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    « Why Grammar Nazis Are Important | Main | Chapter Fourteen - Loose Ends »

    August 09, 2006



    Way to go, Laura.

    See Nils, that's the great thing. Different people are better at different things. We don't all have to be perfect at everything.


    Well said, Nils. Well said, Laura. Thank you both for those thoughts.

    All things being relative (and the rest being relatives), grammar has its little niche in the world. As a teacher, I have to resist the urge to foist my persnickety little grammar observations on the popuplation at large, and I heartily recognize that most people, unless it affects their jobs, do not give a rodent's grommet about dangling participles and split infinitives. :-)

    My current (read: obsessive) concern is cleaning up Tex-Mex and trying to keep the local hispanics from using bastardized English words, such as calling a “truck” a “troca.” But what the heck. According to the Linguistic Powers that Be, today’s vernacular, if it persists enough, will be tomorrow’s dictionary entry. (At that point I might have my masters in Spanish and be left wondering why I bothered. :-)

    In the meantime, I bow my head in humble penitence.


    recently another blogger asked on her blog about her readers math skills - she has high math skills, and in the post, was just a wee bit critical of those who don't have them - assuming that "figuring out certain things" should be easy.

    many people commented, and all of them, with 2 exceptions had amazingly high math skills. Now I can barely add,subtract, multiply and divide, and I have a Masters degree. Its not that I didn't try, and its not that I lacked access to tutorials, tutors and a dad who can do trigonometry as if it were a game, WITH no calculator.

    But the synapses that need to fire to make sure that I can do algebra, calaculus or even figure fractions/decimals don't exist. And I have learned to live with it, even if it makes me still at this ripe old age feel very inferior, and puts me at quite a loss when negotiating oh, a car loan. ;)


    Aw. That was a thought-provoking read.


    I can feel sorry for people who had a hard time in school learning grammar. What I can't stand, though, is bad business-speak.

    I get really irritated when people tell me they can "Get with Joe or myself". The myself thing is getting out of control. Somebody help me, please!


    An excellent point. There are those who are differently advantaged, and also those who simply excel at different things. I am routinely the "spelling dictionary" for those around me, but things like circuits and electrics and mechanical things completely evade me. (Physics nearly killed me.) My husband can't spell to save his life, nor can his dad or brother. They are all engineers/mechanical geniuses. Different strokes.


    Just to lighten things up a bit...In college, I dated a very privileged young man from the upper West Side of NYC. He was very intelligent and could carry on a phenomenal verbal argument. Unfortunately, this did not translate to the written word. I'd spend hours helping him edit term papers. One night, we got into a huge fight. He was quite angry (to the point that I was almost scared) and screamed, "You are dumb. D. U. M. Dumb." I immediately fell out of my chair laughing (which, not surprisingly, did nothing to calm his temper).

    At least I enjoyed it.


    This was all very interesting. I am alright with grammar...not true. My spelling is better than my grammar. And things like "Your" where "You're" should be drive me NUTS!

    Like whfropera, I am HORRIBLE at math. I homeschool my children and once they get past grade 4 in math, my husband takes over. It is truly pathetic and used to bother me a lot. I tried Algebra THREE times, kept failing and finally gave up. My seven year old son helps his eleven year old brother with his math! He also taught himself to read when he was four. My 13 year old also was reading at four and was tested at age seven in reading and was apparently at a college level in speed and comprehension. Everyone just has their different gifts.

    Fascinating stuff, really.


    I grew up in Alaska and while I was in the best classes--honors everything (except math which I think my brain hates)--when I got to college I was rudely awakened.

    My english teacher gave me a D on my first paper. I couldn't beleive it. I was used to being the english super star. When I told my teacher where I grew up, he said "that makes sense." Of course I was mad at his insult to my education. But you know what? He showed me where I'd gone wrong and looking at back at that first paper, it *was* D grade material.

    His class busted my butt. I take pride in my writing ability, and now I wouldn't be where I am today (writing for a living) if I hadn't met bastard teacher.


    Hey! I totally give a rodent's grommet! Oh wait... wrong blog...


    Had to laugh when I read Whopfera's comment because math is not my strong point either. Now that I'm over 40, I like to blame my slow and unforgiving synapses on old age. (g)

    When I read Nil's other post, I found myself nodding in agreement with what he said, and my first thought was of the number of emails I get from otherwise "professional" people who don't know the difference between their/there, you're/your and so on. I really got a kick out of William's comment about the person who woke up from a comma. LOL.

    Nil's is right, there IS a definite need to pay attention to the importance behind these rules of grammar, but I couldn't stop thinking about some of the kids who really do get down and frusturated when they can't understand the principles of language arts, of spelling grammar and so on.
    I remember the looks on their faces and the defiance that some of them would build up as a shield. I just hate for them to grow up with belief that society thinks they're stupid because they just couldn't master certain skills. The human brain is a real challenge, that's for sure!


    I just realized I left a comment out.

    Shuttup Nils. lol.



    I suck at grammar. Although I do not consider myself disadvantaged. I just never took advantage of the education I was provided. I also do nothing currently to fix that and maybe I should. But I also think it is okay to point out people's flaws when it comes to writing, especially with blogs as long as it is done in a tactful manner. I look at it this way, if I was walking down the street with my fly down or a huge booger on my face, I would want someone to tell me. I can decide whether I want to pull my zipper up or not.


    Dyslexic, I struggled and barely made it through high school. English grammar eluded me until I took Greek in college, failing it the first time through. I never learned to spell until I got an early word processor that patiently corrected my spelling as I typed. Math has always been a struggle for me because I still mix up the numbers and symbols. I'm still trying on all fronts.

    It is OK to hold two or more thoughts in our heads at once: grammar really IS important, though lack of ability in grammar may be understandable and forgivable.

    We do kids no favors by letting them believe that everything is OK if they do not learn these skills. We need to tell them the truth: "You are not a bad person for lacking them, but the tools we are trying to give you will serve you for a lifetime. They will help you communicate, help you spot lies, enable you to grasp a situation in ways you couldn't otherwise. You need these tools. Keep at it, even if we fail to help you acquire them by the time we hand you the obligatory diploma and shove you unprepared out the back door into a society that doesn't give a damn about you."

    Maybe Grammar Nazi isn't the right word. How about Grammar Guru?


    (Chapter 14, don't forget)


    I'm like you, Nils. As a former English teacher, bad grammar makes my teeth hurt. It is easy to be judgemental and assume that folks who use atrocious grammar are ignorant. The public school system in the United States is in trouble though, like everything else we're blind to, we crow about it as though it's the best anywhere. And coming from Texas where hearing someone say, "Don't nobody here not support the President" almost every single day is said with such a straight face and lack of shame (for the meaning itself as well as the delivery), I want to beat my head against a wall.

    That said, it is true that we don't all start out at the same level. Many of us have had huge advantages over others. But I still want us all to end up in the same place.


    YAY! Someone ELSE brought up Chapter 14! It wasn't me! I showed tremendous restraint in not bugging you about it.

    So, um... where is it? Huh? Huh? WHERE?


    I agree. Blah, blah, blah!

    Chapter 14? *tapping foot impatiently on the floor*

    Bucky Four-Eyes

    I'm with Squirl on the abuse of "myself" (hmmmm, that sounded REALLY unholy).

    What also really whittles at my nerves is the incorrect use of "me" or "I" - but then again, my Catholic-schooled parents were extremely strict about our grammar. Using incorrect grammar was as bas as, if not worse than, swearing at our house.

    Spelling Jerk

    Waiting for Chapter 14 is making me frusturated (sic). But I'm not going to be the one to sidetrack Nils on the whole spelling issue.


    Let he or she who is without typos throw the first virtual stone ...

    Chapter 14 is very near to being satisfactory to me, but I won't get much chance to work on it this weekend. I hope it will be worth the wait - for me and you.


    I am so, so happy this follow-up post is here. Can you say SORE SUBJECT?

    Here's my two (hundred) cents: Admittedly, good grammar is sometimes absolutely crucial if disaster is to be avoided. Much more often, though, it's akin to using the proper fork. A system created for snobs, by snobs, to further the cause of the snobs, dining etiquette provides a false, arbitrary arena in which a certain class of people can excel, and thus feel superior. Using the correct fork is not a survival skill; nor does it offer any real advantage most of the time. (Similarly, I don't think "10 items or less" is really confusing anyone.) Yet nothing is so satisfying as watching someone use the wrong fork, knowing it is THE WRONG FORK. What human doesn't enjoy that knowing sensation?

    I'm an editor. I can't even bring myself to use "hopefully" in my formal writing unless I'm using it in the strictly correct adverbial sense. But that doesn't prevent me from recognizing that my trade is largely based on bullshit. And that's putting it kindly. Half of these rules didn't even exist a mere two hundred years ago, and many rules have changed. And still more rules are being made up daily (can't end a sentence with a preposition! can't start a sentence with a conjunction! can't do whatever the hell it is I'm doing within these parentheses!) by people who love to feel right.

    So, while I would agree that those diners scooping food into their mouths with their hands could use a little guidance, those who are at least using SOME sort of (clean) utensil probably deserve some slack.

    In other words ... quit encouraging people to improve. I need the money.


    I read these comments hopefully as I looked for an answer.

    Admittedly, I like to find simple solutions to complicated questions.

    Strictly speaking, these simple solutions do not exist.

    Similarly, many great dilemmas in life have no cut-and-dried answers.

    *Less than* two people in ten in the U.S. have acceptable grammar. This ain't no joke. Teachers and editors will never be short of work.





    Nope. No Chapter 14 yet. No Chapter 14 in the immediate future.


    I'm sure it will be worth the wait, SOMEDAY. ;)

    The Kept Woman

    Huzzah, huzzah.

    In today's society it's just becoming more and more of a lost expectation.

    In the words of Henry Higgins in Why Can't the English, "There even are places where English completely disappears. In America, they haven't used it for years!


    14, 14, 14, 14, 14...
    (we can't wait!)


    I did not get a good education in grammar - even as an English major in college, I was never formally instructed in grammar. I have a natural instinct for it (perhaps because I read a lot as a kid?) but I'm often at a loss when it comes to explaining WHY. "Um, because it just sounds right?"


    (trying new tactic)

    Nils darling, is Chapter 14 close to being done yet, dearie?

    *batting eyelashes*


    Dude, I'm going to work.
    But when I get home, I expect to see results around here.

    (also trying new tactic) (g)


    Dude, seriously...


    Word Binger

    Strunk and White's The Elements of Style is remarkable in many ways. Including its brevity and conciseness.

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