal-do you? Why? What about competition? Maybe every book is not on the internet, just the ones they want us to read.

Bookshops are illegal because? Because they have a different viewpoint. Now you are getting the hang of it. Because they can’t know which page you’re up to and if they don’t know which page you are up to, they can’t know how much you know or what you are thinking. They can’t tell you what to think and when to think it when you are turning the pages yourself. A book is a means of being autonomous- without the ever watching eye of a machine. A book does not collect your data. It does not store your thoughts. A book asks nothing of you but that you turn to the next page. What if you don’t want to finish a book? You can do that-with a manual book you can do that. What if you are a bad citizen and don’t read the book in a linear way. What if words haven’t always meant what they say they mean. Because I want to know the history of words. I want to know what they once meant because I need to know how they gained control of the conversation. Because even now this is their conversation. My words, their machine. My thoughts. Their data.

I sit here typing, looking over my shoulder as if they are coming, but they are not coming. They are already here, in the machine in front of me. I try not to panic. I want to type in three more random words, but that would be dangerous. At night, when I am alone, I flick through this dictionary. It is from 1984, I know that year, it means something but the dictionary doesn’t tell me what.

I hold it. I want to suck all the knowledge from it. What did all the words mean once. Before them. Before the little green line appeared. Why don’t they mean that anymore? Who changed it? Who made the rules? Who forbade words out of context? When did the phrase ‘grammatical offence’ first appear.

I take a breath. I look at the screen. The images are random. No one can possibly know what I meant because I meant nothing. It will register in a report somewhere but not often enough, not yet, for me to be a ‘submersive’ –but according to the dictionary, that means underwater-they have it wrong. It’s the wrong word, and I know, its subversive. I am subversive, not submersive. How did they get that wrong? I have read it. The book is open on my knee. Its that sleight of hand, that slight of hand, the subtle changes that have made all the difference. It means something different today to yesterday and you can never keep up with it. Our words used against us. What does it mean to speak? What is a voice? More than a point of view? A sound? A noise-that is not musical. How odd.

I am a radical, a rebel. I want my life back. I want my beautiful words to tumble from the page and to mean what I want them to mean. I hold the dictionary. The history of words, where they started, where they come from. Words are power. When did we hand over control to the spell checker. To the green line that dictates grammar. I won’t do it. I can’t do it. The sound of the keys is the only voice I have now.

I keep looking behind me but the problem is hear in front of me. Did you see that, I used the wrong one, the wrong spelling of it. Another act of rebellion. A moment when I did something you aren’t allowed to do anymore. They will call it a mistake, in a report somewhere. It was no mistake. It was deliberate, deliberative-there’s a word you never see now, can’t even use it in that context, who cares, it was a deliberative act. A rebellion amongst a million typed characters. I am a rebellion- another one. They will definitely be watching now. I must be careful. This is foolhardy and foolish and folly and a lot of other ‘f’ words.

I pull my coat close around me. It is cold here. I let my fingers glide over the keys. I think of other mistakes I could make. Other words I could use. Half sentences. Improper phrases. Bad grammar. I know they are watching. I must be careful. What if I just wrote a line of solid ‘j’s. What would happen then. Would they break down the door? I clutch the dictionary close to me. I know there was a time, before, beyond the machines. Nothing is forever. The time, it will be again, I hold the past here with me and as long as someone does, there is hope.

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