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A Lesson in English a.k.a. don’t mess with an English major

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I’ve been working as a freelance editor and proofreader for the noteworthy freelancing website Upwork since July and I will now be deactivating my account.

It was truly a wonderful experience while it lasted, working odd transcription jobs here and there to supplement my current income. I got myself enough to buy my very own Samson Meteor mic to record better quality songs which I will love and cherish for eternity and nobody can take that experience away from me.

But I just got ‘fired’ from a job that has left a very lasting and bad impression on me. At least I’ve gotten an anecdote out of this whole ordeal, one that has taught me to never underestimate the power of ignorance especially when it comes to the English language. I guess this is a way for me to vent. For the sake of protecting my client’s identity, I will rename him Mr. Taco Bell. So here it goes:

It all began last Sunday when Mr. Taco Bell, after a month’s absence, informed me that he now had new work for me. I was simply ecstatic. Not that my current job at a very well established publishing house isn’t good enough – I actually cannot believe how lucky I am to be doing something I genuinely enjoy – but, you know, millennials. We like to earn money and find ways to retire early, am I right or what?

So, here’s how Mr. Taco Bell phrased his offer:

Dear Echo,

I hope you’ve been doing well. Congrats on your first experience at one of my many chain fast food joints. I know, the tacos are shit small.

I have new work for you, if you’re interested.

  1. Chopping up fresh ingredients for our delicious tacos and assembling the tacos for delivery.
  2. Quality control of said tacos for utmost quality of quality-ness.

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

Kind regards,
Mr. Taco Bell

Obviously, Mr. Taco Bell didn’t offer me those specific tasks to perform but the content of the tasks does not matter. I want you to keep this part in mind:

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

My response, being eager to work again and earn extra cash, was that I chose to do 1 and 2. Simple, right?

So, I picked 5 different tacos and I chopped up all the ingredients for the 5 tacos as well as assembled all of the tacos and plated them up and made the hell sure that they were of the utmost quality of quality-ness. I sent the 5 delicious tacos Mr. Taco Bell’s way and asked him how much I could charge him for the two tasks.

I was adamant in getting this clarified because in the past he’d only asked me to do task no. 2, quality control, and I knew that rate very well but I didn’t know what the rate for task no. 1 was. His swift response was utter confusion. Huh after huh after huh, he finally said, “You realize one freelancer won’t be doing both task no. 1 and task no. 2?” Does that baffle you, dear reader? Because it sure as hell baffled me. But wait a minute, Mr. Taco Bell. Didn’t you just give me the choice of doing both task no. 1 and task no. 2?

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

Also, isn’t that the reason why this messaging thread is called, “Task no. 1 and task no. 2”, as opposed to all the previous messaging threads that were called, “Task no. 2”? (Upwork has a chatbox in which clients and freelancers can either text or voice chat or video chat. Mr. Taco Bell and I text) I was really finding it difficult to try to make Mr. Taco Bell see my point. It almost felt as though he was scrambling for excuses not to pay me for doing both the tasks which infuriated me to hell and back.

All this back and forth of confusion and feeling like a headless chicken took place just this past week. That is, until today, when I decided to put my foot down and get to the bottom of it.

Mr. Taco Bell mentions that the rate of payment of task no. 1 is the same as that of task no. 2. My response, as any normal person’s response would be, was to repeat myself for the hundredth time: “So that means I can charge you the same for task no. 1 & 2, right?” Finally, I get a semblance of an answer, but not the one I was hoping for: “What do you mean?” he says. “I never told you to do both task no. 1 & 2.”

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

Uh uh, Mr. Taco Bell, you ain’t doing me like that. Not today.

I rummage through our chat and directly quoted him thus:

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

I thought if he saw his exact words, quoted and everything, that the whole confusion would be done away with and we could both skip happily away into the sunset and continue working on them delicious tacos. I was dead wrong.

He repeated himself. Literally, he said, “Yeah, I asked you if you could do 1 and/or 2, that doesn’t mean I wanted you to do both.” And that, dear readers, is when the record stopped playing and that god awful record scratch noise echoed in my head.

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

The whole world came to a screeching halt as his words rang in my ears. I finally understood what had happened. Mr. Taco Bell thought he was in the right all along and that I was some money hungry freelancer who wanted to get paid for work she wasn’t asked to do and which, therefore, was null and void. Mr. Taco Bell thought he was completely innocent and I was the culprit trying to twist his words and change her stance. Mr. Taco Bell thought he knew the English language very well and thought he, presumably not a student of English literature, could one up me, a student of English literature.

I told him, “If you wanted me to work on just one of the tasks, you should have said ‘1 or 2’. ‘And/or’ implies that I have the choice to pick one or both.” andor.PNG

We argue back and forth about this terminology when he finally utters the words, “You are an English major, I would hope you would know better in this profession.” Okay, so, you’re telling me, that I – an English literature major with a clean track record on this website and working with you, Mr. Taco Bell – am in the wrong and you – a non-English literature major who always makes the mistake of assigning me work that I have already done – are in the right? Well – excuse my French – fuck me!

Avoiding the subject entirely, Mr. Taco Bell asks, “Remember the bonus I gave you last month?” I said yes. He says, “Did you say thank you?” I thought, hang on, what are you implying. I said yes. And showed him the receipts, thank you. He continues, “Then I can’t believe you would accuse me of avoiding to pay you…” Now, I really thought someone was pranking me. It clearly must be the language gods playing a big joke on me for being so annoyed by people who say “should of” instead of “should have”. I explained that that was not the issue at all and that I never doubted him and bla bla all the while biting my tongue wishing it was socially acceptable in a business setting to say things like, “bitch, are you out yo mind?” Or, “U wot m8?”

In the end, Mr. Taco Bell agrees to pay me the amount due but not before writing a very saucy message, which I didn’t bother to fully read. I’m not wasting my eyes on your words if you can’t even English, m8. The gist of it was that:

  1. One person cannot be assigned both task no. 1 and task no. 2 because it may result in a biased piece of work. A freelancer who chops up and assembles one taco may be biased towards the quality of his/her taco as he/she is the creator of said taco.And,
  2. If I would have just told Mr. Taco Bell that I had done both tasks of assembling tacos and quality control of said tacos, he would have said sorry for the confusion, clarified me on the subject, and moved on.

He then told me he could not work with me again as this experience has left a bad taste in his mouth.

I wrote him a short and sweet message thanking him for the payment and subsequently defended myself thus:

  1. I did not know this was the case as you had never mentioned it to me before, my dearest Mr. Taco Bell.
  2. In fact, I did tell you I had done both tasks. Remember the agreement? Or how about that time I asked you what I could charge you considering that I had done both task no. 1 and task no. 2? Or maybe that time after you tried to mansplain mathematics to me – an individual whose favorite subject in high school was maths and who was selected to participate in a maths competition in the 10th grade – and I said, “Please, sir. Let us not stray away from the issue; that I did both task no. 1 and task no. 2 (see the correct usage of ‘and’, and how I didn’t say ‘and/or’).” Not once did you, Mr. Taco Bell, get off your high horse and correct me when I was begging you for your correction and clarification.

I found myself about to write more and more saucily. But I refrained as that would have been a very petty road upon which I would bump into Mr. Taco Bell, and I think that sort are best to avoid in life. I only hope, and I genuinely hope, that somebody corrects you one day, Mr. Taco Bell, and you do not respond with the ignorance which you chose to smother yourself in today.

And that’s that chapter of my life.


I am by no means a grammar nazi. Context is something that matters to me. I understand many people don’t speak English as their first language and that some people may not have known about certain grammar rules or word spellings or certain diction, etc, and so I excuse you when you make a mistake but I will also try to correct you and hope that you can be your best self or close to your best self one day. Or, I would hope that the human spirit of perseverance were burning bright enough in you that you would find ways to correct your mistakes like, I dunno, maybe Google?

People learn the things they learn to either grow for themselves or help others, or both (<– a situation where the use of and/or would have been correct). When I come across a peer or friend or family member who uses a certain phrase or word incorrectly, and that I know certainly that it is incorrect because I have learned it somewhere, then – if I’m up for it – I will not hesitate to tell you how to do it right. Nor should you hesitate to tell me if I’m doing something wrong. Mistakes are the most potent things that help you learn; without mistakes you cannot learn. And that is a philosophy that I hold dearly to my heart.

I don’t hesitate when my mother asks me if a simple text message she is sending that’s been written in English is correct or not. Even if it really irks me.

I didn’t hesitate when that one Manipuri politician and I got into a debate over Facebook about the many tenses of the verb ‘to write’ and I totally pwned his ass while family and friends watched. I wish I still had a screenshot of it. That was a glorious day.

It’s one thing to write something incorrectly, it’s another when you write it incorrectly, somebody lets you know of it, and absolutely refuse to acknowledge that maybe what you’ve written is incorrect. If you don’t want to hear it from me, fine. But at least, at the very least, give yourself some wiggle room because we’re not all perfect, and look it up yourself. We are in a generation where information is so readily available. Literally, all it takes is a single swipe and a few taps and you’re there.

I just cannot understand how people can still be ignorant about certain topics that they can easily un-ignorify themselves from. It baffles me.

The English language is great. But it will also be the death of me. Don’t be surprised if one day you find me dead from a heart attack because I’d come across an image with the two deadliest words in the English language: should of.

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Ode to College

In the first year
I learned names
Of people, places and things;
Of the functionality of fancy words.

In the second year
I learned
The fatuity of that ‘F’ word;
That friends come and leave your soul darker;
That family is thinner than blood;
That the firsts will finish and be forgotten.

In the third year
I learned
The sincerity of that ‘F’ word;
That friend is all you need;
That family of thickest blood
Will revitalize the things you’ve lost;
That forgiveness is a favor for those you’ve forgotten.

 


 

A summary in verse form of my three years in college as a young woman, a daughter/sister/cousin/niece, an English major and a bit of a sociopath.