Friday, June 26, 2009

Goofing on grammar

Many moons ago I wrote a column called "Grammar Goofs". It was an attempt to teach grammar through humor and it was fairly successful -- at first. Then one self-proclaimed editor had an issue with a column and the way I presented the material and complained to the editor of the newsletter/ezine, saying she was ending her subscription. In the 6+ months I wrote the column there were fewer than six complaints, most of them from the self-professed editor, but when that one person ended her subscription my column ended because the newsletter editor didn't want to upset people or have them give up their subscription to a free newsletter. Oh, well, move on and upwards. Fast forward.

Yesterday's little grammar post was because it bothers me to see such blatant disregard for the simple mechanics of grammar, most of which I learned before the age of 10. I enjoyed it so much when the teacher moved on to English and grammar. The harmony of homonyms and the magic of I before E except after C, except in some cases, was fun and it wasn't difficult at all to figure out how to use the lessons in the real world. I had no trouble determining whether I should use TO or TOO or TWO despite them sounding alike (homonyms = words that sound alike but are spelled differently) or how to spell FRIENDS or RECEIVE, and I was a child. I cannot understand why many in the supposedly literate world has such problems. Can't completely blame texting and acronym use for all our problems. Then I saw a video of Jaywalking excerpts from the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and I understood. People are not supposedly literate, they are barely literate and stupid.

People who cannot tell you where the Panama Canal is located or who wrote the autobiography of Malcolm X aren't just camera shy, not in a world where everyone uses their cell phones to take videos and snap photos of everything they see and hear, including their best friend's hurling after a night of mobile mooning from an Infiniti or Cabriolet. Most of these people are in college and the idea that college students don't know the definition of autobiography is beyond sad. I don't believe there is a word for something this far beyond sad.

I don't blame teachers forced to follow curricula that have nothing to do with teaching the basics and teach level testing because they also have to police classrooms and spend time strip searching and metal detecting their students, which does not leave a lot of time for teaching students how to think or learn the basics. I blame the government for kowtowing to political interests fully invested in treating the the symptoms and not the disease. It's patch therapy for a gaping, gushing, arterial wound.

Instead of focusing on how fat people are getting because of the introduction of fat-free foods and putting the empty calories of salt/sodium and sugar in everything, how about focusing on real education and teaching people how to learn? It's no wonder so many businesses are sending their companies overseas, not only for the tax benefits but because American workers are too dumb to handle even the simple jobs without demanding high wages while they sandbag their way through their jobs to get more overtime and benefits. They're not working hard at all, but they're also not working smart, unless you call fleecing their employers and the American consumer smart.

But everybody does it. Yes, and everybody who does it needs to get in line and take a very long walk off a very short pier over the Marianas Trench. Don't worry. Most people won't get that one either.

So, in hopes that someone will read my posts and get something out of them, I will write one grammar post each week on Thursdays. I'd write one every day, but it will take a while for the information to sink in and I don't want to overload those delicate and unused synapses by explaining more than one grammatical rule a week. For those of you who understand grammar and would like to participate by sending your pet peeves and irksome, brawling grammar goofs, please feel free to comment with your wish list. All comments that I hoist myself on my own petard and spin will be laughed at and held up to ridicule because I have no doubt the comments will be phrased in horrendously horrible homonym failures.

That is all. Disperse.

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