In 2016, as he watched the presidential race heat up, writer Dave Bastien became exasperated while reading comments on social media.
“I would read them and turn to my wife and say, ‘I wish people would smarten the f*ck up,’” he said.
To be clear, he was referring to both the opinions people expressed and the language they used to do so. Even the candidates were mutilating the English language with sundry grammatical missteps and malapropisms.
He soon realized that going toe-to-toe with people regarding their opinions was a futile effort, but he felt the brutalization of the written and spoken word was something he could take on.
So, he began documenting these grammatical and language mistakes, and, unsurprisingly, the file soon fattened and Bastien realized he had a book on his hands. The book, slated to be released soon, is aptly titled “Smarten the F*uck Up.”
“It’s not a grammar book. It’s more of a self-help book,” said Bastien. “Our skills, both spoken and written, are a reflection on us personally and professionally. I feel helping people avoid making these embarrassing mistakes can improve their opportunities in life, whether it’s in their online dating profile or on a resume.”
While trying to advertise pre-sales for the book on social media, however, Bastien was met with roadblocks and censorship from sites such as Facebook, due to the use of implied profanity in the title.
It appears Facebook will allow conspiracy theories, misrepresentations of the truth, and even outright lies to be promoted on their platform, but a book with a title that has even any level of masked profanity gets blocked.
Bastien said some people are also uncomfortable sharing his posts due to the dreaded f-bomb. Yet when querying friends and fellow writers about expurgating the title, they roundly rejected the notion, and Bastien—who conceded to the asterisk—is sticking to his guns.
Bastien wants readers to be clear that his book, funny with a healthy dose of irreverent humor, is not geared to a room of linguists.
“I’m not going for the grammar-nerd audience–-the one percent of people who actually care about that stuff,” he said. “I’m trying to reach the other 99 percent of people. I don’t use any grammar-speak. I translated all the rules into simple language to help people understand the lessons without getting their brain twisted into a knot.”
And Bastien is acutely aware that the ubiquitous English teacher who corrects other people’s grammar is not only annoying, but pretentious. So the book uses humor and sarcasm to deride the grammar nerd and help fix the embarrassing mistakes we all make in speech and writing on a daily basis.
“I make some of these mistakes, too,” Bastien said. “Some of the smartest and most accomplished people I know make these mistakes.”
Some of said mistakes that Bastien addresses in “Smarten the F*ck Up” include the mixing up of homophones—“there,” “they’re,” and “their”—when to use “me” vs. “myself,” and nine chapters of “Five Words that Make You Sound…”
“Like A Blathering Nincompoop” is one of them.
Bastien also wrote a chapter addressing the unfortunate tendency many of us have to use the words “like,” “um,” and “you know” when speaking to one another, something that could quickly torpedo a job interview.
“Using a slight pause before you speak is one of the best pieces of advice in the book… for many reasons,” Bastien said.
Meanwhile, Bastien maintains modest goals and a healthy sense of self-deprecation when it comes to the book.
“It’s a great bathroom or coffee table book,” he said. “But if you leave it in the bathroom, you might have to check for missing pages every now and then.”
You can purchase the book through his website at https://smartenupbook.com.