I had to clown Judd Apatow on Twitter when he bragged that he had an “advanced DVD” of a George Harrison documentary. I asked him if the advanced DVD was only for really smart people. I know he meant “advance” as in “before everyone else gets to see it.” Nine times out of ten I do not correct people because I want to have at least some friends.
I know this quality of mine makes people loath to comment on my site, and downright giddy when I myself make an error. Which I do. I think I even wrote somewhere that I was “loathe” to do something (cringe). At my first job (non-teaching), I wrote that something was “all for not.” And if you don’t get why that is mortifying, leave this house immediately.
Language purists like me (technically “like I” because what I mean is “like I am,” but we’ll let that pass) suffer painfully on a daily basis. You do not feel badly for me. You feel bad.
A student once asked me if I spell check my texts. I do. Of course I do! I also do not use abbreviations, numbers for letters, nor do I leave out punctuation or capital letters. This is a family trait. A relative of mine once texted a friend “Please stop using the letter U when what you mean is the word you.” And she did not conclude that text with “thx.”
And yes. It was me.
It isn’t just because I love the English language. This is the thing I’m good at, and I am not good at much; therefore, I need to lord this over people with everything I’ve got. Notice my compound-complex sentence and my correct use of a semi-colon?
My other talent? I’m psychic. You heard me. I will randomly get a scene from a movie or TV show in my head, think about it for a moment, then forget about it. Later that day or a few days later, that very same show is on TV. Sometimes, I will turn it on at exactly the scene I was thinking of. That’s right. I can predict what will maybe be on TV at some point in the indistinct future with 49% accuracy. Move over, Alison Dubois.
I think you can see why I cling with such tenacity to my ability to remember the rules of grammar, usage and spelling.
Over the years, I have had to cut back drastically on correcting people. It can be obnoxious at best and downright damaging at worst. For example, I once corrected my boss: “We don’t need less suspensions, we need fewer suspensions.” Thank goodness I just got the “That’s an English teacher for you” eyeroll and not an official reprimand. Because I did it in a meeting. In front of other teachers. And I totally did not mean to try to make my boss look bad. Saying those things is as natural to me as breathing. They just fly out of my mouth. Sometimes I have to smack my hand over my yapper to stop it from happening. Now that I am older and wiser, I think before I speak (71% of the time). Did you know 62% of statistics are made up on the spot?
I’m not alone in this. Do you remember the scene in the book Charlotte’s Web where one of the sheep tells another character that the expression is not “I could care less” but rather “I couldn’t care less”? Of course you don’t. But it’s there. And it’s there because E.B. White also wrote Elements of Style. He managed to slip a style lesson into his charming children’s tale about a spider who becomes the copywriter for a pig.
In the proud tradition of E.B. White, I will not yield to this texting shortcutting* of my language. I need to believe that they will always need people like me to know the rules. To know things like the real meaning of “nonplussed.” To know the difference between lie and lay. To snicker at the accidental hilarity of misplaced modifiers. Go ahead. Google it.
I know that I will go back to work in February to a world where people actually say “hashtag” out loud at the end of their sentences.
I know the difference between “advanced” and “advance” and I’m going to point it out on Twitter to a millionaire. Even though I used the word “clown” as a verb to describe it.
Let me have that.
And P.S., David Fincher: “Se7en” does not say “seven.” It doesn’t. It says “seh-seven-en.”
*texting shortcutting = texting used as a participle (a verb ending with “ing” used as an adjective), shortcutting used as a gerund (a verb ending with “ing” used as a noun). See what I mean?