if I had a red pen

August 12, 2008  |  essays, journal entries, miscellany

If I had a red pen that worked on internet web pages, I would go around and circle all the places where “Sugarbutch Chronicles” appears as “SugarButch Chronicles” or “Sugar Butch Chronicles.”

It’s a little thing, and it really doesn’t matter that much, what matters the most is that someone has seen this little space on the web of mine and likes it enough to link back to it in their own little space on the web. I’m always touched when I find Sugarbutch linked from a new place. So I’d never email somebody and be picky enough to say, “Hey, thanks for linking me, but will you change your capitalization?”

(I love how you can see the paper texture here, how the ink is just a little bit smeared. And that the word is “gender,” of course. So hot.)

But I always, always write this site name as “Sugarbutch,” so I’m not sure why people change it. The heading, the page title, the blog title, any comment I leave – it’s all one word. I admit, it’s a pet peeve of mine. I’m a grammarphile, after all. An English major. It’s not just the bad grammar that bugs me, but also the not calling things the way they want to be called, and lack of attention to detail.

Maybe other sugarbutches write the word differently and have different philosophies about why they capitalize or don’t capitalize the letter B. I don’t claim to have made up the term, but when I started using it, I’d never heard anyone else use it before me.

The way I see it, sugarbutch is a compound word. Part of why it is important that it is a compound word, why the B in butch is lowercase, is because the poetic meter of the phrase is a dactyl: the emphasis, when said, is on the first of the three syllables: SU-gar-butch CHRO-ni-cles. Adding a capital B gives the impression that it should be cretic: SU-gar-BUTCH CHRON-i-CLES, or, worse yet, that the “sugar” and the “butch” are separated completely: SU-gar BUTCH.

There’s a reason for the lowercase b, is what I’m saying.

(Thanks to the Movie Screenshot blog for the stills from Secretary.)

The red pen scenes always remind me of watching the film Secretary with The Ex. After she saw it for the first time, a few weeks later – it may’ve been our anniversary, or some such event, because I was definitely dressed up, and had brought flowers – she gave me two small gifts: one was very nicely wrapped small box, and in it was chewed up gum and pencil shavings. The other was a red Sharpie with ribbons tied around it.

Just remembering that moment where I opened the box makes something stir in my pelvis, some sort of heat of power. Sometimes she really knew how to play with me, how to get me going. It was so exciting, in the beginning.

When I opened these gifts I was in her office – she was the president of the queer student government group on my college campus, of course she was – and I locked her door, punished her, and fucked her on her desk long enough for us both to miss our next classes.

In the aftermath, we were tidying up, laughing, trying to listen to see how many people were in the adjoining lounge to figure out whether or not they knew we were in the office, and she took my hand and said, “Since I moved into this office I wanted to be fucked on this desk … thank you.”

One of my favorite moments of sex with her. Jeez, it’s so good in the honeymoon phase, isn’t it?

 

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16 Comments


  1. "I admit to splitting my infinitives though, on occasion. Shame on me."

    I don't think that is something anyone should be ashamed of. The correct option is the most elegant one. Seeing as the rule about not splitting infinitives was only brought in relatively recently in an elitist attempt to make English follow the rules of Latin, I don't think it's something that we have to conform to.

    I did go and check my blog in a moment of paranoia, but it seems to be written correctly and I assume I would have copied/pasted how you did it or double-checked at the time. I wonder why people wouldn't?

    Capitalisation is important. There is a big part of me that yearns for the Jane Austen/Emily Dickinson days of capitalising your important words, an idea that's only seen these days in Winnie The Pooh.

  2. I promise I never seperate or capitalize, FWIW. My pet peeve is people who say “but yet”. Also, I try never to end a sentence with a proposition. I admit to splitting my infinitives though, on occasion. Shame on me.

  3. I think this should also be filed under SSU. I think grammar topping is a vital part of your role as Headmaster.

    and uh, if corporeal punishment could be incorporated into the curriculum, I know I would pay very. close. attention. (but perhaps it could be a reward as well?)

  4. spelling and apostrophe errors! hate them.

  5. “Sinclair gets toppy with the blogosphere” Very cute.

  6. As a fellow grammar nerd, writer, (and English major!), I HATE when people misspell things or write them in a way different than someone (ok, me) intended.

    And the red pen from "Secretary" has the same effect on me, except from the other end. I wouldn't mind being at the receiving end of the red pen. :)

  7. You lost me at dactyl and cretic. At first I thought “oh no, is it me” then I checked.. lol nope.

    Loved Secretary. Loved it.

  8. My response to the grammar police <<no more twist!:

    Do you really think there is a lot of grammar fetishizing in contemporary American culture?? I just don’t think most people care that much.

    That said, I see your point, which asks us to think about the fetish not just in terms of sexual power but social power–something that’s often unacknowledged by disciplinarians wielding rulers or red pens.

    I think you’re right that class privilege needs to be taken into consideration. I would say that class, race and gender all play significant roles in governing not just who has access to grammatical knowledge but also the constitution of grammar itself.

    All of this doesn’t mean that traditional grammatical rules/sentence construction is “a pile of classist bullshit.” I don’t think that anyone is saying that grammar is sacrosanct or makes us better people.

    In my view, putting words together clearly helps us to interrogate received ideas and social norms and even gain access to new modes of pleasure and enjoyment.

  9. hm, one of the offenders here. personally i like the variations that appear in written language outside of formalized, policed contexts. i chose butch girlcat for my own reasons but i think it is interesting when people re-write as butch girl cat or Butch GirlCat or whatever. it gives me a tiny glimpse into how i sound inside their heads–the endlessly fascinating and unknowable thing that happens between production and reception. and then the idiosyncratic spelling, too, like i love that you write fucken instead of fucking or fuckin’. it makes me think of the analogy of with wheaten or flaxen, completing the journey between verb and adjective.

    but since you asked… your b now officially lowercase over at mine.

    [Wow, thanks for that comment. I really like that idea. My background is also in brand identity, advertising, & design, so sometimes I think I get pretty darn caught up on the little details. I like this take on it, thanks. - ss - ps: I caught on to "fucken" from Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors ever. I'm a thorough ears with feet like that. ]

  10. My apologies for the misspelling on my website. It took me a minute (like 4 days) to look at my links in my sidebar and see, to my utter embarrassment, that I have been a thorn in your shoe. I share peeves of the same variety, so feel quite empathetic with your annoyance.

    Honey

    [Aw, thank you - but honestly I didn't want to make anybody apologize or feel shamed. I kinda wish I'd let my ranting phase pass before I put this whole thing up, but for transparency sake I'm leaving it up now. No need to apologize, regardless. - ss]

  11. I think it's about "attention to detail"…. Some may call it ocd but really, I feel, it's more than that… I believe that it's really about showing respect, for self and of others.

    I can't control how others perceive me but I can control how I put myself out there.

    Modern communication laziness… one-click bookmarking, spell-check etc… the lot of it… it degrades us, everyone…

    OK. All that said, I gotta also say, that I really like leo's comments, especially the "…it gives me a tiny glimpse…" part.

    Yeah it's all about communication…

    And that brings to mind the questions,

    What am I looking to communicate?

    And, what is it that you're getting from my efforts at communicating?

    Hmmm… those two could be wholly different things.

    Oh wow an old memory just popped up -

    My best friend through 5 years of high school, went to college out of state. As a freshman in college, I wrote her a letter (back in the day when pencil and paper ruled). And forever more, I will never forget how to spell her last name, because on the return address of her reply, she'd written it, finnIgan. I never got it wrong again.

  12. I am so glad you did put this post up. I love grammar talk, especially in locations not devoted to it.

  13. I have to say I'm one of those people who commits random capitalisation – and my link to you was in fact done SugarButch. However- I'm really sorry and I've edited the link.

    Suzi

  14. I have had red pen envy for many years, I must admit. The only redeeming aspect of teaching as a career? Maybe. LOL

  15. it's like people who spell iPod as i-pod or I-pod. it really drives me nuts.

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