Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Method in the Madness

“Fifty percent of what people say when they are joking is true, which means, you do wanna go to this wedding but you are too afraid to admit it. So, by making some sort of joke about it, you get to say what you really want without being vulnerable.”

The Sweetest Thing

So, you know I “joke” about wanting my students to stand up on their desks and salute me as their captain. I “joke” about it in my profile and I may have “joked” about it a few times in my posts.

So fine. Maybe there is a little truth to it. I mean, I don’t literally want my students to stand on their desks. Of course, if they felt compelled to, I wouldn’t tell them to get down, but that’s not really my main issue. I am envious of John Keating, not because his students saluted him as their "Captain," but because he taught literature.

I love literature, and I would love to teach it. Of course, I love grammar too, but there’s a different kind of pleasure that is derived from expounding on the proper uses of the comma than that of discussing the poetry that drips off the page of a Toni Morrison novel.

Well, today, while I was grading papers, something glorious happened: grammar and literature met. Some of my students’ work reminded me of these famous words from Hamlet:

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.”

These words were spoken by Polonius about Hamlet. This is a grammar blog so I won’t go into the context, but basically, what he is saying is that Hamlet is crazy, but within that craziness, there is some kind of cleverness- just like these sentences from my students:

I like all kinds of movies, but foreign films are my guilty pressure.

At first glance, it seems as though what she meant to write was guilty pleasure. But, let’s think about it for a second; maybe she did actually mean guilty pressure. He’s Just Not That into You is a guilty pleasure. 27 Dresses is a guilty pleasure. Basically, any movie starring Jennifer Aniston or Katherine Heigl is a guilty pleasure. But, foreign films not only often require the reading of subtitles but are also often complex and nuanced. Maybe this student knows she should watch Fellini and Godard, but would really rather watch Love Happens- hence her guilty pressure.

It made me believe that there was a chance to find someone who I could spend the rest of your life with.

This seems like pronoun madness, or is it? Maybe she’s just being realistic. Let’s do the math. This student is probably eighteen years old. By the time she finds someone to spend the rest of her life with, she’ll be, let’s guess, twenty-eight. By that time, I will be forty-four. With the divorce rate so high, she has more of a chance spending the rest of my life with someone than hers.

I need to learn how to chanel my artistic abilities.

This is definitely an error, but is it a spelling error or a capitalization error? She could want to learn how to channel her artistic abilities, but I do teach at a fashion college, so she could want to learn how to Chanel her artistic abilities. If she meant the latter, brilliant!

Speaking of Chanel, I wish my husband made enough money so I could afford a Chanel handbag.

I'm totally kidding.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Betty, She's So Hot Right Now

Happy Punctuation Day, Everyone!

In honor of this special day, I would like to present each punctuation mark with an award to show how much I appreciate them for what they do for our sentences:

To the comma, I am honored to present the illustrious Betty White Award.

Like Betty White, the comma is everywhere. You can nary turn on the TV without seeing Betty White, nor can you read a paragraph without seeing a comma. Although its range is impressive, the comma is most commonly known for separating items in a series, following introductory phrases, and setting off extra information.

The period gets the Fat Lady Sings Award.

When you see the period, my friends, that sentence is over.

Semi-colon, you get the Superman award.

The semi-colon is strong enough to hold together two complete sentences. That’s one thing you cannot say about a comma.

The dash receives one of my personal favorites: the Shot of Tequila Award.

Both add a little pizzazz to the occasion.

The exclamation point receives the notorious Tila Tequila Award.

Tila Tequila faked a pregnancy!
Tila Tequila tweeted that Rhianna has herpes!
Tila Tequila called the police on Nikky Hilton!

The question mark receives the '80s Appreciation Award.

The '80s wouldn't have been the '80s without this famous question:

Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?

Colon, you receive the Drum Roll Award.

When we see you, we know you are making some sort of announcement.

The apostrophe wins the Wedding Ring Award.

It shows possession.

The hyphen wins The Cupid Award.

Like Cupid’s arrow does to people, the hyphen brings two words together as one. Aaaaaah!

Parenthesis receive the Post Script Award.

The information provided within is not essential to the meaning of the sentence, but it's nice to know.

The ellipsis and brackets worked hard together this year to receive the The Yin Yang award.

The ellipsis taketh away words in a quote; the brackets giveth. Together they achieve perfect harmony.

The quotation marks win the highly coveted That’s What She Said Award.


Thank you once again, Punctuation Marks, for the great work you have done this year. In return, I will do my best to make sure my students stop neglecting and abusing you. If I can do that, I should receive the Miracle Worker Award.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Time to Move On

We Americans have been through a lot in the last decade: a terrorist attack, natural disasters, a couple of wars, and a moment there when it looked like Sarah Palin might have had a chance at the vice presidency. And, of course, the big one, the one we’re still reeling from: in just over a week, it will be the five year anniversary of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt’s divorce.

Can you believe it’s already been five years? It feels like it was just yesterday when the perfect marriage crumbled right before our eyes, causing us to lose faith in the sanctity of the institution of marriage. Look what it did to Tiger Woods’ marriage. Heidi and Spencer didn’t stand a chance.

So, I get it. I get it. Those of you who write isle when you should be writing aisle are not doing it on purpose. It’s just an unconscious protection mechanism taking you away from the thought of this aisle:

to this isle:

However, no matter how much it still hurts, it’s grammatically incorrect. So, let’s take a moment to remember all of the good things about aisles. Maybe then it will be easier.

It’s better to get an aisle seat on an airplane than a middle one:

This aisle has cookies:

And this couple walked down the aisle almost thirty years ago, and they are as happy as can be:

I wonder if Danny has a brother for Jen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lemonade, That Cool Refreshing Drink

Reba McEntire: "Last night I prayed the Lord my soul to keep, then I cried myself to sleep, so sure life wouldn't go on without you. But oh this sun is blinding me as it wakes me from the dark. I guess the world didn't stop for my broken heart."

Rascal Flatts: "What hurts the most, was being so close, and having so much to say, and watching you walk away."

Brad Paisley: "He put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger, and finally drank away her memory. Life is short but this time it was bigger than the strength he had to get up off his knees."

Let’s face it: country singers have mastered the art of making lemonade when life hands them lemons. Look at those lyrics: they take the saddest that life has to offer and create songs that, in many cases, make them millions of dollars. I believe this is Tim McGraw’s house:

Lesson learned. Instead of simply getting depressed by the silly errors my students continue to make no matter how many times I plead with them to PROOFREAD, I have decided to get creative.

Here’s my first glass of lemonade, if you will:

After reading an essay in which the student continually wrote pubic instead of public, I was inspired to create a new word: PUBICITY.

Pubicity is a more specific form of publicity. It is when someone uses his or her pubic area to get attention. One of the most extreme forms of pubicity, creating a sex tape and leaking it on the Internet, was used expertly by such greats as Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Britney Spears received pubicity back in 2007 when her sloppy departure from a limo revealed that she neglected to wear panties under a short skirt. The most common form of pubicity is wearing clothing that reveals or almost reveals the pubic area. Here are a couple examples:

In the picture below, I can't tell: is that pubicity in Jon Hamm's pocket or is he just happy to see me?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thanks for Nothing

I have never tried acid. This is why:

Actually, I wish I could say I never tried acid-washed jeans, but that would be a lie. I was a teen in the 80s; I not only wore them- I pegged them. However, I really have never tried acid, the drug. And this is really why:

One day, when I was in my early teens my mom told me about one of her tennis buddies who did acid back in the 60s. Apparently, it totally fried his brain, and he had to relearn how to walk and talk. This scared the shit out of me, so I never tried acid.

An actual horror story from someone you know is so much more effective than the facts and statistics that they feed you in school, don’t you think?

This is why I was so happy when the director of my campus shared this story with me:

Our campus has a career fair at the beginning of every quarter where employers come and hire our students. One of our students got hired, and as etiquette dictates, she mailed her future employer a thank you letter. The thank you letter, however, contained several grammar errors, so they unhired her.

I wasn’t happy that they unhired her; I was happy because finally, instead of hoping they'd just take my word for it, I had a real live story to prove to my students that grammar really does impact their lives.

So, yesterday, I relayed the story to my class.

Did they all bow in reverence to the comma? Did they vow to carry a pocket dictionary at all times? No. They got pissed:

“That’s not fair!”
“She was just trying to be nice!”
“I wouldn’t want to work for them anyways!”

I’m guessing that my story won’t herald in a golden era of grammar awareness, but rather a decrease in thank you notes.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hasn't Changed a Bit

A raw food diet?

The love of a man fifteen years her junior?

Having done it with the star of Die Hard?

Austrian leech therapy?

I will have sex with Bruce Willis while covered in leeches and eating a carrot and then marry a nineteen year old if I get to look like Demi Moore when I’m pushing fifty.

She claims to not have had any plastic surgery, and I kind of believe her. She doesn’t have the weird lips and pulled skin that other celebrities her age, like Courtney Cox and Meg Ryan, now have.

Because Demi Moore looks the same today as she did fifteen years ago, she reminds me a lot of the word read. It too looks the same in the present as it does in the past:

Present: I read every day.

Past: Yesterday, I read that Demi Moore uses leeches to detoxify her blood.

People often think that lead, like read, is the same in the past as it is in the present. But, they’re wrong. Lead gains an extra letter in the present that it didn’t have in the past:

Present: Please, lead me to your fountain of youth.

Past: Ghost was great, but you were led astray when you decided to star in Striptease.

Lead is more like Pamela Anderson than Demi Moore. Like lead, Pamela presently has a little something extra that she didn’t have in the past:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

I have played backgammon with a lot of men. No, that is not a euphemism. I love backgammon. And I love men. You’d think it would be as satisfying a combo as port and chocolate. The problem is that most men (in my experience) seem to be uncomfortable when they are beat by a girl. Therefore, when I am doing well, I encounter a lot of “Damn, you are so lucky. Doubles again! You are seriously the luckiest person I’ve ever played with!”

Of course, there is an element of luck, but come on, man. If I am repeatedly kicking your ass, then maybe give me a little credit. My husband is no different. When he said I was lucky one time too many times, I got so pissed off I slept on the couch.

It's the only time either one of us has slept on the couch (unless it was due to falling asleep watching Seinfeld reruns). We have a relatively harmonious relationship. Besides backgammon, the only other recurring source of contention between us is the English language.

He is Australian and, therefore, takes pride that his English is more closely related to the Queen’s English. I am an English teacher and take pride in the fact that I know when something is a matter of you say tomaito/I say tomahto and when it's an error. Therefore, we both always think we are right. (But I usually am.)

The other day, I was peeking over his shoulder while he was writing a work email. I saw that he had written that he wanted to inquire about something. “Honey, I think that’s supposed to be enquire,” I said. He disagreed, so I went straight to Google to prove him wrong.

What I found was very unsatisfying: we were both right. The British and Aussies tend to use inquire, while Americans tend to use enquire.

Okay, so he got lucky with that one.