This week has seemed a bit odd to me, where matters of language and writing are concerned. To wit:
Fruits of Our Kermissive Time (or Old Frog, New Legs)
Having recently dumped Miss Piggy, his favorite porker and main squeeze these many years, Kermit the Frog has been seen out and about with a new love interest. And yes, pork is still the other white meat. At least His Venerable Greenness isn’t cavorting with a chicken.
Enter the lovely and gracious Denise. Okay, I don’t actually know whether she’s gracious, and to me she’s really only lovely in comparison to a certain older, full-figured, feminist pig puppet who has irritated me for years, whom I tolerated out of personal respect for her boyfriend. But I’d bet money that she has a sweeter personality than Ms. Piggy; how could she not, unless she, too, is a raging narcissist?
I’m not sure anyone has documented what Kermit sees in her, but some irate feminists think they know — and they’re angry. You see, Denise is younger, not known to be a feminist, and is most definitely, ahem, leaner.
Follow that last link to the Telegraph story, and you can — at least for the moment — vote in a poll. The question: “Is Kermit a misogynist?” Your possible answers are, “Yes, he is DISGUSTING” and “No, he is an innocent amphibian.” I’m not sure I like either answer, but then I’ve never been quite comfortable with the Thursday special of frog legs and pork loins. I’m not saying Kerm’s a perv. I’m really not. And it’s not about Miss Piggy’s being a Ms. now. It’s just that . . .
Well, anyway, sometimes one needs to remember that they’re puppets.
What does all this have to do with writing, you ask? Maybe only this: Someone writes this stuff. These delightful glorified sock puppets aren’t improvising.
And this: When we write, the fact that someone dislikes our writing doesn’t surprise us, but the quarter from which the opposition comes might be unexpected. For example, in this instance the critics are random Internet feminists. Shouldn’t we be at least mildly surprised that they would rather be angry about a rumored puppet romance than about women being slaughtered in some parts of the world for wanting an education, for thinking they’re not chattel, or for the trendiest 21st century capital offense, being Christian in a third-world country? (I know, I know. I’m supposed to say, “In a developing nation.” Someday you can tell me how slaughtering Christians by the village constitutes development.)
Come to think of it, I’d rather write about Kermit and Miss Pig– . . . er, Denise than about those subjects, most days. (Including today, apparently; I started to write today for my lately-neglected political site, a piece about striking county clerks and dying immigrants.) So I put to you this question: Why did Kermit take up with that shrill, unbearable creature in the first place? Why did he stay with her so long, when there are puppet women out there with pleasing personalities and less tendency to violence?
It’s about froggin’ time he dumped her and moved on. I’m happy for Kermit.
And for the Internet. Some folks are having serious fun with this one.
One more question. Will the frog’s angry detractors be mollified at all if it comes out in Episode 3 of the modern Muppet revival that, before the surgery, Denise used to be Dennis? Or is it all about her looks, for them? She looks younger. She looks thinner. She looks she might not have an ego as big as all outdoors. The little tart.
I wish Kermise every happiness.
Google: The New Coke of Logos
Then there’s Google’s new logo. Ick.
Alexandra Petri says it better than I can. Read her whole essay, “Google’s new look is tragic sans,” but this will get you started:
I understand that with its new Alphabet corporation, Google stood at a crossroads. But like someone embarrassed at a fancy dinner, it has chosen the wrong fork.
It went sans serif.
This is inexcusable.
What possessed them? The result is horrible, neutered. It has lost its elan. It is the Google+ of logos. It is dull and clunky and blah. And don’t get me started on the single parti-colored G of the smaller logo — well, all right, do get me started, but I don’t think much of it. It looks like a refugee from a pie chart. In the course of this I keep trying to Google things and being unable to find the window because I can’t imagine that a site with this horrid, Comic-Sans-looking monstrosity in the top corner would be the home of a reputable search engine.
It’s a fun read. But again you ask, what does this have to do with writing?
To tell the truth, I’m surprised that you even have to ask. But I’ll answer. The offense here is a font, a typeface. (Split hairs between those two on your own time.) And everything we write these days, and everything we read, uses at least one of those, except the increasingly infrequently handwritten bits of language we occasionally produce under duress. And these choices matter.
Bogart and Bacall, Brangelina, Laura and W . . . Auburn Football Fans and Grammar?
Maybe it’s Beauty and the Beast.
You know that classic (as in always told, never old) riddle about the University of Nebraska football helmet? It’s even more timely this weekend, here in Utah, but that’s not my point. All together now:
Q: What does the N stand for on their football helmets?
Nope, it never gets old. And in that spirit, Grammarly (self-proclaimed home of The World’s Best Plagiarism Checker) has studied comments on blog posts by fans of the 25 teams in the Associated Press’s preseason Top 25, and has rated their grammar, punctuation, and spelling for correctness. The object: Determine which of the top teams has the most-grammatical fans. (Fellow writers, think about the hyphen there, and if you can’t figure it out, ask.)
You wish you’d thought of that, right? Finally a chance to mix football, your guilty pleasure, with those arcane things you know about writing, like semicolons and the comma splice and how there are really only four e‘s in cheerleeder.
Spoiler: Auburn won. By a Southern mile. I’m not sure what that means.
We Need a Pronoun Prophylactic, Stat!
We’ll end with another college campus story. This one’s from the University of Tennessee, which did not place in the Grammarly Contest for Literate Football Fans, because UT hasn’t seen the inside of the Top 25 in quite a while (if aging memory serves). At least they’re not in it now.
And there might be other reasons. According to the New York Daily News:
To create a more inclusive campus, the University of Tennessee in Knoxville is encouraging teachers and students to use gender-neutral pronouns.
The made-up pronouns are “ze, hir, hirs” and “xe, sem, xyr,” according to Donna Braquet, director of the university’s Pride Center, in a posting on the college’s website.
“These may sound a little funny at first, but only because they are knew [sic],” Braquet said. “The she and he pronouns would sound strange, too, if we had been taught ze when growing up.”
Teachers, as the new school year begins, should “instead of calling roll, ask everyone to provide their name and pronouns,” the post says.
The Tennessee Legislature is not amused — and that’s a problem for a publicly-funded university.
The lieutenant governor called this “political correctness run amok.”
With due respect, sir, this is 23.8 miles past Amok and around the next mountain.
The university president wants us to know that it was just a suggestion — and a not-very-official one, at that — and expressed concern for the resulting harm to UT’s reputation.
Harm to its reputation? Ya think?
Last night, I saw a story that the much-ridiculed blog post has been removed.
And I continue to marvel at how hard some folks work to unite us by dividing us in every imaginable way.
But I do want to be helpful, so I have a suggestion. We already have a gender-neutral pronoun: it. Wouldn’t it be easier simply to declare that referring to someone as it no longer has a nonhuman stigma? Then we would know what to call everyone, and none of Facebook’s 50-odd gender groups would have to feel offended or excluded . . .
(I’m sorry, was “odd” the wrong thing to say there?)
. . . And those of us who remember how we used to use it on people derisively will smile a bit and silently enjoy each tiny morsel of pronominal comic relief. It will brighten our otherwise dark linguistic lives.
I am practically certain that, next time Kermit goes to speak to Auburn football fans, they will expect him to eschew UT’s pronouns. Being the urbane, literate gentlefrog that he is, he would never consider doing otherwise. I have some doubt that certain Google officials would choose so wisely.
Be well, gentle reader. And long live the frog.