Apr 9, 2014

Yes, I am the Grammar Police!

"I'd rather be a comma, than a full stop"- Coldplay

I know I'm a little neurotic about this.  I was an English major, after all.  But when my daughter's school starts putting up signs with blatant grammar errors and not even changing them in the course of a day, I think it moves from being the geek who annoyingly points out improper use of a semicolon, to something else.

The first thing everyone wants to blame is cell phones.  Txt msgng.  Those darn kids and their 'adorbs' and their 'TTYL' and 'LOL'!  They've corrupted our culture!  But those are acronyms.  Abbreviations.  Marshall McLuhan said that the medium is the message, and to a degree, he's right.  It's a short message on a telephone.  It's not meant to be Anna Karenina.

But that's no excuse and shouldn't really be an explanation.  It's a pretty big jump from abbreviating to ignoring mistakes.  It's the ignorance and the toleration of error that is disturbing.  In a text message or an email you need to get out quickly?  Okay.  In twitter, with limited characters to use?  Sure.  But on a sign you are displaying for the public to see?  In some cases, a permanent sign?  For one day, maybe.  But to leave such a thing displayed after awhile just says "I don't care that it's wrong".

And now, since this is my blog and you're here for free, I will indulge myself for a paragraph.  The word 'You're' is a contraction.  It is a shorter way of writing the words "You are".  When someone other than you has possession of something, we say it is 'Your' whatever it is.  Is that really so hard?  Because some things in grammar are hard to remember.  'It's' is the contraction, and without the apostrophe is the possessive.  Sure.  That's splitting hairs and harder to remember.  But You're coat?  Your going to the store?  That's just lack of language skill.

You may say, 'well everyone doesn't have to be a doctor of linguistics'.  Sure.  Nor does everyone need to be a surgeon and whittle sticks with a scalpel.  But wouldn't you admit that a knife works better than a hammer?  Or a club?  A certain amount of linguistic competence (sharpness) is necessary, or we might as well just grunt and point.

Do not take me as using this as some sort of xenophobic crack at ESL.  Can you imagine if English were your second language?  And you came from a language that made sense?  Those people have a reason to struggle with English, and in fact often are more correct in their English than some others, who I am thinking of.

Ironically, many of these same people would never tolerate baseball playing as sloppy as the English they use, even from their children.  'If you're going to play, play right!' I can hear them yelling.  And that's a game.  How much more should we care about 'playing right' when it's our written language we're talking about?  Again, ending a sentence with a preposition or writing a run-on sentence is not what I'm thinking of. (see what I did, there?)

Follow this link and then come back to this post and read it again.  You'll see.




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