Grammar and My Father

My father is a strict grammarian and self-titled walking Warriner’s who simply will not tolerate incorrect usage. At the dinner table, we take words very seriously.  As a family, we have learned the proper usage of lie, lay lain versus lay, laid and laid (though I’m pretty sure using lain correctly in a sentence would earn me a beat down from my friends).  We also learn the differences among (not between) imminent, eminent and immanent. Then there’s the whole flammable/inflammable thing.  Even a single superfluous “like” can cost the offender dessert.  Coming from this environment, I really cant stand it when people say “like” in between every word. However, I have to admit that sometimes I do it too. Going home for thanksgiving and winter break is always a wake up call in this regard. “LIKE LIKE LIKE LIKE LIKE LIKE,” my dad yells to interrupt my speech if I am abusing the filler word. Basically, I love and hate grammar. There are subtle grammar rules that most people wouldn’t know, but these remind my most of my father. Hearing the over use of the word “like” also reminds me of my dad, but in a different light. From this blog, I hope you can all learn to appreciate grammar, and reduce the likes because of it.

#Grammar

I would never really describe myself as a grammar snob, but recently I was in a situation where my inner grammar nerd emerged. I am part of a committee planning an event and we have created flyers. On the flyer it said “MACS and SHEI Magazine presents Fashion Speaks.” When I read it, I knew it was wrong, and couldn’t believe that no one had caught this major mistake before the flyer went to print. Immediately, I texted the other committee members explaining the rules involved with subject verb agreement. The flyer should say present, NOT presents. The worst thing was, that one of the members thought presents was correct, and put up a fight about it. After a lot of convincing, the flyer was changed to say “MACS and SHEI Magazine present Fashion Speaks.” It was clear to me at that moment that I definitely am a writing minor.

 

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 2.35.11 PM
Before

 

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 2.35.20 PM
After

Another thing that really irks me is when people use the apostrophe “s” the wrong way. I feel like this rule has been taught millions of time and that as college students, we should know the correct way to use an apostrophe. Although I may criticize others for their poor grammar, I do realize that sometimes we all make mistakes. However, someone needs to lay down the grammar law…right?

 

Meghan with an H

There are so many rants I could go on about grammar. I am one of those grammar freaks who gets ridiculously irritated by the simple misuse of your or you’re. I could write hundreds of words about how I hate when people incorrectly use their, there, or they’re. But I think those rants are so “been-there, done-that.” I’ve seen numerous twitter posts exclaiming people’s disgust with these errors, and even more comments on several social media sites where people are correcting their friends’ grammar mistakes. I’m not going to to that. Instead of going on a grammar rant, I’m going to go on a spelling rant.

For me, spelling someone’s name correctly is a matter of respect. My entire life, people have constantly spelled my name incorrectly. It’s MegHan. Not Megan, Meagan, Meaghan, Meagen, or any other variation you can think of.

I understand that it might be difficult because there are so many different spellings for one name, which is why I usually allow people a first-time misspelling. I usually correct them in a jokingly way, but from then on…I expect the correct spelling. I have this one friend (who shall remain unnamed) that I have known for about five or six years now, and he still spells my name incorrectly EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. Like, come on man! It’s not thaaaat hard.

What really gets me is Facebook posts, however. Every year on my birthday, I will receive several “happy birthday” posts where people still spell my name wrong. SERIOUSLY? It is written right there above the post. It clearly says, “MegHan Brown.” Therefore, you should write: “Happy birthday MegHan!!” Not “Happy birthday Megan!” No No No No No!!! It just doesn’t make sense to me how you can spell my name wrong, when its written on the same exact page. It’s really not that hard to read it.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 2.05.37 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 2.07.14 PM

To most people it may not seem like that big of a deal. Yes it’s only one letter. But to me, it is extremely irking. Sometimes I wish my parents would’ve named me something with less variations in spelling. But I love my name…So please, please, please remember.

It’s Meghan with an H.

Literally Not Even About Grammar

I’m coming out and publicly stating right now that this post isn’t really about grammar. I guess if I wanted to tie it into the topic I could say it’s about adverbs. One adverb in particular. The adverb that specifically, particularly, completely, wholeheartedly grinds my gears.

That adverb is “literally.”

There was a time whenlitkim “literally” meant something. We could use the word as a way to express reality when something happened just as a figure of speech implies, a synonym for “actually.” Back in the day (when “literally” was a strong word and everything was beautiful and nothing hurt) people might “literally eat the whole thing” or “literally wait for hours” in dramatic situations.

Today, however, the word has literally been ruined.

Want to make a point? What to sound dramatic? Want to have your voice heard? Throw in a “literally”!

No line at Chiptole? “I literally peed my pants.”

Barista messed up your order? “I literally want to hurt someone.”

Stubbed your toe? “I literally am so done I can’t even omg what is life.”

Perhaps the scariest thing in the age of “literally” abuse is how the word somehow slips into your vocabulary unnoticed and suddenly you too are misusing “literally.” So many of my friends “literally can’t” and “are literally so done” round-the-clock that I have found myself slipping out an “I literally cried” here in there, regardless of whether or not tears were produced in actuality.

Figuratively, I want to crawl under a rock  when I hear people (or myself) misusing “literally.” Yet it’s something so ingrained in our language now that I think we’ve hit the point of no return, and that we need to just give up the word (and everything it once stood for) for good.

We’re literally so done.

My Good Parents, Who Use Grammar Well.

In my family, I am notorious for correcting grammar. I try not to do it to people I don’t know well for fear of seeming rude or pretentious, but at home the corrections come out unfiltered. Couple this with my two foreign parents for whom English is a second language, and a lot of grammar-correcting is bound to take place.

However, I’ve become one hundred percent confident that nobody in my family will ever make the mistake of using “good” in the place of “well” or vice versa. I’ve drilled the difference in so many times that I’ve even heard my parents correct others on this matter (which made me very proud, by the way).

Here is the crash course in good versus well:

               When someone asks “How are you?” the correct response is “I’m good.”

               When someone asks “How are you doing?” the correct response is “I’m doing well.”

               Trying to describe how someone did something? – “They wrote the blog well.”

               Trying to describe the quality of what was done? – “The blog was good.”

               In general, “good” describes a noun while “well” describes a verb.

Of course there are a million other ways to apply the two words, but hopefully these couple of tips will save you from making a mistake today.

A Whole Nother Blog Post

I feel ashamed and rather reluctant to admit it, but I am indeed what people classify as a Grammar Nazi.  There is an unparalleled joy that I receive from reading a piece of prose with flawless grammar, and also an unparalleled anger that bubbles inside of me when I spot an error in a published novel (I mean come on, these things go through rounds of editing, don’t they?).

That being said, I am not claiming perfection.  I know firsthand how easy it is to miss a typo or to forget a comma in a paper.  But, there are a few grammar flaws for which I show no mercy:

The use of ‘these ones’ and ‘those ones’ instead of ‘these’ or ‘those’

  • I must have inherited my hatred for these two phrases from my mother, seeing as this is her biggest pet peeve.  My skin crawls whenever I hear someone, especially a professional use the phrase because it in unnecessarily wordy and definitely not grammatically correct.  I once came across the phrase in a book and refused to read the rest (yeah, I’m that serious about it).

‘A whole nother’… what the heck is a ‘nother’? Another whole is more like it.

  • Just as I am typing out this blog post, that irritating red squiggly line has made its mark beneath the word that I hesitate to type again.  “Nother” is not, nor should it ever be, accepted by the dictionary.  It is not a quantifiable amount and it is most certainly not a recognized word in the English language.

On the other hand, I could go on and on about aspects of grammar that I love.  For the sake of your time and sanity, though, I will stick to just one. The comma.  I love the comma key more than any other key on the keyboard and more than any other character on the page.  Commas make writing sound like speaking, and that is why I appreciate their presence so much.  They may be small, but their presence is significant.  You, comma, will always hold a special place in my heart.

Textual Healing

My love affair with the semicolon began back in my high school days.  I had already learned about the saucy minx in middle school, though I had yet to learn just how saucy and minx-ish she (because that curvy figure and sense of mystery could only belong to a lady, let’s be real) could be.

It was in my freshman Introduction to Literature class; our teacher had decided to spend a day going over common grammar errors, and had just opened up the floor for questions when it happened.  One student asked if we could please go over that “half-comma-half-dot-thing.”

Teach responded with “Oooh yes, the sexy one.”  And wrote the following sentence on the board:

“I ate the whole pie; I barfed.”

Rawr.  Am I right?

She then went on to explain that the reason semicolons are so very sexy as follow: they join two independent clauses in a snuggly, intimate relationship.  That’s hot, right?  I mean, I say that as a fiercely independent little bookworm, so I suppose that it stands to reason verbal four-play (or, if I may, textual healing) between two self-aware subjects might turn me on.

That being said,  I hate commas.

Commas are like my least favorite people: so indecisive!  You can use them in far too many ways: linking dependent clauses, appositives, lists…I don’t see why they can’t just take a leaf out of the semicolon’s book and find one path and stick to it.  Also, they enable dependent clauses to continue their reliance on perfectly lovely independent clauses; and if that’s not messed up, I don’t know what is.  I mean, come on, dependent clauses!  Go find yourself!  Get an ankle tattoo, travel to Europe, try spending more by yourself, just do something besides leaning on independent clauses for personal validation.  And commas, quit allowing them to live such an incomplete life.

You sicken me, commas.

But even though commas are terrible and I still forget how to use them from time to time, I can live with them.  Though that’s largely due to the fact that I have semicolons in my life; they get me through tough times.

A lengthy thought

I have a cautious relationship with grammar.

On one hand, I can appreciate that the English language (or any other) must rely on a fundamental set of rules and structure without which people just wouldn’t understand each other, and language wouldn’t be language. On the other hand, those relentless champions of grammar that I think we’ve all encountered at some point in our lives mistake these rules for unquestionable mandates, overlooking the beauty that sometimes surfaces from language when they’re broken. Most of us don’t speak in complete sentences – there are times when I finally figure out where I wanted to go with a thought halfway through a sentence. Breaking grammar is itself a form of grammar, as great writers have often managed to convinced us.

Take the run-on sentence. It’s a grammatical structure that I both hate and love, depending on the context and the writer.

There is nothing more tedious than reading a long text or a facebook message from someone who clearly didn’t read it through before they sent it. In just one punctuation-less rant we are overloaded with a surprisingly detailed weekend summary, a status update on the noodles that were just put on the stove, and the surprising intensity of the sunlight shining through their window. A mindless concoction of words and thoughts can be terribly frustrating to decipher with a sunday morning hangover, but we put up with it because that’s what friends do (and we’ve probably been guilty of one or two of those texts ourselves).

However, some of my favorite authors are unquestioned masters of the run-on sentence, and use it often because it so perfectly mimics the human stream-of-consciousness. Take Keruoac or Hemingway for example. Monstruous sentences the size of paragraphs are their forte, but reading them is anything but tedious. Carefully crafted and decidedly composed, these sentences serve a specific purpose – to convey a certain emotion and to make their characters human. I recently read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and even she was guilty of a run-on or two. In my opinion, it is nothing short of poetic to be able to convey the frustration, fear, or love that a character is feeling without ever writing those words. The run-on sentence is one tool that allows writers to do that (once they’ve grasped the correct ways in which to use it).

Because, as we learn from the world’s enthusiastic texters and Facebook messagers, it’s easy to swing and miss with this one (unlike Batman who definitely swung and made contact with Robin’s face for speaking in run-on’s… Too violent? I think I made my point).

Example Of “Fear” in Syntax/Vocab/Grammer

Here is my example, it’s an excerpt from a students personal essay I was assigned to peer review.

“His message continued to go on to talk about his experience with flight school and as an LT in the fleet. He made sure to be positively clear that he couldn’t make the decision for me, but could offer me any answers to questions I had based off of his experiences. I had never met Devin in person, but found myself very thankful he was the son of some friends in my family, because his advice was the exact insight I was looking for. No one I had met at my unit had been wrestling over going subs or going pilot. It just didn’t happen. I had finally found someone I could relate to with the same situation as myself.”

Starting Something New

I’ve decided: English grammar. Yes, that’s right. From this point forth, all of my blogs will be centered on English grammar.

I came to this decision for two reasons. One, I am obsessed with learning about our language’s grammar, as you all well know. Two, I think this could be something beneficial for my portfolio and writing in general. My writing is not perfect by any means. I want to evaluate my own sentence structure and how I can apply or reinforce the formal rules governing English to it.

But that’s not all the whole story. Like my everyday personality, my blogs will showcase some contradictions. Do not be shocked to see a blog with sentence fragments that delineates the need for a comma when joining two independent clauses in a sentence.

I hope that my blogs will teach you all something new too, but don’t be shy to start a healthy debate on the topic.

Alright, let’s see how this goes.