Or, The Sentence? Problem
Coming from the Midwest, I didn’t experience this a lot when I was younger. People here speak in more direct way, preferring to clearly enunciate the punctuation in their speech. Statements are ended with periods. Exclamations are ended with exclamation points. Questions are ended with question marks, which seem to be a mystery to a lot of people on the Internet.
Not just on the Internet, actually. I first noticed the Sentence? Problem when I moved to Southern California. At the time I attributed it to a lazy way of speaking. It’s kind of like how kids in Orange County turn punk. They really don’t have anything to be that angry about, so they get into their genre half-assed. Buying the clothes and butchering the hair does not a true punker make, just as dropping your consonants and asking every goddamn thing you say does not constitute a correct way of speaking.
But who was I to talk? While Midwestern accents are generally flat and featureless, St. Louis (like Chicago, although the accent is totally different) stands apart in its weird idiosyncratic speech patterns. It’s hard to explain if you don’t live here and the wiki is full of words I don’t understand yet, but we have enough of an accent that I worked on ironing mine out after high school. It’s kind of a bizarre combination of the flat Midwestern tone, the New York d-for-t substitution, the Chicago habit of dropping placeholder words, and, weirdly, sometimes, a little bit of the New Orleans “aw” vowel sound (don’t believe me? Okay, when you say on, does it rhyme with dawn or don? That’s what I thought). Again, it’s hard to understand if you’re not here. It’s probably returned to my voice by now (I don’t notice), but for awhile there, my speech was clean, non-regional, and always, always, punctuationally appropriate.
Which is where I was going to begin with, sorry.
I first noticed the Sentence? Problem in California, and it predictably disappeared when I came back to St. Louis. Then I got a laptop and, with it, the Internet, and I started hearing it all the time. And not just from Internet users in California, mind you, but everywhere. Younger people especially, but definitely everyone who was comfortable enough on the Internet to broadcast videos of themselves to an invisible anonymous army of (one would hope) people who could speak correctly.
The Sentence? Problem is a problem because it makes its users sound stupid. Are you asking me or telling me? Pick one and let’s have a fucking conversation. Be decisive when you speak. Have opinions that sound complete and informed, not like you might know, but then again you might not, and it’s all just really intense? Y’know?
GAAAAAAAAAAHHH. And it really sucks when people I like otherwise (Emily Gould, I am talking to you even though you’re Internet famous enough that it doesn’t matter what I think*) have the Sentence? Problem. You people are educated, creative, superliterate individuals. You don’t need to ask for the approval of everyone who is listening to you. Quit confusing things with your goddamn question marks all the time. I know you know better, so I have to assume that you’re all trying to be cute or, worse, nihilistically hip or something, and it’s so fucking annoying that you can’t just talk right.
*I thought I’d like the previously linked Cooking the Books far more than I actually did, so now I just read Emily Gould’s blog and I feel better about her.