There are some interesting new T-shirts starting to emerge in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. For example, one of the shirts sold by California-based 5 Dollar T-Shirts says something like: “we’re not breaking up, I’m just social distancing you.”
That’s brilliant! It is so brilliant that it might be time for the grammarians among us to add a new voice to English. That voice would be T-shirt voice. English needs some updating, and a T-shirt voice seems right in the current environment.
An Explanation of Voices
In English grammar, voice describes how a verb relates to the subject of the sentence. If the subject is completing the action, the voice is active. The voice is passive then the subject is the recipient of the action. As easy as this might be, there is a problem: active and passive voices only apply to transitive verbs. There are no voices for anything else.
Not only that, but the average person on the street knows nothing about active and passive voice. Nor does he or she care. The only reason they are brought up in this article is to provide a launching point for the T-shirt voice. In the end, that is all this post deals with anyway. So let’s forget active and passive and move on to T-shirts.
Say What You Want to Say
Adding a T-shirt voice to English grammar would give us the ability to imply things that could only be said on the front of a T-shirt. In our passive-aggressive world, T-shirts are second only to social media in terms of the number of people sending messages they would otherwise not deliver with their mouths.
5 Dollar T-shirts explained it pretty well in a recent blog post describing how T-shirts are a lot like ventriloquist dummies. There are many things we would never consider saying out loud but which seem completely appropriate for both ventriloquists and T-shirts.
Adding a T-shirt voice to English grammar would give us license to say what we wanted to say without having to explain that we mean no offense. A T-shirt voice would tell others not to take things personally. It would warn the uber sensitive that a potentially uncomfortable message is coming forthwith and, if that’s a problem, earplugs should be inserted.
Denoting Sarcasm and Humor
Super sensitive people unable to relax are not the only ones who would be served well by T-shirt voice. There are two other groups of people who might benefit: those who do not understand sarcasm and those who have no sense of humor. A T-shirt voice would set them up to better understand what it is they are reading or hearing.
For example, have you ever found yourself having to explain to someone why a funny T-shirt is funny? Adding a T-shirt voice to the language would solve that problem. In whichever way the voice is identified, a humorless person reading your tee would need no explanation. He/she would understand the message is a joke – even if he/she didn’t get the joke.
The thing about T-shirts is that we typically don’t take their messages seriously. That’s okay. When you or I wear a tee, we are acting as walking billboards for a particular message. Yet those messages generally aren’t earth shattering. They aren’t life-changing or profoundly inspirational. They are just words or pictures on a piece of cheap poly-cotton fabric.
It is time we stand up and address the fact that people are too sensitive about too many things. It is time we inserted a T-shirt voice into English grammar. Maybe then we could all chill out.