Saturday, December 8, 2018

"Lets Me Do My Thing!": The Mystery of Alyssa G. and Her (Un)Broken English

It's been obvious for a long time that the internet and social media in particular has brought out every form of kook, conspiracy theorist, and beyond-the-fringe nutjob with their own idiotic take on the world. On my Facebook page, for example, fans are thrilled to have located the creator of Megaton Man, a comic book series they enjoyed as a teenager, but their very next post is how I'm a libtard for not caring about John Podesta's emails.

But I wasn't quite aware how far this mass insanity has spread until last week, when I came across one self-styled social commentator bold enough and ignorant enough to have made up his own grammatical rules to fit his conspiratorial world view, one in which evil corporations are not only taking over his personal Matrix but trying to staff fast-food restaurants with grammar-challenged immigrants.

What sparked his ire was a particular job recruitment poster he saw at McDonald's somewhere in the northeastern corridor of the United States. In it, a young girl, presumably of Latino ethnicity named "Alyssa G." and clearly enjoying her day off in a pink tanktop and blue yoga pants (and presumably listening to an NPR podcast on her device), declares, "Today my job let me do my thing."

"Today my job let me do my thing." It's called the past tense. But to Our Social Commentator, it's a conspiracy not only to recruit and exploit minorities, but also a sinister plot to spread "broken English." (Also Spanish, since this version of the poster is bilingual; so much for McDonald's secret scheme to appeal to Latinos, which Our Social Commentator is convinced he has single-handedly uncovered!)

Our social commentator created a video of this, with a very creative three-minute handheld shot of the poster affixed inside the glass door of a busy McDonald's. While we get seasick watching this cinema verite image, he reads the tagline from the poster over and over again, slowly, in a mock-Hispanic cadence, convincing himself that "my job LET me do my thing" is "broken English." Not only is McDonald's Corporation, in his view, intentionally appealing to Latinos from "down south" to come north and work for them for less than a liveable wage (and take away gainful employment from "legal" American citizens, as he repeatedly asserts), but they are also encouraging bad grammar.

Of course, "Today my job let me do my thing" is perfectly correct written English, grammatically speaking. It's called the past tense. "Today my boss let me have the day off; I went for a jog and listened to itunes; I did my thing rather than salt french fries or stand for eight hours at the take-out window. Today my job let me do my thing."

(One could, arguably, insert a comma after "Today." "Today, my job let me do my thing." But why quibble?)

Not only is Our Social Commentator an illiterate stooge, he's also an inept cameraman with no sense of artistic composition. Technology enables such mental mediocrities to seem reasonable and "part of the conversation."

Presumably her job didn't let her do her thing yesterday; maybe tomorrow it won't either. Maybe she'll have to go in to work tonight and perform oral sex on her (white male) boss to get the day off she wants next week (the comments on Our Social Commentator's video posting make even worse misogynistic, racist, and hateful remarks about "Alyssa G.," believe me). But today, her job let her do her thing.

Our social commentator, however, insists that his willful misreading of the phrase amounts to "broken English," and demands for the sake of Civilization that the word "let" be corrected with an "s" on the end, so as to read "lets." "Today my job lets me do my thing" would be his amended phrase.

However, "Today my job lets me do my thing" makes no grammatical sense whatsoever. In the simple present tense, which is what "lets" is, her job would have to let her do her thing every day, not just today. "My job lets me do my thing everyday." In fact, McDonald's already has a variation of this recruitment poster that reads, "My McJob lets me do my thing."

"My McJob lets me do my thing." Since the letting isn't confined to just today, it's also perfectly correct grammar. It's called the simple present tense.

Presumably this applies not only to today but everyday.

The only way "Today my job lets me do my thing" would make grammatical sense is if the person speaking were a senior citizen. "Fifty years ago, I had to work sixteen hours a day in a coal mine. But today my job lets me do my thing. That's because I'm basically retired and sit around all day sipping coffee in a McDonald's." In other words, "today" would have to mean "nowadays." And it is hard to imagine how a young woman going for a job on her day off would be using the word "today" in that sense.

McDonald's also has a recruitment poster with two other imaginary employees. "Join our team," it announces. One employee, a woman in a blazer, chirps, "Today my job got me promoted to general manager." A second, a hardworking student, says, "Today my job got me two credits closer to my degree." The third, our lovely Alyssa G., repeats her familiar tagline, "Today my job let me do my thing."

Which phrase is in broken English? That's a trick question, because all are perfectly grammatically correct. "Today my job past tense." Written communication never ceases to amaze!
Which of those phrases are "broken English"? Answer: none of them! They are all perfectly grammatically correct. It's called the past tense.

I commented on Our Social Commentator's handheld video clip. I wrote, "You're quite the grammarian. The phrase is perfectly correct as is."

His response was, "No it wasn't, asshole."

Now, a phrase is either grammatically correct or it isn't; it's not a question of is or wasn't.

Which leads me to think not only that Our Social Commentator (who is a self-professed Right-Wing bigot, I should mention, in case that wasn't already clear) is inventing "broken English" in commercial messages where none exists to suit his conspiratorial world view; he also seems to have a serious learning disability (possibly dyslexia), which prevents him from recognizing and distinguishing verb tenses in written English.

No doubt, McDonald's knows who they want to appeal to with their recruitment posters. And maybe they do want to staff their counters and drive-through windows with underpaid illegal immigrants just to fuck up my man Commentator's Extra Value Meal order. But I think it's safe to say that McDonald's Corporation, or its advertising creators, at least know the correct usage of present and past tenses.

In a world of ignoramuses with smart phones, subscriber channels, and silo thinking that is impervious even to objective Standard English usage, that is some reassurance at least.

Time was when hate-mongers, crazies, and other morons who shouldn't be let out on their own recognizance had to resort to cutting letters out of magazines (to compose ransom notes), or had to type out their ramblings (chain letters and other documents of their delusion) on portable typewriters, replete with misaligned text and worn-out ribbons. Such communication, on its face, looked amateurish; it was invalidated and dismissed by minds of average intelligence a priori.

Nowadays, slick technology comes with designer fonts, automatic alignments, and reasonably professional results, even if the operator doesn't know how to hold their smartphone still long enough to make their ignorant assertions. To discern the lies and insanity from legitimate communication requires of us, more than ever, critical thinking. That, and a sharp eye for detail. Luckily, the shitheads still give themselves away because the elements of basic grammar will always elude them.

"Leaves me alone and lets me do my thing!" Okay, pal.

1 comment:

  1. This guy has what are generally known as issues. I don't much like the ad; having worked as a MacD crew member, I think it tends to sugarcoat the realities of low pay, physically demanding work, and longish hours. But then, that's ads for you, and anyone who is surprised by sugar-coating needs a remedial Living On Planet Earth 101 course. But speaking as a frankly irritable and quarrelsome fellow who has had a go at more or less everybody and whose blog is called "Reflection of a stormy petrel", what really sounds insane is the immediate recourse to violent insults when his thesis is challenged. "You're quite the grammarian. The phrase is perfectly correct as is." "No it wasn't, asshole." Moderate irony to open with, with a suggestion that you are less than impressed by his credentials. My reaction as a quarrelsome fellow, etc, if I were at the receiving end: "I don't think so. You are ignoring blah blah blah - " whatever I thought you had wrong. His reaction: "No it wasn't, asshole". No argument (and no comma between NO and IT, which damages his claim to be a grammar Nazi) and an immediate insult that suggests moral debasement and depravity in you. Using all the resources of furious online aggression on this kind of material definitely suggests a poor grip on sanity.

    Oh, and the Podesta e-mails are important, even if they may not be important to you.