Tuesday, May 24, 2011

If You Just Tell Me Nicely

When I heard about the Arnold Schwarzenegger scandal, I wasn’t at all surprised at his behavior. Just like I can’t help but associate Richard Gere with gerbils (sorry, Richard) and Mel Gibson with anti-Semitism, to me Schwarzenegger will forever be associated with groping.

What does surprise me is how far Schwarzenegger went to keep all of his indiscretions hidden. I just read an article on the Daily Beast that claimed Schwarzenegger hired an attorney who would discredit the women who accused Schwarzenegger of groping. He also hired a private investigator to protect him from any potential scandals. And apparently, through some complicated transaction, Schwarzenegger even became the executive editor of certain tabloid magazines so he could control any content that might expose him.

This terrifies me. If his scandal could leak despite all of these precautions, then I’m totally screwed. I might as well just come clean.

Like many scandals, mine takes place in a hotel room.

A few weeks ago, my friend texted me a picture of this sign from her hotel room:

She asked whether the sign was grammatically incorrect because it asked “would you please consider using your towel more than once,” but it didn’t end in a question mark.

I said it was.

Well, I was wrong.

I just read this in Punctuation Plain & Simple: “A rhetorical question, which may be simply a polite request, ends with a period.”

This was the example it gave:

Will you please forward our mail to the new address.

Maybe I didn’t know this because my requests are rarely polite.

I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family regarding my mistake. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused.

Will you please accept my apology.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Little Miss Can Be Wrong

I should be ashamed of myself. I am currently experiencing schadenfreude. Yes, I am totally delighting in others’ misfortune. To make matters worse, I am delighting in the misfortune of my students. And to make matters even worse, I am delighting in their grammatical misfortunes.

I don’t typically delight in my students’ grammatical errors. That would be like Jillian Michaels delighting in weight gain or Tim Gunn delighting in awkward dress proportions.

But this error is awesome. In my six years of teaching this stuff, it’s the first time I have seen it. Not only that, it has already appeared in three different students’ essays. My friends, I may have discovered the newest in grammar error trends.

Are you ready? Here you go:

This conflict was due to a miss understanding.

The arguments made in the article were miss leading.

It was based on a miss interpretation of the material.

The reason I love this error so much is it reminds me of the Little Miss book series I loved as a child:

My students’ errors inspired me to think about creating a more adult Little Miss series.

For example, Little Miss Interpretation would be that one friend that always over analyzes everything. Little Miss Judgment would be the critical, bitchy one. Little Miss Taken would be the serial monogamist.

Who would you add to the adult Little Miss series?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Friend or Foe

I was watching some kids build sand castles together on the beach over the weekend, and I got all nostalgic about how nice it was being a kid when friendships were so simple. I started thinking back to my childhood friendships, and I realized something: the course of true friendship never did run smooth. I specifically remember talking shit behind a friend’s back as early as the third grade.

One woman who has had a particularly difficult time maintaining friendships is Paris Hilton. She has feuded with Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian, and most famously, Nicole Richie.

I am actually surprised that Paris has experienced so much friend drama because she is the only person I have heard of who has a system in place to test whether or not potential friends have her best interest at heart. Here’s what she does:

"I have this great test to see if a girl's a real friend. When we're shopping I'll pick out an outfit that I know looks hot and one that is awful. If my friend says the bad one looks good, I know she's not a good friend."

Now that I think about it, I can see how this backfired; there is one major flaw in her logic. This is what she thinks is hot:

I’m afraid she may have mistakenly written off a lot of potential friends who did, in fact, have her best interest at heart by suggesting that she perhaps choose a dress that's not held together by safety pins or that perchance she try a thinner belt or that she may want to seriously consider an accessories reduction.

The moral of the story: unless you have a pretty strong grasp of the subject at hand, you may not know whether the advice you are receiving is valid or not.

This is the problem I have with Microsoft Word’s Grammar Checker and other grammar checking software. Much of the advice they give is misleading or confusing if you don’t already have a fairly sophisticated understanding of grammar.

Blindly trusting Grammar Checker can be dangerous because sometimes it actually gives the wrong advice, or it recommends a sentence that is technically correct but doesn’t quite capture the tone of the writing. And recently, one of my colleagues and I trialed this new grammar software called Grammarly.com. Like Grammar Checker, some of its suggestions were also flat out incorrect, and because its explanations require its users to have a fairly sophisticated understanding of grammar concepts and jargon, I'm not sure it will be helpful to those who aren't grammar savvy.

Do you agree? Are the existing grammar checkers too sophisticated for grammar neophytes? Or am I just talking shit again?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Your Own Personal Geezus

I don’t usually like to mix my grammar with religion, but I may have just read some breaking religious news, and I want to share it with you.

According to Wikipedia, there are 38,000 Christian denominations. That’s not the breaking news. This is: soon, there may be 38,001.

I don’t have the details, but based on an essay my student wrote about religious iconography, I think there may be a new denomination. It seems to be some version of Christianity, but with some interesting differences.

First of all, the h has been dropped from Christ. In this denomination, the name is Crist. The elimination of the silent h leads me to believe that this particular denomination is very ascetic—only requiring the bare essentials.

Another difference is that Satan is referred to as Sateen. I don’t quite know how to interpret this. A silky devil? A teen devil? A silky teen devil?

Lastly, instead of martyred, Crist was mortared. Interesting. I’ll have to ask my student exactly what that means.

And when I ask him, even though I’m not a religion expert, I think I will give him one piece of spiritual advice:

Use spell check religiously!