Monday, September 13, 2010

Some folks'll never eat a skunk, but then again some folks'll

I’m pretty sure I can pinpoint the moment I stopped judging other people’s use of language (so much), it was the day Jimmy came out. After that I had too many OTHER things to worry about but before then I used to really enjoy knowing when to use a ‘whom’ or an E before an I, and I admit, I sorta liked catching mistakes (except mine), it was like a game. But nowadays I gotta wonder--does convention really matter? Do we really need the language to stay stagnant? Cuz it won’t (<--proof) and it makes me wonder why grammarholics and my old self insist on policing the language, with such (ugh!) conservative verve. It makes me think of English’s very own pride-n-joy, Mr. William Shakespeare and his mastery of the language of his time, and whether proud Elizabethans would’ve been grammar bullies and created a “Presseth LIKE if thou knowest the difference betwixt Thy, Thine, and Thoust” group on Facebook. Hoonoze, but they might have also snickered at any modern-day Michael Bublé lyrics, which is why I’ve stopped caring whether my or someone else’s grammar is “wrong” or inaccurate, because it's always changing and some people might not be able to spell ‘your’ from ‘yore’ or ‘effit' but they probably do things like draw or ice skate or make omelets or hock loogies a heck of a lot better than I do. People should feel free to talk and write as they please, right, we all have the right to express our own thoughts and feelings no matter what BOX some freak-control grammarians try to force upon us. Miss Keeley, my 6th grade “teacher” once told me (and the rest of the class) that I am not e. e. cummings, that I do not possess ‘poetic license’ and because of this I needed to stop writing in all-lowercase. I was pretty easy to shame in those days but on this topic I knew Miss Keeley was full of shit, that she was not in fact the lady who handed out artistic licenses. That privilege was already granted to me, individuals possess liberties over their own choices in communication, 6th grade me knew that, just like I knew any of us could make up words out of thin air, and like how I knew my husband was in for it when he corrected a double-negative I blurted out in the middle of a sentence last week. Whether double-negatives are unsound or socially acceptable made no difference, I pointed to the English degree on the wall and told him I could go forth on speaking in dong gone all th’double negahivs I wawnt! Because like it or not, double-negatives, mishandled contractions, web jargon, and run-on sentences are part of the lexicon and they have a formative place in our language. Dammit!

And then other days I watch movies like Mike Judge's Idiocracy and I know...we're all just ridin an ambulanche ta hayell.

I suppose I do have one unembarrassed passion. I do judge a speaker’s confidence in the misuse of the first-person singular in the objective case, or as the object of a preposition. “It was so gracious of Professor Julius to dedicate his memoirs to Preston and I.” NO! Would someone ever say “It was so gracious of Professor Julius to dedicate his memoirs to I.” Not likely. So stop!!! It’s as though an entire subset of otherwise intelligent people believe that they will be struck by a bolt of hillbilly if they dare verbally pair themselves up with another person by using the word “me.”

My theory is that it comes from the wee days of childhood, when the adult agenda set in, when it became a sin for elbows to be on the table, when we learned it was more important that a child be corrected for uttering a phrase like “I brang you a rose, Gramma!” than it was for any shipshape grandmother to respect the kind rosy gesture. From a time when an announcement like “Me and Greg are going to the store,” in front of the wrong people might make your mother cry from having to admit that she lives with such a rotten foul-mouthed hick kid. So people learned early that it was just easier to shun any elbow funnybusiness at mealtime, and that proper grammar is more important than offerings or feelings, and that the misassumption that please accept this million dollar endowment from Larry + I” satisfies the socially discerning ear better than any childish “ME” ever did. It's bullshit.


liz woodbury said...

i can completely identify with this; i am a fellow recovering member of the grammar police (though i clearly rebel by refusing to capitalize). it makes me CRAZY when people can't/won't/don't use the word "me" appropriately! why are they so afraid of that word?! i'm a little terrified that it will gradually evolve into officially acceptable usage... and that will be a sad, sad day for you and ME.

Betty said...

ouch...woweee...belphorplastied eyes can't see the yellow type - but methinks its a rather colorful expletive eh? a quieter voice mb? I still think Henreitta was a wise young thing.

Dennis said...

how timely...right now I'm eating skunk with a little crow on the side.

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