“You’ve Got Mail!”

Ah … I just received a private message from someone named “Stuart”! How exciting!

Except … I actually receive a number of private messages from the same online dating site every single day. That may very well make me sound popular, and maybe even “drop-dead-gorgeous”, but funnily enough, despite all the private messages I receive, I don’t have an active profile!

You see, despite my skepticism regarding online dating, one cold evening when feeling a little downhearted and dangerously close to old (as we all feel sometimes), I decided, “Oh, what the hell!”, and signed up to a dating website that is supposedly for busy professionals. However, after the initial sign-up, I decided that I had no interest in filling in one of those long-winded online profiles about who I am, and who I’m looking for.  I soon realised that I am just too busy to have the time for a relationship, nor do I even want one at the moment. If I did, I would have surely taken the time to fill in the profile. More to the point, if I had spent quality time in writing a full profile to ensure others know who I am, to attract a potential mate based upon my personality and mutual interests, etc., how many people would actually take the time to really read all of my (or any other person’s) profile, anyway…?

Generally speaking, most people will see a pretty face and it will prompt them to send a message to that person. After a bit of online tittle-tattle and abbreviated messages (“hw bout we go 2 pub sum time”), they will go on a date with someone who is probably highly incompatible with them, never having actually read the person’s profile properly in the first place. But, maybe I am being completely unfair. Whilst I always take the time to read another person’s words carefully, I do get the impression that not everyone is quite so thorough.

The fact that I am receiving so many messages from people like “Stuart”, when my profile has bugger all on it (not even a photo!), may perhaps, go some way in substantiating my suspicion.

On the other hand, it certainly seems to corroborate the reports on the increasing number of fraudulent profiles circulating the web, and serves as a reminder as to how we should remain vigilant where our online security is concerned.

I, for one, will be sticking to the old-fashioned method of meeting potential partners via real-life interaction.

As for Stuart… Perhaps he is an online rogue of some description, or an escort touting for business, or maybe he genuinely is a very lonely and desperate man, whom I should give the benefit of the doubt. After all, he does seem compelled to message people regardless of whether they actually have a profile or not. Poor guy.

Let us hope that “Stuart”, “James”, “Will”, “Tom”, et al, will all find true love one day.

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Is Chivalry Dead? – If only!

Since blogging on WordPress, I have encountered a number of interesting blogs written by fellow bloggers. One post that provoked some disagreement was ‘Chivalry – it’s not just for knights’, written by author, Stephen Liddell. Whilst I respect Stephen’s views on the matter, I must confess that my views do not coincide. Why should one gender be treated differently to the other when it comes down to something that, essentially, should be nothing other than good manners and common courtesy?

From a female perspective, the underlying patriarchy of chivalry has always sat uneasily with me: The implication that men are the strong protectors, who tend to the perceived weaker gender, like a knight in shining armour. Feminists argue that chivalry is, therefore, misogynistic, but I disagree with this view entirely.

Misogyny is defined as being a “hatred, dislike, or distrust of women”, and even if men really are chivalrous as a result of their inherent beliefs that women are weak (as the feminists claim), I fail to see the correlation between the belief that someone is frail, and hating them. A newborn baby is more fragile than a fully-grown adult; does that mean that we nurture and protect a child who is so precious to us, purely out of hatred? Such feminist theories are preposterous, and as such, do not stand any validity in forming a well constructed argument or reason. Chivalry may very well be patriarchal, and exasperating for women such as myself, but it is surely not a feature of misogyny.

 

On average, men are only about 15-percent larger than women, although the average male is usually physically stronger than most women, because of greater muscle mass. Of course, there are exceptions, and even if a woman is physically weaker than her male suitor, that does not make her too frail to open a door for herself, or to stand during a train journey. Women such as the suffragette, Emily Davison, died in the fight for female equality in our history; so what a kick in the teeth to the memories of women who fought for equality, when there are still some instances of women being perceived as the “weaker” gender, so many years on. Perhaps such patriarchy is the result of modern women demanding they be “treated like queens”, just as much as men are at fault for bestowing it upon women whilst, quite hypocritically, failing to treat their fellow men with such good manners.

When a sports injury necessitated the use of crutches last year, I was admittedly, very grateful when a seat was offered on public transport, and was genuinely touched by the number of kind people who would stop and offer to help – both men and women. Usually it was men who offered to help, and I could not help but wonder how many of them would have been so helpful had I been male. No doubt the men who stopped to offer help, believed they were just being kind, and maybe they really would have been as helpful towards a male as they were towards a female. But, as Steven Liddle wrote in his blog, “I do it for me” –  Is such a statement not a form of moral superiority, whereby the person is rather egotistically making the gesture, merely to make himself believe he is the “good guy”? I cannot help but object to, what is essentially a patriarchical moral high ground, particularly as good social etiquette dictates the obligation that I should graciously say thank you for something I neither wanted, nor asked for, but was imposed upon me nonetheless.

Being a humanist (as opposed to a feminist), I advocate equality between both genders. Men should be treated the same as women, with good manners bestowed upon both genders – and not forgetting the transgendered, too. When a man runs to hold a door open a door for a woman, or offers to carry her bags, then he should offer the same to a fellow male. If a woman is genuinely in a position where she appears to be in need of help, such as being on crutches and struggling to carry heavy bags, or may need a seat; then yes, by all means offer her help – but also offer the same assistance to a man on crutches. I certainly would, and very often have, much to the surprise of the men in question. With regards pregnant or elderly ladies (and elderly men!) unsteady on their feet; yes, a physically healthy man should give up his seat – but so should other women who are not pregnant, elderly, or less physically able to stand (I.e. on crutches or recovering from surgery, etc.) It is a matter of priority and common courtesy.

My message to all the “Knights in Shining Armour” out there: Instead of behaving in a chivalrous manner, try being an all-round decent human being instead. People will respect you for it more.

My little anti-feminist joke of the day!

Have Literacy Standards Taken A Nosedive?

Schools across Britain are reporting that students who sat GCSEs in English have been ‘harshly marked down’, as a result of this year’s GCSE A*-C results falling for the first time in the exam’s history. One headteacher has condemned the GCSE exam board as being ‘unfair’, and claims that her ‘pupils have had their life chances damaged’.

The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has always alleged that the value of GCSEs and A-levels has been corroded by the “dumbing down” of exams, and the over-generous awarding of grades.

The question is, have standards genuinely fallen, or were this year’s GCSE exams particularly harsh?

There has been much speculation in previous years about exam standards becoming progressively easier. It always seemed difficult to believe that Britain’s teenagers were getting increasingly more intelligent every single year, particularly as there have been conflicting reports suggesting that literacy standards have been falling in Britain since 2005.

Although it is considered “cool” for teenagers to type in “text talk”, what implications might this have upon literacy standards – if at all? Arguably, if one is not reading quality literature, or writing at a high standard on a regular basis, it is very easy to fall into a situation where spelling standards decline, and writing standards do not progress as quickly. I do not suppose the US English spelling, which is so commonplace on the internet, helps terribly much, either.

Furthermore, consider the poor quality of writing in the ‘Twilight’ series of books, which are ever so popular with today’s teenagers. When teenagers are familiarising themselves with the following examples of syntactical car-crashes, colloquialisms, and appalling overuse of adjectives, would it really surprise us if we discovered that English standards are falling?

“He leaned in slowly, the beeping noise accelerated wildly before his lips even touched me. But when they did, though with the most gentle of pressure, the beeping stopped altogether.”

“Time passes. Even when it seems impossible. Even when each tick of the second hand aches like the pulse of blood behind a bruise. It passes unevenly in strange lurches and dragging lulls, but pass it does. Even for me.”

“He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare.”

This bizarre adjective reduplication also takes the cake:

“He was both dazzling and dazzled.”

Perhaps incorporating the study of one of the ‘Twilight’ books into the National Curriculum would not be such a bad idea; not because the books are an example of quality writing, but because they are actually very good examples of a poor writing style that teenagers should be taught not to emulate in their own writing. As some of the more “eloquent” teenagers are already reading the books recreationally, why not use ‘Twilight’ as an opportunity to educate teenagers in what not to do, in a manner that will actually be enjoyable for most of them, and will thus be easier for them to relate with. Moreover, although somewhat off the topic of English studies, the ‘Twilight books might also be a useful learning text for PSE (Personal and Social Education) classes, as the ‘Twilight’ books also send out the wrong message about relationships. For example, the main character, Bella, abandons a number of things (school, her relationships with others) in order to allow her entire existence to be engrossed in her adoration for Edward, resulting in an underlying message that almost makes it seem “cool” for a girl to allow herself to be defined by a boy she obsesses over. Maybe it would be a good idea to let teenagers realise how destructive such a mindset could be.

Back to the topic of English, the following examples discovered on Twitter may just about sum up the general standard of some teenagers’ literacy:

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A tweet posted by @AngryBritain, which commented on the TV programme, ‘X-Factor, lead to the angry response of a teenager who, it would appear, was previously uninformed as to the definition of the word “snigger”. She was, therefore, under the false impression that the tweet read the word “nigger”, instead of ‘snigger’.

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Something tells me she may have been right about that…

I rest my case.

‘Hate peepz who typ lyk dis’? The Reason Why Text-Type May Be More Scholarly Than You Think.

Just a quick glance at the Facebook page or Twitter feed of today’s modern teenagers gives us an insight into today’s standard of English literacy. “Y do teenz lyk 2 typ lyk dis”? Alas, I do not think the elder generations will ever really understand the trend.

Maybe “dis way of writin” could actually be considered more scholarly than we care to believe. Perhaps the English language is merely reverting back to Old English or Frisian! Fashions do, after all, repeat themselves, and maybe the same is beginning to happen with regards the English language.

Just a moment ago, I was reading an old book that I stumbled across: ‘The Cambridge History of the English Language: (Vol 1): the Beginnings to 1066’ by Richard M. Hogg, and was reminded how Frisian, a West Germanic language spoken in the province of Friesland, Netherlands, and parts of northern Germany, is the closest relative of English. In fact, Frisia was once a powerful and independent kingdom from the c.7th century, but lost its independence by the 15th century.

To summarise, Old English and Frisian were, at one time, mutually intelligible. After the Battle of Hastings, English became influenced by Norman French, whilst Frisian became influenced more by the Dutch language. Frisian is similar to English in that both languages are rich in vowels, diphthongs and triphthong; but unlike Germanic languages, have nasal vowels, similar to Afrikaans. The Frisian “r” is similar to the English alveolar “r”, as opposed to an uvular sound in German or Dutch.

An extract from ‘Beowulf’, a poem written in Old English.

I was interested to hear the languages spoken, and a search on YouTube led me to a rather interesting documentary presented by Eddie Izzard, that was previously part of a series called ‘Mongrel Nation’, once featured on The Discovery Channel. In one of episode, Eddie Izzard learnt a few Old English phrases, and subsequently took a trip to Friesland to meet a local Frisian-speaking farmer. Interestingly, Izzard asked the farmer if he could buy a cow, speaking in Old English, and the farmer understood most of the conversation. An excerpt from the series can be found here.

To understand my observation about teenagers’ “text talk” being similar to Old English or Frisian, just observe the following example:

Frisian: Ik wolde net lyk it te rein oer de neist wyk.
English: I would not like it to rain over the next week.

Notice any similarities there? (“lyk” = “like”, etc.)

Also, notice how in spoken English, certain regional dialect tends to be a little sloppy by dropping letters from the ends of words. Thus, observe the following:

Frisian: Bûter, brea, en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk
English: Butter, bread and green cheese is good English and good Frisian

I am sure if teenagers realised that their style of writing/speaking  is scholarly enough to be comparable to Old English or Frisian, the latest trend of “text talk” would soon appear less “cool”, and perhaps we might gradually see it begin to fizzle out.

I am sure that would come as a relief to some of us.

If the English language is reverting back to Old English, perhaps Old English fashion will also repeat itself? Who reckons we’ll be seeing this example of 11th century “chic” worn by today’s teenagers…? … Maybe not.

Fashion Trumps Functionality

Last week, I came across a news article in the Huffington Post about the All Round Women’s Gymnastics Olympics Champion, Gabby Douglas. Apparently there has been some criticism about her hair!

Such articles really make one question the mentality of modern society. Not only is Douglas the first American female to win the title, but she is also the first African-American Olympic gymnast. Despite this wonderful historical achievement, it would appear that society places greater importance on fashion and beauty.

 

What is particularly strange, is that Douglas wears her hair in the exact same style as all the other gymnasts, so what is there to debate?

Perhaps there are a number of people who are (a) jealous (b) resent that a black athlete is the first to become the US ladies gymnastics champion in a predominantly Caucasian or Asian sport, and (c) there is perhaps some kind of concealed racism behind it. Or, perhaps the media are so obsessed with how women look, that they choose to ignore a person’s achievements? However, as long as the media have a market to sell stories to, they will continue to sell on demand. Should we perhaps, then, blame the public? For as long as the public buy into fashion trends, the media will focus on selling features based on fashion.

Gymnasts, no matter what their colour, nationality, etc., need to wear their hair off their face, otherwise it will fall into their eyes, and affect their performance. Yet, it would appear that obsession with beauty has made the public ignorant to the importance of functionality over fashion. The same could be said about physique. An athlete will develop a certain physique as a result of specialised training, so that they have the correct muscle formation for their particular sport. A marathon runner will naturally develop a very slender physique, which they need in order to be light enough to move swiftly and use less energy. A female weightlifter will need to be more “top-heavy”, just like a man, in order to have the strength to lift heavy weights. Yet, society will judge those athletes for looking emaciated or too masculine, respectively.

The sooner people stopped judging upon appearances and appreciated a person for their minds, personality, and achievements, the better. Alas, a preoccupation with beauty has been a feature of society for many centuries (one need only take a look at the numerous great works of art, and painted portraits that have been painted throughout history), and thus is unlikely to change any time soon.