Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Grammar Police Reporting for Duty

I have a little habit that drives my husband crazy. I learned it early in life and never realized it was so annoying until it was pointed out to me in the car one day on the way home from work.

I was leafing through a magazine and proclaimed, "I can't believe how many typos are in this magazine! I should mark it up and send it to the editor!" I turned to the inside cover and looked for her name. "She really should be ashamed of herself."


Then, "yeah, I'm sure she would appreciate that. People just looove it when you correct their grammar. It's so awesome." Only the word "love" was said really sarcastically so as to leave no doubt as to his real meaning.

I grew up in a house where grammar was a big deal. We weren't doing good, we were doing well. The invitation wasn't for her and I, it was for her and me. And don't get me started on the differences between "fewer" and "less". I appreciated these little English lessons because I didn't want to look or sound like an idiot, so I soaked it up and prepared for the day when I would unleash my knowledge of grammar on the world, which naturally would turn to me in appreciation and ask where I have been all its life.

So it is not surprising that I have turned into a full-fledged Grammar Warrior. My fingers itch to correct misspellings on signs. I have been known to erase an errant comma or rearrange words on the dry-erase boards at Lowe's. And anyone who has walked into my office in the past six months has seen my public announcement that adding an apostrophe "s" to a word makes it possessive, not plural. Never in the history of the world has an apostrophe "s" been plural and it never, never, never will be that way so please, for the love of God, stop.

I recently heard a news story about a group of teenagers who were arrested for vandalizing a historical sign. It turns out that they were on a mission to correct grammar mistakes on signs across America, a quest I could surely identify with. When I heard of an actual organization formed to eradicate the misuse of apostrophes, I clamored for membership information. And when a friend sent me this 2005 essay, I felt vindicated.

My constant need to point out mistakes doesn't end with printed publications, however. I suspect my husband watches movies and television shows with a clenched jaw because he is waiting for me to point jubilantly at the screen and shout, "EDITING MISTAKE!" and then grab the remote to rewind the scene and point out how, for example, in one frame, she has the boots on, and in the next one she doesn't. Then I sit back with a self-satisfied smirk as he rolls his eyes and says, "good eye, sweetie."

When did I become such a tattle-tale? And why do I feel so compelled to correct grammar? Is there a red-penned English teacher inside of me fighting to get out?

Maybe, but I think it really boils down to frustration with people looking stupid when they don't have to. There are so many tools to make us look smarter than we are, and I for one am not afraid to use them.

Do I make grammar mistakes? You betcha. And if I do, please tell me. Because if I am going to look stupid, I'd like it to be for something a lot more fun than grammar. :)


EDP said...

I am SO with you on this crusade. Misplaced apostrophes are a crime! At least, they should be.

T.H. Elliott said...

I know I hate it when people type word's wrong.

EDP said...

I wish I'd had a video camera when you told the guy at the coffee shop about the "Snickedoodle" (sic) misspelling.

H F said...

LOL, I know, it just came out before I could stop myself.

H F said...

t.h. elliott, I sincerely hope you were smirking when you typed that. Otherwise, shame! :)

T.H. Elliott said...

Of course, and I'm still smirking.

Nickname unavailable said...

If Eats, Shoots, and Leaves isn't your favorite book, get yourself to a bookstore.