Aug 17 2011

Spinster aunt pleads for justice

It’s no secret that this is a happy-go-lucky blog run by a carefree, complaisant Internet feminist. This Internet feminist has bigger fish to fry and is not concerned in the slightest with the style of expression used by the mellow folks who leave comments. Oh, she might make a small suggestion or two, here and there, regarding spelling, punctuation, capitalization, the navel-gazing properties of certain personal pronouns, syntax, length of comment, emoticons, whether descriptions of certain intimate acts are appropriate, and general grammar, yes, but in the grand context of patriarchy blaming these are but minutiae [note: when in doubt, consult the GFC]. Although strict compliance is — without putting too fine a point on it — more or less required, it serves the greater good and, more to the point, prevents my obstreperal lobe from blowing.

It is in the spirit of blown lobe prevention that we make yet another desperate appeal for the immediate cessation of the use of the phrase “teh menz!” in submissions to the comments section. Reading those words has, upon the delicate aunt, an effect similar to that precipitated by such painful expressions as “it is what it is,” “hot enough for ya?” and “EPIC FAIL.”


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  1. AlienNumber

    My embarrassment knows no bounds. Please accept my apology.

    (Can’t believe I failed at this from all things. I don’t even like men!)
    -That was a joke.-

    Also thank you for being the best English/writing inspirational teacher genius one has ever had.

  2. Orange

    All right, all right. I’ll switch to “teh Nigelz.”

  3. Fictional Queen

    English language and literature is probably the thing I’m gonna study in college,now that I think about it,it’s probably a blamer’s destiny!

  4. Lidon

    Hahaha. Epic Fail has gotten quite popular, hasn’t it. I appreciate it that you don’t bite anyone’s head off for committing a minor infraction (unlike some other bloggers) so I’d hate for you to have any lobes blown. I’ll try not to be annoying when I comment here, although now I kind of have the urge to go irritate my friends by saying “EPIC FAIL!” as much as possible.

  5. ivyleaves

    The title seems jarring, it made me search for a list of pleas. I may be totally wrong, but isn’t this “A Spinster aunt plea for justice” or “Spinster aunt pleads for justice?”

  6. Carpenter

    The fact that internet language leaks into real life makes me almost wish we had an Académie Française. I am thinking of the recent tendency to say “lol,”, “kittehs”, “roflmao”, and even “!!!1!”. But I deserve anything I get because I can’t punctuate for crap.

  7. Roving Thundercloud


  8. phio gistic

    Butbut, what about the Strunk & White?

  9. TotallyDorkin


    I think it’s a third person description of events. Like a headline: Asteroid hits Washington monument. Radfems rejoice.

  10. ivyleaves

    But pleas is not a verb, is what I’m thinking. I get the headline part, but the only way that works is if there is a list of pleas? I get the genre, just not this particular version of it.

    Anyway, not all that big of a deal.

  11. Cycles

    Good one, TotallyDorkin!

    Among other pleas for justice: parentheticals (they make it seem like one’s thoughts are not important enough to warrant full sentences) (and in a blog that covers topics such as women shushing themselves in order to avoid seeming bitchy or forceful, eschewing parentheticals becomes a feminist act) (I’m serious).


  12. Jonathan

    If you use WordPress, you could install a plugin that will let you filter comments for key phases. Then you just set it to auto-delete any comment with those phrases. Post the phrase list in the rules. You’ll never need to think about those phrases again.

  13. TotallyDorkin


    Right you are. I guess it was meant to be “pleads”

  14. SometimesVeronica

    I can’t believe that after years of reading IBTP and never commenting, it’s this post that brings me out of hiding to say, “Holy cow, thank you, yes, yes, yes!”

  15. Citizen Taqueau

    Now if only WordPress filtered out dudes!

  16. pheenobarbidoll

    Have you seen this Jill? Better stock up on water while you can.


    Texas is screwed.

  17. Jill

    “The title seems jarring, it made me search for a list of pleas. I may be totally wrong, but isn’t this “A Spinster aunt plea for justice” or “Spinster aunt pleads for justice?”

    Excellent typo-spotting! I would expect no less from a blamer of your caliber. It is one of those irritating Internet laws that whenever you post on grammar or spelling, the post will inevitably contain a grammar or spelling error.

  18. Jill

    “If you use WordPress, you could install a plugin that will let you filter comments for key phases. Then you just set it to auto-delete any comment with those phrases. Post the phrase list in the rules. You’ll never need to think about those phrases again.”

    Thank you, Jonathan, for explaining WordPress to me and telling me what to do. Knob.

  19. Pinko Punko

    Roving Thundercloud, FTW!

    Also “FTW” on the poop list, if it pleases justice.

  20. Josquin

    Yes to Pinko Punko! FTW is an Epic Fail always. (Sorry)

    Jonathan must have a masochism fetish which caused him to come here and post a comment guaranteed to result in having his ass whomped. What a knob indeed.

  21. Dawn Coyote

    To Jonathan: thank you for empowering us WordPress users.

  22. Dawn Coyote


  23. Jill

    “Also “FTW” on the poop list, if it pleases justice.”

    It does.

  24. Jill

    “Butbut, what about the Strunk & White?”

    I heard recently about Strunk/White slashfic — but where? Damn this persistent chemo-brain!

  25. Amos

    I am thinking of the recent tendency to say “lol,”, “kittehs”, “roflmao”, and even “!!!1!”.

    How does one pronounce !!!1!? I checked both Victor Borge and a !Kung dictionary, but I still can’t figure it out.

  26. AlienNumber

    Upon further investigation, it appears that it wasn’t me who used the dreaded phrase. (I used a less offensive: “the menz” — notice the correct spelling of the article and the lack of “!”).

    But I’m glad somebody else used the dreaded phrase anyway – somebody looking for men-feminist unicorns – because then Twisty wrote this post, on which Jonathan commented (while the enpoopulator was broken), and then we all got to have a good laugh at Jonathan.

    Sometimes these things just work out.

  27. Zrusilla

    One should say what the phrase means, namely that ‘the male of the species is slightly inconvenienced, hence mightily irritated, by the aforementioned proposal.’

  28. Triste

    Rule 34 on Strunk and White?

    But man, it is a little bit hard to write comments for this website sometimes. I keep having to force myself to not call everything balls. Ball this! Balls that! The Patriarchy? That shit is balls as fuck!

    How the balls did I even get in this habit?

  29. Gertrude Strine

    Strunk n White is everywhere all the time in US writing discourse.
    So, there just has to be slash writing by them too.
    Is how I read that comic.
    Whatever slash writing is.

  30. phio gistic

    Of course, Stunk/White slash was an inevitability. All those possessive nouns and independent clauses…

    [I have used
    that was in
    the FAQ

    and which
    you were probably
    never to see

    Forgive me
    they seemed proper
    so round
    and threefold]

  31. buttercup

    Phio, I think I love you.

  32. norbizness

    This is objectively a good idea.

  33. amrit

    Weighing in here. I want to hear from women who may not have had the benefit of a liberal education, whose childhoods may have been disrupted, and who may have missed those elucidating grammar classes. I don’t want them shamed or silenced, here or elsewhere.


    I have no high school diploma. I practice law and my client’s are indigent. They don’t care about split infinitives. They want a voice. Fowler can kiss my ass.

  34. amrit

    Please feel free free to correct my apostrophe.

  35. Roving Thundercloud

    For one brief shining second I was so excited to get props on the comment thread. Then I realized that FTW is EPIC FAIL. Dang.

  36. Bushfire

    I’m with amrit. The grammar police really suck.

  37. stacey

    I don’t think it’s about using correct grammar all the time (I’d get kicked out, if that was the case), but rather, it’s about being comprehensible. Communicating clearly is [strike]FTW[/strike]! … uh, like, real good.

  38. stacey

    Epic coding fail. :(

    (phrase and emoticon violation)

  39. Kristin

    This is why I love your blog, Auntie Jill, and have stopped reading other blogs. I also hate it when people write IMO or – worse – IMHO. And ‘um’.

    amrit, I don’t think most people would condone patronising, shaming or silencing someone who missed their elucidating grammar classes. That doesn’t mean that good grammar is something to be despised.

  40. Lady K

    So let’s go ahead and mark the difference between grammar policing (aka “Nitpicking”) and taking issue with the purposeful use of a phrase such as “Teh menz!”, shall we?

    Someone who makes a technical mistake is doing just that – making a mistake. They likely had no intention to be purposefully incorrect. While, at times, critiquing their grammar/punctuation/spelling/word choice/fancy hat can help improve their clarity, they shouldn’t be vilified or considered stupid simply because of that one mistake (and I don’t think most people here, including Jill, would disagree, although I could be wrong).

    CONVERSELY, if someone deliberately uses a played-out, cliched phrase that adds nothing to their point (or even obscures it!) and instead makes them sound like a pretentious wad, then yeah, it is, and should be, open season. Also, the jury is still out on whether “open season,” falls under that category.

  41. Lidon

    @ Kristin: I agree. I prefer to be corrected if I use bad grammar because the better people can express themselves, the greater chance they’ll be taken seriously.

  42. TotallyDorkin

    I don’t think this post is about people who don’t use “proper” grammar because they don’t know it. It’s for people who downgrade their speech on purpose for one reason or another.

  43. yttik

    I agree, grammar police tend to shame and silence women. There’s also a horrendous double standard out in the world. Remember George Bush? If you’re male, you don’t even have to speak the language. Women however, are mocked and ridiculed constantly for the way they speak and write. The stereotype is still so powerful, women authors actually have to use male names just to get published, as in J.K Rowling. It doesn’t matter if we’re highly educated and obsessed with grammar, we’re still perceived as stupid.

    In Jill’s defense, she says she’s a complaisant internet feminist, as in cheerfully obliging, rather than a complacent one, as in smug and self satisfied. Smug grammar police are annoying all all hell, but I don’t think that’s what Jill is trying to do.

    Language is wonderful, in all it’s mangled forms, but one thing to be aware of is how words and phrases can be passive aggressive, as in hopeless and powerless, especially shorthand. You’ve given up on even naming the problem anymore. “Teh menz” is dripping in sarcasm, it speaks to their implied whine, their need to be the center of attention. It’s like rolling your eyes in disgust. The thing is, it doesn’t name the problem and naming is absolutely vital to feminism. It’s all we have to fight and expose the brainwashing that patriarchy engages in.

  44. laxsoppa

    Speaking of proper grammar, what is it with using the apostrophe in the plural form? I was taught that it was reserved for the possessive. It’s not particularly prominent on this blog, but in other places I see it quite a bit – and not just in comments, but in actual articles/newsposts as well. I get confused when I see phrases like “ancient guru’s of India”. Is this a new thing or something us foreigners just wouldn’t know?

  45. Comrade PhysioProf

    Also “FTW” on the poop list, if it pleases justice.

    Whaddya got against whales?

  46. M

    laxsoppa – I don’t know where you are, but here in the UK we call that the “grocers’ (or grocer’s) apostrophe”, after it’s prevalence in handwritten signs in shop windows. One of the most active online grammarians I know is an all-out proponent of ditching the apostrophe altogether: he says its existence causes more confusion than its absence (or something).

    Is “Just sayin'” banned yet? I can’t bloody bear it =/

  47. M

    oops, talking of apostrophe-confusion & the requirement to make errors in posts about errors…

  48. Agnieszka

    amrit, I think a distinction should be drawn (and is being drawn) between on the one hand best efforts to communicate by people who don’t have the benefit (privilege perhaps?) of a certain kind of education, and on the other hand deliberate cutesy Interneteese usages.

  49. laxsoppa

    M, I think I can see why. It hasn’t presented much trouble for me since I learned my English mainly through book-heavy formal education (Finland, mid-nineties to early noughties) and then from Terry Pratchett, but there was a native English-speaker in my class back in comprehensive school and she used to have more trouble spelling English than the rest of us. She taught me by example that spoken English is pretty far removed from the written language and that can cause trouble at times. (And the confusion between “it’s” and “its” is only natural.)

    But back to the apostrophe. The point is that I’m not talking about grocers. People who have made a career out of writing (presumably with the benefit of a tertiary education) in some capacity use it. I overlook misspelling and slang phrases in personal blogs and comment sections as a rule, but professional writers should have higher standards.

  50. Jill

    This post isn’t really about grammar, though. It’s about style. A spinster aunt has tired of an Internet catch-phrase. That’s all.

    On the subject that everyone seems to want this to be about: My opinion is that an understanding of grammar, spelling, and punctuation allows writers to express themselves with greater precision, which in turn allows readers to grasp gists with minimal difficulty and more satisfaction. Grammar itself doesn’t exist to shame anyone, it exists to facilitate communication. No idea was ever harmed by too much grammar.

    Language is awesome! So I’m a big grammar nerd. But I never threw anyone off the blog for not being a professional grammerspert.

  51. AlienNumber

    I live for words like this (seriously). Epic Win!

  52. nails

    You really won’t ban anyone for a language related offense? What if someone wrote their posts phonetically, in a scottish accent, like in Trainspotting?

  53. Agnes Grey

    Or a Scouse accent: ‘Eh, mate! don’t yew luk amee like tha’ orrall fuckin’ shank yer, yer mingin’ bastard!’

    I could try and do some Wuthering Heights character’s accent, but I’d need another champagne-absinthe cocktail. So you’re all spared.
    Schipol airport,
    Irish pub,
    12.03 a.m.
    Aunt Jill, you do a fantastic job. Love you.

  54. stacey

    Or blank verse? Rhyming couplets?

  55. Jill

    Or a Scouse accent: ‘Eh, mate! don’t yew luk amee like tha’ orrall fuckin’ shank yer, yer mingin’ bastard!’

    Ha! Terrific!

  56. Bushfire

    Or blank verse? Rhyming couplets?

    Actually, there was a poetry thread one time, and it was excellent.

  57. blah

    how about ‘methinks’?

  58. Sylvie

    Were a person to post phonetically they would have to use the phonetic alphabet to adjust for the affects of readers own accents.

  59. Kristin

    blah, I’m guessing Henry VIII and other fun-loving despots from olden times began most of their spoken and written sentences with that word.
    But I is very ‘umble, innit.
    I might say, ‘methinks you would like a deep-fried Mars bar, Friendy.’ But I’d expect to get a slap.

  60. Chantelle

    I couldn’t agree more. I really hate cutesy little words and phrases that act as signals to the group that you have been ushered into the great inner circle. You may as well stand around a camp-fire singing Kumbaya. I really hate that fucking shit. That’s one of the reasons I like reading this blog – my eyes don’t glaze over.

  61. Carpenter

    I was just reading something about how language on the internet has to be especially convoluted in order to be able to convey tone, the short format and the fact that it is interactive(unlike longer printed works) make people have to think of things like emoticons in order to properly convey meaning. I admit to doing *this* for emphasis, and even typing the word ‘like’ as if it were a vocal affectation, but I draw the line at LOLCatese.

    In order to elevate my general discourse, I have been trying to police my spoken language as of late and stop myself from saying ‘like’ all the time. This is the hardert physical thing I have ever attempted.

  62. Frumious B.


    I was just reading something that said policing of language for ums and ahs, and presumably ‘likes’ is a recent thing in human discourse brought about by recording technology. Apparently it was perfectly ok to be a less than cogent speaker before the ability to play it back incessantly came along. Not to say that “recent” = “wrong”, but it does show that there is no universal truth for elevating discourse. All elevated discourse is faddish (and sometimes classist).

  63. stacey

    Carpenter, I’ve been trying too. For YEARS. It’s an ongoing battle for me not to use “like” as a space-filler. And it’s biting me in the ass, now, because I hear it from my eight-year-old ALL the time.

  64. Carpenter

    I find that I say ‘like’ more as I get older. I don’t like doing it because I am pretty sure it means that I am thinking less before I am talking and that it is getting worse with time.

  65. Linda

    Chantelle, I think it really is about group dynamics, as you say. The groupspeak and the groupthink makes the group cohesive, but it’s also damned alienating, and freakin’ cheesey as all get out. So many online communities use it and people seem to really get off on it but I just can’t stand it. “This post is made of win!”


  66. DykeBitchOnWheels

    laxsoppa – those apostrophes are just errors. The term “grocer’s apostrophe” came about because grocers (as traditionally non-educated people whose trade still required them to post written signs) tended to be the most obvious examples of people using punctuation incorrectly.

    So that’s all it is. People using the apostrophe incorrectly. It isn’t a mystifying convention, just a lot of (typically) native english speakers who are confused by the apostrophe.

  67. Former Blamer

    If only people would stop saying “disconnect” when they mean “disconnected”. It has become fashionable not to know the difference between a verb and a noun.

  68. Linda

    Another one that seems to have achieved a permanent place in the vernacular is “I could care less” which makes no grammatical sense at all. It’s supposed to be “I couldn’t care less” as a way to express that you have reached the lowest possible point for caring and can’t go any lower.

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