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Chris and English
—Chris's strangely appropriate PSN comment.
Chris's English skills, like most other things related to Chris, leave much to be desired. Much of this can be attributed to his autism, which often results in awkward speech patterns. He spent years of his childhood mute, and took speech therapy classes at James Madison University. Strangely, his grasp of English actually appears to have grown weaker as he's become older. This is presumably due to his increased isolation.
- 1 CWC-isms
- 2 Written language
- 3 Semantics
- 4 The Spoken Word
- 5 Chris and profanity
- 6 See also
- 7 Sources
Chris has a tendency to make up his own words for things, then use them with reckless abandon while assuming whoever is reading or listening will be able to understand exactly what he means. As such, we get terms like "B-dog" and "noviophobia". He also tends to re-appropriate existing words, giving them new meanings based entirely on his own skewed logic. This is why, in Chris-speak, comeuppance isn't a fitting outcome for someone's deeds, and china isn't an Asian nation.
In the case of words like the definite article "da", Chris might be trying to make a pass at using slang to sound casual and relaxed, but instead, he ends up sounding like a marketing executive grasping desperately for credibility. Other famous CWC-isms like "tobacky", "niggos", and "gaybian" are the result of a different problem altogether: Chris is a manchild who can't even say out loud the names of objects or concepts which he finds repulsive. The use of these terms is a prime example of his immaturity.
These CWC-isms combine with his existing speech problems and his accent to form an unholy trifecta that defines his speech. With the constant stream of half words and repetition, it is sometimes difficult to understand what exactly he is talking about. Any resemblance to actual English is tenuous at best; the words he uses are English, but the structure is far from proper. The fact that his vocabulary is a bit lacking only compounds the situation.
—Chris, IRC (02 January 2009)
As you can see in the above quote, this abuse of language isn't limited to just the commonplace CWC-isms we've come to know. "Instinctions" is a word Chris made up for this passage to sound fancy and smart, but instead only makes him look like he doesn't know the word "instances". Playing fast and loose with language just further decreases the impact of whatever Chris is trying to say. Also of note is that Chris wants to make it illegal to use a word a certain way, which is hypocritical, and — quite frankly — creepy.
His own lexicon, like many other aspects of his personality, demonstrates exactly how self-centered he is. While the whole purpose of language is to express and communicate thoughts and ideas to other people, he has managed to turn his vocabulary into a brick wall, by crafting a mashed-together lexicon that makes sense only to him.
Chris's writing is a complete mess from top to bottom, to put it lightly.
For starters, he doesn't understand basic syntax and semantics: he uses words in the wrong context, or as incorrect parts of speech. His grammar is also predictably abhorrent. For example, he refers to finger-banging as "outtercourse", which incorrectly replaces the supposed prefix in- — which leaves tercourse, which is not a word at all — while the correct prefix is inter-, meaning "between". (Incidentally, "outercourse" is an actual colloquialism meaning dry-humping, not fingering.) Similarly, the infamous stock reply used to address Mailbag entries includes "inputed" as the past participle of input; the correct word is either input or inputted.
Chris misuses punctuation in many ways, often with - albeit unintentional - comedic results. In particular, he tends not to use hyphens when they're needed, but somehow also add hyphens where they aren't needed, such as in his stock phrase "Sweetheart from the Ground-Up". Clearly he means that he wants to create a relationship from the "ground up", from a blank slate, from the simplest of beginnings. A literal interpretation, though, means he wants to create a girlfriend from something that's been ground up — ground cinnamon, ground pepper, what-have-you (or "what have you" as Chris would write). Another prominent example is "rest assured" as "rest-assured" as if it were a hyphenated phrase and not an imperative statement.
Because Chris feels the need to type things precisely as he would say them, and worries that he will be misunderstood in print, he makes heavy usage of repetition and a distinctive ALL CAPS style, which could be compared to many comic books and graphic novels. For similar reasons, he tends to Capitalize Words At Random, especially Nouns and those which hold Importance to the Sentence, or the ones that address Important Abstract Concepts that Chris tries to Systematically Understand on account of finding them too Complex and Mystifying. Also, again owing to his HIGHLY RECITATIVE manner of writing, he often adds letters to words to emphasise them (most commonly "soo" for "so").
—Chris proving that he never proofreads.
Beyond these basic issues of grammar and capitalization, Chris's writings often lack focus. Much like a child, he has trouble concentrating on a single topic for extended periods of time, and he instead veers off topic in order to babble about whatever is on his mind. This practice of writing stream-of-consciousness style, combined with his obvious disinterest in proofreading or otherwise checking over what he's written, inevitably results in a large number of confusing run-on sentences, and a copious amount of text in general (especially in the comics). A single sentence might cover multiple topics, often ones that don't have anything to do with the original subject matter. It doesn't help that Chris feels it's his obligation to be "honest", which means that he feels the need to mention irrelevant little details, as anything less would mean he's not telling the whole truth. It gives his writing a rambling, disjointed feeling, and makes it very difficult to understand exactly what his point is.
Chris has demonstrated particular ineptitude in his usage of semicolons. Semicolons are usually used to connect two clauses together without a conjunction, and whatever succeeds a semicolon should be pertinent to whatever immediately preceded it. Chris, however, uses them to crudely string together two (or more) tangentially-related thoughts into a sentence that is consequently almost incoherent. Chris also frequently misuses the semicolon in character dialogue, using it where he should use a full stop (period) or something else entirely.
One will notice with all the "sic" tags scattered around the CWCki, that Chris has trouble with simple spelling. Despite the myriad other problems with Chris's writing, his poor spelling somehow manages to stand out. He has many rigid, totally consistent habits which he never corrects, such as "eni" for "ein", as in "seinor" (senior) and "geinus" (genius). Chris often spells difficult words phonetically like a grade-school child learning how to read, such as "characiture" (caricature), rather than taking a few seconds to spell-check them in any of the dozens of programs available that would automatically correct his spelling.
It was only relatively recently discovered that the term "Anchuent" is supposed to be a pun, and not just another one of Chris's random acts of butchery of the English language — or even a typo resulting from "u" and "i" being adjacent on the QWERTY keyboard. This largely goes to show that Chris's inability to spell correctly is so copiously evidenced that when he deliberately misspells something, it goes unnoticed for years.
The above spelling problem is only compounded by Chris's constant typos. The very first page of the comic contains the word "mies" in place of "miles". And even when he edits pages that contain these mistakes and has a chance to fix them, he invariably misses them a second time, like "dood" instead of "good" in issue seven.
The fact that these typos exist only goes to prove that Chris does not bother to proofread his works even a single time after completion and prior to uploading them to the internet. And assuming that he has to read his own comic sooner or later, and that someone must have drawn his attention to these mistakes at some point, the only logical conclusion is that Chris can not be bothered to go back and fix these typos even when he is aware of them.
Definitions and Vocabulary
Chris has a very bad habit of not knowing what he's talking about, and this is readily observable in his vocabulary. Chris still believes the word "naïve" means stupid, and thus hates being called it. Naïve, in simple terms, means "ignorance or gullibility because of a lack of experience". Chris is fittingly the definition of this because he doesn't do anything, and because of that he's gullible and ignorant. Another word Chris throws around with wild abandon is "slander". Chris constantly calls his ED page and the CWCki slanderous. Slander is defamation. Defamation is the destruction of reputation or character through manipulation and lies of video, photographic, and audio evidence. Libel is like slander, but is defamation through writing. There's two things wrong with Chris' use of slander. His ED page and the CWCki consist of more written material than videos, photographs and audio, so if it was anything it would be libel. The other is that the ED and CWCki are neither slander nor libel, because nothing on them is manipulated and everything on them is true, and backed up with physical evidence, provided by him.
Related to his choice of vocabulary, Chris has an issue with using terms that, while technically meaning similar things, have different tones. This is perhaps most evident in Sonichu 10, where Chris uses the term "bearing false witness" multiple times. In the context Chris uses the term, he's simply using it as an alternate way of saying "lying" or "misrepresenting", as the Biblical term is often simplified when explaining the ten commandments to children. Chris fails to realize that the term is more or less exclusively associated with the Bible and using it when discussing himself makes the characters sound like they're referring to Chris as their god, although this may have been intentional. Likewise, the Asperchu characters claim to have been forced to "make a false idol of the brown-shirted one" even though in Asperchu, the protagonists merely respect their creator, rather than worship him. Again, the use of Biblical terminology makes the whole thing seem even more narcissistic.
Chris frequently repeats himself verbatim. This is most apparent in his Attraction Sign but has cropped up in numerous other places. He frequently describes his ideal girl as a "boyfriend-free girl to make into a Sweetheart from the Ground-Up." This clunky phrasing is reiterated in almost every iteration of the sign, both online and off. He makes copious usage of his "joke" that "Date ed" sounds "dated" and has repeatedly blamed the Infinitely-High Boyfriend-Factor for his woes. This repetition is not limited to his written communication; for example, he has often described his father as having "starting more arguments than flies in a garbage dump," most recently in his phone conversation with Kacey's father.
Clearly, something about these exact phrases causes Chris to reuse them over and over, verbatim, when describing the same problem in different conversations and contexts. It's tempting to just blame his autism for this repetition, which is likely a factor; however, much like his life in general, not all of his failures at communication can be the product of his autism — other possibilities include that:
- Chris struggles to form sentences, and when he does so "successfully", he tends to reuse what he knows is (or believes to be) a working formula.
- Chris thinks his peculiar constructions are funny and uses them to get a laugh, much like his one joke.
- Chris is so lazy that he literally copy/pastes text (or simply copies in the case of non-digital media) from his earlier screeds and manifestos into his new ones.
- Chris is simply so terminally unimaginative that he cannot think of more than one way to express a given idea.
Given what we know about Chris, any or all of the above are possibilities. A large number of the phrases that are collectively known as "CWC-isms" follow the above pattern.
Piecemeal language use
Chris's phrase usage is a deep-seated issue, to the point that it's almost possible to imagine that he copies all of his phrases from somewhere, even when he hasn't used the phrase previously. People usually learn idioms from other people when they hear them in an appropriate context, but though Chris may experience such a context, he has problems fully understanding the meaning of the phrase. Like most of us, he has obviously learned some phrases from the world around him, and he sort of understands what they mean and sort of uses them in correct context. Despite this, it's as if he just learned the phrases, and, like some foreign English student, is making the first awkward steps towards using them properly. Unlike those curious foreigners, however, Chris isn't worried about getting punched in the face by the natives for abusing beloved idioms.
To an outside observer, many of Chris's phrases almost always appear out of place and tacked-on. This can manifest itself in even very small examples, such as in the video title "New Address"; the video isn't about any sort of an address change, as the phrase was intended to imply, but rather is an address to a specific individual, and is newly released. It is akin to a foreigner opening a phrase book, finding the entry "New Address", and saying "OK, that's probably close enough - it's got 'new' and 'address' in it."
For more blatant examples, in the Clyde and Tito PS3 E-mails, Chris continually demands "Legal, Unmark[ed], Non-consecutive" bills to be mailed to him. He probably thinks it's the sort of thing people generally say when they want cash mailed to them, without realizing that he has picked this expression up from crime fiction where that kind of phrase is said as part of a ransom demand. Also, when listing a hunk-of-shit TV on Craigslist, he demands "CASH ONLY, And Up-Front. $250 or better offer; NO HAGGLE." which doesn't apply at all to something like an old TV, and directly contradicts his very own offer. "No haggle" or a "better offer"; it's clear he has no clue what "haggle" even means. He most likely picked up the jargon from other entries on the site.
As demonstrated in CWC-isms above, Chris has severe problems understanding the meanings of words (he described the word "benevolent" as sounding "derogatory" — he might have mixed it up with "belligerent", which means "war-like", or "malevolent", an antonym of "benevolent"), and just about anything even marginally abstract or metaphorical. A Facebook status reveals that, through unknown means, he has come to believe that "empirical" means "rejecting scientific methods of knowing," which is as nearly opposite to the word's meaning as one can get. Since his source for this is listed as Jeremy Hilary Boob, Ph.D., a character in Yellow Submarine, perhaps this odd idea came from content in the Beatles Edition of Rock Band.
A good demonstration of Chris's lack of understanding of semantics is the fact that he doesn't really understand proverbs and adages; he frequently recites them incorrectly, clearly misses the point, or takes them literally. When he comes up with his own, he doesn't exactly try to veil any wisdom in carefully crafted phrases.
Examples of Chrisverbial Wisdom:
- "Those who are unable to, teach."
- "The shaped OBJECT is the BODY of the Item, but the STICKER is the Item's SOUL."
- "A sound thought is a good thought, unless it is a bad idea."
- "The pen is mightier than the sword, yet it is more permanent than a pencil."
The last example illustrates several problems: "The pen is mightier than the sword" (a phrase originally coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the man who also coined the phrase "It was a dark and stormy night") is, of course, generally regarded as a statement that words can have bigger consequences than violence. Chris doesn't understand this, and tries to somehow interpret this concretely: "pen is more permanent than a pencil." It is also problematic because normally, "A, yet B" is usually a statement by contrasts: "A may be true, but a contrary example B is true as well." Still, Chris fails at explaining why it's so important that pens are more permanent than pencils, and what that has to do with pens and their relative might vis-a-vis swords — the meaning of Chris's proverb remains unclear to all, probably including Chris himself.
Chris is unable to interpret the language other people use at any level other than its literal, surface meaning. He misses the deeper meanings of what others are trying to say to him, and cannot interpret abstract thought or sarcasm. This is known as concrete thought, which can be seen as a symptom of autism.
Rhetorical comparisons and sarcasm
Chris cannot interpret rhetorical comparisons or hyperbole in general. He ignores the point the speaker is trying to make and focuses on the 'exact' meaning of the phrases they use. Examples:
- Kacey's Father: You know, I think the last book Kacey read was last week. And she reads books like you probably stuff candy down your throat.
- Chris: Stuff... candy... don't... I stuff vegetables down my throat! I stuff green beans! I stuff broccoli! I stuff corn! I stuff carrots!
- Kacey's Father: I don't know shit about computers and I can do that. I barely even know what a Windows is.
- Chris: You barely know what a Windows is?
- Kacey's Father: Don't… Don't patronize me.
- Chris: I'm just trying to, I'm just trying to understand what you just said, you say you don't understand Windows?
- Kacey's Father: What I'm trying to say is, I don't know shit about computers and I could figure out how to do that.
In the first example, Chris clearly only hears "You[…] stuff candy down your throat" and interprets the negative tone as an accusation that this is a bad thing, then tries to prove that he does not, in fact, stuff candy down his throat — just good stuff like vegetables (a blatant lie, but that's beside the point). Because he's threatened, he forgets that this is used as a rhetorical comparison, and thus the original point that Matthew Devoria was trying to make gets lost in the sands of time. This is also one of the reasons why conversations with Chris sometimes reach complete dead ends.
As the quote read in the Autism Awareness video says, autistic people are frequently unable to interpret sarcasm. Chris is no exception, and he is often unable to pick up sarcastic comments, as seen in the Guru Larry interview.
Questions and suggestions
Chris's literal interpretation also affects how he answers questions and follows orders or suggestions. His answers to questions are always Spartan with no elaboration, and cannot distinguish the implied meanings within the commands and suggestions given to him from their literal meanings. For example:
- Q: Do you listen to any music while you draw the comics?
- A: Yes.
To a normal person, the question that was posed would be interpreted along the lines of "What kind of music — what bands, what musical genres? If you listen to the music, why does this particular music help you draw things? If not, do you find music distracting, and why?" but instead, Chris interpreted "Do you listen to any music?" literally as a question that can be answered "yes" or "no". Simply put, he is unable to see why people are asking specific questions that can be answered yes or no, and unable to elaborate or give rationales for his opinions unless those things are specifically asked from him. Again, this characteristic is due to his autism, not, as is often perceived, his stupidity.
- Alec: Please stop running away from me.
- Chris: I'm not running away from you, I'm right here.
This was in response to Chris trying to end the call after an inconvenient discussion.
This also is likely to blame for Chris's second encounter with B-Manajerk. The previous day, the manager of the Wal-Mart had banned him from the store. Problem is, they were inside a McDonald's at the time, and he likely said something along the lines of "Never come to this store again." Chris took this to mean "You are banned from this specific store, the one you and I are standing in right now," and due to this misunderstanding he wound up being chased out of the Wal-Mart.
In the Sonichu comic, Chris also almost consistently uses television terminology instead of comics terminology. This seems to seep into his other language use, too — he urges people to "stay tuned" to see new developments in his YouTube channel, for example. This may seem innocuous at first, as normal people might use "stay tuned" in non-TV situations (and for cable/satellite TV stations, which do not have a transmission frequency), but in Chris's case, this may be an indication of a bigger issue. Chris refers to himself as "Great Director Chandler" (itself a ripoff of Great Director Watanabe) and calls alternate versions of his comics "director's cuts". Sonichu #10 begins with the "Previously..." type of recap of the end of the previous comic more usually seen in a TV series. When talking about the comic, he consistently refers to "episodes" rather than chapters. He has used "TV-MA/TV-14/TV-Y7" ratings for certain scenes and, when this self-imposed rating system later failed to work, he blamed FCC for the messed-up ratings, even though FCC has no authority over web or print media. He promised a second "season" of the comic — apparently a "reboot" will commence with a "clip show episode" in Sonichu #11. It is as if he's familiar with only one set of jargon that he then applies to all similar situations, ignoring the fact that most people speak of "comic writers" instead of "directors", "chapters" instead of "episodes", "volumes" instead of "seasons", rate their comics with some rating system that is probably similar to, but not an exact duplicate of the one used in television — and so on.
It is speculated that the use of jargon stems not from a limited vocabulary, but from Chris's belief that he is actually directing a TV show. More damningly, he once referred to the comics as an "anime", with himself as director.
Other strange points
Chris seems to cling to trademarks. In Mailbag #10, for example, he specifically says a couple of times that he has saved material on his Memory Stick and Memory Stick Duo. Not "saved on memory card" or just "saved"; people generally don't care what you save your fanart on, as long as it's saved. Chris, however, wants to be specific: the fan material was saved on a Memory Stick Duo. In the exact same vein, in Clyde and Tito PS3 E-mails, he even swears with "hand on My Holy New International Version Bible right now," rather than just on any old Bible he might have had lying around. This can be explained, again, by Chris's autism, where he is literally describing the specific device that he is using to save, not a generalization.
Chris seems to prefer referring to people using their full names; he almost always refers to himself as "Christian Weston Chandler" or, God forbid, "'Christopher' Christian 'Ricardo' Weston Chandler"— if he's feeling overly formal. This applies to other people, too; for example, in Gal-Pals and Past Sweethearts, he refers to most of the women by their full names. This is yet another autism-related trait.
The Spoken Word
Chris comes off slightly better when speaking, although that's not really saying much. He claims ad nauseam the first word he ever spoke was "monkey" at the age of six weeks, which physically is flatly impossible. When he addresses the world in one of his many videos, his speech is peppered with vocalized pauses such as "uh", "hmm", and "yeah" as he struggles to find the right thing to say. He also tends to stutter and repeat himself.
—Chris attempting to convince people that Brutal Legend is worthy of a perfect score.
Chris does a better job staying on-topic when speaking than he does while writing, likely because when speaking to a camera or another person, he has a clearer idea of the point he wants to get across. Going off on rambling tangents still occasionally happens, but usually only when Chris is trying to be funny.
While Chris seems to be at least capable of coherent conversation while calm, things go downhill when he's upset, enraged, or confused. In particular, his tendency to throw childlike temper tantrums has resulted in some very bizarre outbursts. When angry, Chris still retains his tendency to go off on tangents and be very proper about compulsively giving all of the relevant information, which means that he's often unable to sum his anger up in just a few succinct words.
Interestingly, comparisons of his vocal patterns offer one of the few signs of actual development that Chris has ever displayed. Consider his earliest videos; his speech was courtly and disjointed, and delivered almost exclusively in short, monotonous bursts:
There are exceptions to this, but these generally consisted of short phrases apparently culled from TV (note the change in pitch in the above video when Chris describes himself as "ever so lonesome"). All in all, Chris displayed all the attributes one would expect from an autistic, as well as from someone who is completely unused to talking to people.
Comparisons with the present day show a marked change in Chris's manner of speech:
Chris may not sound any more naturalistic, but he does show more of a semantic range than he did two years ago. Clues as to why this has occurred can be found in the subject matter of the videos — Chris perhaps now has realized to some extent that he must engage with people on their terms in order to be taken seriously. While this may not be a massive change, it is still heartening to see that the trolling is stirring the emaciated husk of his dignity into some sort of creaking action. Who knows? In another two years he may have acquired the vocal skills of a child of kindergarten age.
Chris also has a number of idiosyncrasies which appear frequently in his speech. First, the aforementioned disjointed speech patterns, which are broken up by a number of ideological phrases, which crop up with varying regularity but which sound very similar every time he uses them. Listen closely to the way he introduces himself; he is "Chrishinwessonchanler. From Ruckersville Vir-gin-ya." Whenever Chris introduces himself, he basically repeats this exact phonetic pattern, including pauses, the rushed and garbled name, and the staccato rhythm of "Virginia". This is of course explainable by his autism, but it is also related to his sense of humor, his plagiarism, and his desire for control over those whom he sees as oppressors.
It may also be related to the less often seen idiosyncrasy which causes him to express disgust with a word physically. For example, in the famous "Smell Yo Duck" music video, Chris first avoided saying the word "dick" altogether, and when forced to repeat the video, showed signs of distress bordering on illness. While this is obviously nothing more than a comical exaggeration on his part, it is notable that he should feel any particular sensation about simple words whatsoever. This reaction raises the possibility that, so long as he is not faking it altogether, Chris may be a synaesthete. There's also the possibility that he has a strong association with a certain word and associates guilt with it, like a child hearing a curse word. Alternatively, it is not stating the word that is disgusting to Chris, but rather the substance of the phrase, as it implies that he himself is "smelling someone's dick". Despite this, Chris has no problem hurling curse words (including "dick") at his enemies when in a fit of rage.
Chris and profanity
- See also: Chris and censorship
At some point in the 2000s, Chris became an enthusiastic user of profanity and vulgar language. According to Mimms, in his early days at The GAMe PLACe Chris avoided cursing, at least in public, but in more recent years he's lost almost all compunctions in this regard. His videos, blogs, and public pronouncements are full of foul language and obscene references. This is possibly part of an effort by Chris to seem more "adult".
He still holds back in some ways, though. In much of his writing, especially in his comics and on the CWCipedia, Chris shows a strange inclination to sporadically censor himself. He regularly uses profanity in his blog entries and Mailbag responses, but the offending words are typically blotted out with asterisks: "D*** that Son Of A B****, Clyde Cash," for instance, or "BUGS BUNNY WAS NAKED; YOGI BEAR WAS NAKED; WHAT THE F*** IS WRONG WITH YOU?" (On occasions he varies up his censorship style. CWC's Diary repeatedly refers to Mary Lee Walsh as an "XXXXX"; the Xes are clearly meant to stand in for "bitch".) Even relatively mild words such as "damn" and "crap" get the same treatment, which was exploited to hilarious effect in the audiobooks.
It could be that Chris believes that most of the CWCipedia's audience is comparatively young, and therefore censors his outbursts to protect his imagined fanbase. Another, more complex theory proposes that it's a sign of Chris's stunted maturity — he wants to use profanity to signify that he's an adult, but he retains a child's guilt and uncertainty about swearing. (The same theory abounds regarding David Gonterman, another angry Internet cartoonist with an incongruous tendency to censor himself.)
- Speech Impediment
- Chris's resume
- The High School Story
- Chris and writing
- Anything written on CWCipedia
- Chris's high school English homework
- Unstrange Minds :: Diagnostic Criteria for Autistic Disorder through the years
- Megan Emails, 2008#Chris thinks she was scarred because she doesn't know much about sex
- Homosexuality on CWCipedia
- See, for example, the note in The Big Lebowski: "WE HAVE BUNNY. GATHER ONE MILLION DOLLARS IN UNMARKED NON-CONSECUTIVE TWENTIES. AWAIT INSTRUCTIONS. NO FUNNY STUFF."
- Mailbag #5
- Mumble #4
- Download For Play Only
- Past Featured Quotes on CWCipedia
- Father Call
- Chris-chan Discusses...
- Mailbag #2
- Alec Benson Leary Phone Call #8
- Mailbag #34, to Evan
- Sonichu Quiz #2
- Sonichu #8
- Mailbag #51
- Mailbag #51
- Sonichu on CWCipedia. "For the sake of the Comic Pages, the marriage has been keep discreet during drawing, coloring and filimg[sic]."
- Issue #3 Page 9
- CWC Blog, December 2009
- Mailbag #39
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