March 14th, 2010 / 6:47 pm
Craft Notes

Attitudinal altitude

A 6th grade teacher who marked 20% off a student’s assignment “for being a loser” says he was joking, that it was some kind of informal ingratiation used to relate to the student. Herein lies the trouble with rhetoric, or purposeful irony, because intent is something earned in the reader, never intrinsic to the inception of the writing. In reading random articles’ comments about this story, I was struck by the abundance of caps. Of the passionate folk:

— You’d be surprised at how much ONE WORD can DESTROY a child’s esteem and cause failure to strive.

— I be DAMNED if ANYONE will call my child names!

— FORGIVE ME sometimes, I say “retard.” Im am truly and deeply NOT sorry if this offends you.

— The part that IS relevant, is this man is a TEACHER.

— I would be right there with you after school EVERY DAY to beat his ass down

It seems that caps is the “poor man’s italics,” which is the “poor man’s intent,” for the most effective writers use nothing and the punctuated points ring clearly, loudly. It’s odd how the teacher himself wrote LOSER in caps. When editing my writing, I often remove certain words in italics, almost embarrassed at how little I trusted the reader.¬†To have faith in the reading of the writing is to have faith in the writing. Doesn’t “I would be right there with you after school every day to beat his ass down” seem more restrained, thus more believable? Hyperbole evokes skepticism.

I’ll spare you specific quotes, but there’s also many many mentions of hell as a destination and who is or isn’t acting Christian. To launch into the blogosphere of domestic discourse is to discover what is truly at stake for most Americans. I once read a church marquee which read “Your attitude determines your altitude,” namely “Your [faith] determines your [ascension].”

In typography, the “ascender height” is the upper-case line above the median lower-case line.¬†Letters have their own altitude, as if stretching towards the heavens. I’m reminded of the Zen koan “A man who tip toes cannot stand.” Morality these days is just so LOUD with the territorial politics of words. All writing is graffiti, even the headlines at New York Times — lonely for corroborators, a nod between gangs. I am no different.

FUCK ME.

Whatever. If there is a god, I do believe he has good hearing.

42 Comments

  1. MoGa

      This is an excellent post, Jimmy. Being faithless and etc., I didn’t get the “attitude / altitude” line, but your translation is lovely. Otherwise, yes, you reminded me to temper my own use of italics and caps. Thank you for that.

  2. MoGa

      This is an excellent post, Jimmy. Being faithless and etc., I didn’t get the “attitude / altitude” line, but your translation is lovely. Otherwise, yes, you reminded me to temper my own use of italics and caps. Thank you for that.

  3. Sean

      In writing poetry or fiction, caps and italics (and other techniques) have wonderful uses. We aren’t grading papers. It isn’t about reader hearing. You might use caps or italics simply to separate components for juxtaposition. To bounce voice. On and on.

      Here, the DOUBLE underline kills this teacher’s weak-ass defense.

      In real world, this teach was grading at 6:30, on 3.5 coffees, had someone he/she wanted to meet later that evening, was on fumes, wrote a dumb thing. Then underlined it twice.

  4. Sean

      In writing poetry or fiction, caps and italics (and other techniques) have wonderful uses. We aren’t grading papers. It isn’t about reader hearing. You might use caps or italics simply to separate components for juxtaposition. To bounce voice. On and on.

      Here, the DOUBLE underline kills this teacher’s weak-ass defense.

      In real world, this teach was grading at 6:30, on 3.5 coffees, had someone he/she wanted to meet later that evening, was on fumes, wrote a dumb thing. Then underlined it twice.

  5. Gian

      One of my teachers pulled me aside when I was in 4th grade and told me to stop acting so cool all the time, and that I wasn’t cool at all and I needed to know that. It kind of scarred me. He recently found me on the internet and I sent him a copy of the Tyrant. He wrote me back that he didn’t like it and would never spend his money on it. Such a great guy. And I had a huge crush on him too.

  6. Gian

      One of my teachers pulled me aside when I was in 4th grade and told me to stop acting so cool all the time, and that I wasn’t cool at all and I needed to know that. It kind of scarred me. He recently found me on the internet and I sent him a copy of the Tyrant. He wrote me back that he didn’t like it and would never spend his money on it. Such a great guy. And I had a huge crush on him too.

  7. mjm

      Must we forget how simple it is to write in caps than italics when on the internet?… or period? Unless you have the time to put in the code or go and click on the Italics symbol, in the moment, caps is as simple as holding the shift key or pressing capslock.

  8. mjm

      Must we forget how simple it is to write in caps than italics when on the internet?… or period? Unless you have the time to put in the code or go and click on the Italics symbol, in the moment, caps is as simple as holding the shift key or pressing capslock.

  9. Sean

      capslock reads so much weirder as one word.

  10. Sean

      capslock reads so much weirder as one word.

  11. Kevin

      What’s taking ZZZZIPP so long to comment on all caps?

      I hope ZZZZIPP is okay.

  12. Kevin

      What’s taking ZZZZIPP so long to comment on all caps?

      I hope ZZZZIPP is okay.

  13. ce.

      discussing ascender height is a key to my heart, jimmy. great post.

  14. ce.

      discussing ascender height is a key to my heart, jimmy. great post.

  15. ZZZZIPP

      ZZZZIPP’S WEB BROWSER DISPLAYS ALL CHARACTERS IN ALL-CAPS

      THIS POST IS CONFUSING

  16. ZZZZIPP

      ZZZZIPP’S WEB BROWSER DISPLAYS ALL CHARACTERS IN ALL-CAPS

      THIS POST IS CONFUSING

  17. lorian

      “to have faith in the reading of the writing is to have faith in the writing.”

      yes

  18. lorian

      “to have faith in the reading of the writing is to have faith in the writing.”

      yes

  19. Chris

      You know who uses too many italics?

      Rick Moody.

      Turn to any page and I bet you it has italics on it.

  20. Chris

      You know who uses too many italics?

      Rick Moody.

      Turn to any page and I bet you it has italics on it.

  21. Greg Gerke

      ha ha

  22. Greg Gerke

      ha ha

  23. Matt Cozart

      very true. i would prefer to use italics, but there usually isn’t an option. sometimes i do *this*, which i think is a decent solution.

  24. Matt Cozart

      very true. i would prefer to use italics, but there usually isn’t an option. sometimes i do *this*, which i think is a decent solution.

  25. mimi

      I think *this* means bold and _this_ means italics.
      I learnt me that right here on HTML GIANT.

  26. mimi

      I think *this* means bold and _this_ means italics.
      I learnt me that right here on HTML GIANT.

  27. Sandra Simonds

      My students use a lot of CAPS in their essays and poems when things get kind of emotional. I think it’s pretty interesting–instead of choosing different words, they just decide to make the words A LOT BIGGER. I just tell them that overusing caps makes you look like a LOSER and they totally GET IT and STOP right away.

  28. Sandra Simonds

      My students use a lot of CAPS in their essays and poems when things get kind of emotional. I think it’s pretty interesting–instead of choosing different words, they just decide to make the words A LOT BIGGER. I just tell them that overusing caps makes you look like a LOSER and they totally GET IT and STOP right away.

  29. Sandra Simonds

      PS Only try this technique with students who are at least in their junior year.

  30. Sandra Simonds

      PS Only try this technique with students who are at least in their junior year.

  31. Daniel

      In that first comment, “…cause failure to strive” is an interesting way of wording things. I wonder how that person says the opposite. Does positive encouragement “cause success to toil?”

  32. Daniel

      In that first comment, “…cause failure to strive” is an interesting way of wording things. I wonder how that person says the opposite. Does positive encouragement “cause success to toil?”

  33. Jhon Baker

      my brother solved this problem in seventh grade by beating on the teacher until she ran screaming. This was when you didn’t go to jail for such a thing, they only sent him to the “special” school.

  34. Jhon Baker

      my brother solved this problem in seventh grade by beating on the teacher until she ran screaming. This was when you didn’t go to jail for such a thing, they only sent him to the “special” school.

  35. Jhon Baker

      I love this approach. More people should be told right off that they suck.

  36. Jhon Baker

      I love this approach. More people should be told right off that they suck.

  37. Jhon Baker

      probably ‘inept about failure’.

  38. Jhon Baker

      probably ‘inept about failure’.

  39. Rebekah

      I thought it was maybe the only smart thing in those comments; a pun on “failure to thrive.” Or not.

  40. Rebekah

      I thought it was maybe the only smart thing in those comments; a pun on “failure to thrive.” Or not.

  41. Larry

      ALL CAPS reads like yelling. Double underline like stern reprimand. Maybe the teacher should have used instead my personal fav: multiple exclamation points!!!!

  42. Larry

      ALL CAPS reads like yelling. Double underline like stern reprimand. Maybe the teacher should have used instead my personal fav: multiple exclamation points!!!!