Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Oscares

In the spirit of tomorrow’s Oscars, I'm thinking about hosting a little awards ceremony of my own. You see, in addition to the normal errors that most of us make, there are some extraordinary performances I've encountered in my time: some that make you laugh, some that make you cry, some that make you gasp in horror. They deserve recognition.

So, without further ado, I'd like to present the nominees for this year’s Oscares:

Nominee #1:

The first nominee exhibits innovation as well as a stunning disregard for spell check:

Hentz, it is important.

The creator of this error seems to have been inspired by a ketchup brand, a rental car company- or perhaps both.

Nominee #2:

Nominee #2 is another unique error. Like hentz, it screams, "Who needs spell check?" Although, this error may even be too intense for spell check to handle. Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to present Nominee #2:

I had the erg to tell someone about it.

Nominee #3:

Nominee #3 is a sequel. The student made this same error earlier in the quarter, which I pointed out and corrected before returning her essay. Apparently, she didn’t take heed as it resurfaced again this week, causing her instructor to question why she even bothers writing comments if her students don't bother reading them. Here it is for the second time:

We take many things for granite.

Or maybe my student was simply indicating that we mistake many things around us for intrusive, felsic, igneous rock.

Nominee #4:

Now, Nominee #4 is a very dangerous error to make, especially in this post 9/11 world where instructors are required to report any essay content that suggests a student may be a threat. It sounds like the author of Nominee #4 may be attending some kind of summer terrorist camp. Here's a clip:

When summer comes, I usually like going to the beach for bomb fires.

Nominee #5:

Nominee #5 is a light-hearted error. In fact, it's a musical and a 17th century period piece. Everyone clap in 3/4 time to:

It takes me twenty minuets to get to school.

And, the award goes to....

Oh, I can't decide. They are all so wonderful. I need your help. Which error should win the Oscare?

*This was actually a post from last year. But if the movie industry can recycle the same material over and over again, I figure I deserve one repost.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Times They Are a-Changin'

Apparently, I have always been kind of an overachiever. My mom told me that once, when I was a toddler, I refused to get out of the car for an hour until I had successfully tied my own shoes. And I remember that in third grade, because I was having such a hard time with cursive writing, I locked myself in my room and didn’t come out until I had written out an entire book in acceptable cursive.

And for what? A few short years after I nailed shoe tying, velcro became all the rage.

And now I hear that many elementary schools have stopped teaching cursive writing, claiming that it has become obsolete.

I’m not going to get all nostalgic about cursive. I’m left-handed. It was never really going to work. But its omission from the curriculum is making me think about what’s next on the chopping block.

With the advent of the calculator, is there still any point in teaching long division?

With the FDA’s decision to ease the restrictions on the lap band, will we still need PE.?

And what do you think about proper grammar? It already seems to be reinforced less and less in schools. Will it dwindle away until the spelling of a word is subjective? Will the semi-colon be dusted off and hung in a natural history museum? Or will there be a grammar renaissance?

Don’t be afraid to tell me what you really think. I’ll be okay either way. If need be, I’ll figure out something else to do with my life. I’ve always kind of wanted to be a truck driver. Or maybe I’ll catch a bus down to Zihuatanejo and see what Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are up to.

All I ask is that Heads Up Seven Up remains a classroom fixture.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Your Epidermis Is Showing

I still remember how vulnerable I felt when some kid came up to me during recess in elementary school and loudly announced that my epidermis was showing.

What was this epidermis he was speaking of? I remember not wanting to make it too obvious, but I really wanted to check to see if my fly was down.

Epidermis just sounds kind of naughty, doesn’t it? It doesn’t really sound like what it actually is: plain old skin.

Pinky, on the other hand, is the perfect word for the body part it represents- small and cute. Nipple too. Perky and fun.

Middle finger and back, on the other hand, are both terribly uninspired.

Well, to me, the word pithy is like epidermis. Pithy doesn’t sound like what it actually means.

To me, pithy sounds like a weak little word. Like pity or pissy.

But, in reality, it means just the opposite:

brief, succinct, meaty and meaningful in expression

For example:

“That was a great speech.”
“Yes, it was quite pithy.”


“Was it as good for you as it was for me?”
“Well, let’s just say it was pithy.”

Monday, February 7, 2011

It's a Conspiracy

I always appreciate it when someone holds the door open for me as I am about to enter an establishment. However, let’s say I walk up to Starbucks and nobody opens the door for me. Does that mean I am going to wait there until somebody comes along to open it for me? Am I going to turn around and go home? No. I am going to open the door myself.

This is why I can never quite accept “But my iPhone always does it for me” as a legitimate excuse when I point out to my students that their words are missing apostrophes.

The iPhone is like that mother who does everything for her son so when he does finally move out he doesn’t even know how to boil water.

The iPhone adds our apostrophes, it fixes our spelling errors, it distracts us from work and studying with all of its super cool apps. And why? Out of the kindness of its own heart? I don’t think so. I have this theory.

Have you heard of IBM's Watson? It’s expected to be the world’s most advanced question answering machine. They’ve already tested it by pitting it against human contestants in Jeopardy and, although it doesn't get every answer correct, it defeated its two opponents, winning $18,400 to their $12,000 each.

I think that all technology is working together to make humans dumber so that Watson will actually beat Ken Jennings’ Jeopardy record.

Then, who knows what those computers will get up to once they’ve got their hands on all that money. They’ll probably stage a “moon landing" or go hang out with Elvis and Tupac.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

But It's Important

If I could be anyone for a day, who would it be?

Gee. I don’t know. That’s a tough one. My gut reaction is to say Vanessa Paradis because for one glorious day I would be the wife of Johnny Depp. But before I commit to that, I need to call my lawyer to make sure that having sex with another man whilst supernaturally inhabiting the body of his wife is not technically considered cheating.

It would also be kind of cool to be a cop for a day. I would relish the power of having everyone slam on their brakes and slow down to the speed limit as soon as they see me.

Wait. No. I’ve got it! I know who I’d be. Kanye West.

I am such a non-confrontational person so it would be thrilling to experience the, I don’t know what to call it- confidence, gall, narcissism- of the man who thought it was totally acceptable to storm on stage and interrupt Taylor Swift’s speech to share his opinion with the world.

I know what you’re thinking. He’s not the same man he was back then. He’s been working on becoming more humble.

Well, maybe he’s working on it, but from his behavior on January 26 of this year, I think he is still quite self-important.

I am basing my opinion about Kanye on a theory I have formulated over the years. My theory is that, although technically we are supposed to capitalize proper nouns- words that represent a unique, specific entity- many of us tend to simply capitalize words that are important to us.

For example, a lot of people incorrectly capitalize the terms bachelor’s degree and master’s degree. Don’t get me wrong, these degrees are very important. I mean, without a bachelor’s, many of us would have no idea how to work a beer bong. But, we don’t capitalize it when we are talking about the degree in general, only when we are referring to the specific name of the degree:

I have a bachelor’s degree vs. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree.

We also capitalize college degrees when we are using the initials:

A.A., B.A, B.S., M.B.A., Ph.D.

We also tend to capitalize the words mom and dad all the time. Now, these are two very important people, but we only capitalize mom and dad when we can substitute the words mom and dad with their names.

My dad’s name is Bruce. In the following sentence, it makes sense when I substitute the word dad with Bruce, so I capitalize the word dad:

I just spoke to Dad.
I just spoke to Bruce.

However, in the following sentence, it doesn’t make sense when I substitute Bruce for dad, so I don’t capitalize dad:

I just spoke to my dad.
I just spoke to my Bruce.

Basically, when my (or any other possessive pronoun) proceeds the words mom and dad, we don’t capitalize them.

Now, back to Kanye:

These are his January 26, 2011 tweets:




Every single letter is capitalized! He must believe that, not just every word, but every single letter he writes is important.

I I would ide to know how that feels.