Sunday, May 25, 2008

Grammar Grievances

I’m not sure when my obsession began, but it must have caught fire over the summer. I started listening to a pod cast about grammar and I became nothing more than simply intrigued. When I came back from summer break, my head began to spin as suddenly I realized I was talking to my friends who couldn’t construct a grammatically sound sentence. Worse, they were oblivious to their errors. For example, after the first choir concert:

“You did amazing, August!”

I smile and say, “Thank you very much,” and try not to scream. How can I think about my compliment without ignoring the blatant grammatical errors screeching louder than an air horn during an AP test? I performed amazingly, not amazing. Amazing is an adjective; it describes a noun. Yes, the performance was amazing, but the performers did amazingly. Amazingly is an adverb, so it describes an action. Didn’t we all learn this in elementary school?

Then there is a lovely gift, accompanied by an earnest, but annoying statement: “I got something for you,”

I wince and say, “You do?” What can she mean, she got me something? How does that work? She must mean she has something for me… that must be it. But why can’t she just say so?

Telephone conversations are frustrating as well. “Where are you at?”

It may be a grammar myth that ending a sentence with a preposition is wrong, but why in the world would he purposely do it? It just sounds so wrong, and to most traditional grammarians it would be. If a sentence like that worms its way into his college entrance essay it will be hook, line, and sinker. True, he probably doesn’t know how ignorant he sounds, but I can’t focus on explaining to him where I am when he talks like that, and it is only harming him in the long run.

I must say, girls are worse than boys, probably because they talk more. “You know Chris; he’s the boy that took me to Prom…”

Yes, I know Chris, but I didn’t know that he we was an object! Shouldn’t it be something like, “You know Chris; he’s the boy who took me to Prom…” That is for objects, and I don’t care if we’re only gossiping on the phone, Chris is a person, not a mop.

Not even in the retail world am I safe from the horrors of the sagging standards of the English language. For instance, at the grocery store, the sign above the speedy checkout line reads: “Ten items or less,”

Less is for a noun that can’t really be counted, like water, for example. But the last time I checked, you can easily count if you have ten items or fewer. I know I can tell when the person in front of me in the speedy checkout line has twelve cans of soup, but once again, that was something we learned in elementary school, so you never know.

The most horrific grammar incident can happen only in writing, but nevertheless I loathe it: “Buy one; get one half off!!!!”

Would you ever use more than one period at the end of a sentence to reiterate that the sentence was over? No, of course not! Then why do advertisers, as well as overzealous texting teens, use multiple exclamation points to stress that the sentence has not only ended, but that it was exclaimed from rooftops? Maybe I’m just a stingy Puritan caught in a time warp, but one punctuation mark is enough.

I’m not a good listener all the time; I’ll be the first to admit. When the grammar is poor, I can’t focus on the meaning, only the mistakes. What was once the subject of an interesting online radio program is now the obsession of my short editing career, not to mention the constant distraction from civilized teenage conversation. I may seem pessimistic now, but just wait until I copy edit your term paper…


Phases said...

August, you are definitely right about grammar. It drives me crazy, too, but you shouldn't obsess over it. Think about this: you're going to be the one who can get into Harvard, whereas everyone else will be going to local colleges and realize how much they do not know.

skittlesboy said...

I think that grammar is important, don't get me wrong, but I think you have taken some things to a whole new level of critical. You should begin sending emails to correct people. You could send a weekly email with a grammar mistake that people usually miss. That would be fun.

Ana said...

I love you! I agree with the whole grammar thing, but the way you described it was hilarious. Truthfully, though, I think I make some of those mistakes without even realizing it. I guess I've been sucked down by our country's lack of grammar. Well keep up the fight for good grammar. I'm right behind you!