Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fancy a Quickie?

I am aware that there is a time and a place for a quickie, but overall don’t you think that the experience and the result are more satisfying when we take our time?

And I’m not just talking about you know; I’m talking about the way we go about things in general.

On the one hand, we do seem to value the idea of taking our time with sayings like “stop and smell the roses” and fables like “The Tortoise and the Hare.” But on the other hand, we are a culture of multi-tasking, microwave dinners and George Clooney’s relationships.

Many of my students think they are “bad” writers because it takes them a long time to write an essay. I tell them that good writing usually does take a long time. Snooki’s bestselling book wasn’t built in a day, I reassure them. In fact, one of my favorite sayings about writing, which I include on my syllabus, is this one from Enrique Jardiel Poncela: “When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.”

There’s the brainstorming of the essay, the organizing of ideas, the first draft, the proofreading, the looking up of grammar rules you’re unsure about (I know, and Snooki actually wrote her book), the final draft, the proofreading, the having someone else proofread it, the next revision, and then the having it notarized and emblazoned with the family crest.

So I feel like such a hypocrite when I give my class an in-class essay. I am, aren’t I? Should I nix the in-class exams? Or is there a place for timed writing?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How Many People Have You Slept With?

When I was little, I was so accurate with numbers. When someone would ask my age, I would answer, “I’m five and three quarters and seven days and…” I would stall as I checked my Smurfette watch,” three hours.” Ask me today, and I’d say 29—the same age I have been claiming for the past five years. I think it’s fair to say that as we get older we start manipulating numbers to suit our needs.

  • Boyfriend: How many guys have you been with?

Girlfriend: Quite a few more than the number I am about to give you.

  • Girl: How tall are you?

Boy: I’m five el…I mean, six feet.

  • Driver’s License Renewal Form Question: Weight?

Me: The number I am going to weigh after I finish the diet I will be starting tomorrow.

Although I partially blame this numbers-gone-wild attitude for our confusion regarding how to express numbers when we write, the main reason many of us get confused about when to actually spell out the number or when to use the symbol is because there’s really no accepted industry consensus. Some writing style guides require us to spell out the number if it can be expressed in two words or fewer (twenty-nine, seven, one hundred). Others require us to only spell out the numbers less than 10 (29, seven, 100). Others require us to use Roman numerals within XIV minutes of eating Italian food (XXIX, VII, C).

Because different industries and academic disciplines ascribe to different style guides, it’s probably a good idea to ask your bosses and instructors which they prefer. If you ask them and they look at you like you are crazy, then the good news is that you get to choose your own style.

I am going to choose to follow the easiest style: the one that says to only spell out numbers less than 10. I simply don’t have time for anything complicated because I’m very busy planning my next 29th birthday.

Monday, October 10, 2011

What a Wonderful Word

I revisited the Johnny Depp movie Don Juan DeMarco on Netflix a few days ago. I saw it in the theatre when it first came out in 1994 when I was a newborn. Okay, fine, I wasn’t a newborn in 1994; I was a toddler. Okay, fine, I wasn’t a toddler either; I was nineteen. You do the math. On second thought…don’t.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Don Juan DeMarco. Have you seen it? Johnny Depp’s unbearably hot character believes he’s Don Juan DeMarco, the world’s best lover. Everyone else believes he’s delusional. One of the movie’s major themes is the question of whether or not it’s okay to live in a fantastical, delusional reality. In my opinion, the movie argues that it is, in fact, okay to create one’s own reality.

So I’m going to create my own reality. In my delusion of grandeur, I believe I owe everyone an apology. In this delusion, you have all been wondering why I didn’t post last week. You’ve been experiencing terrible grammar withdrawals. You’ve been contacting one another in a panic wondering if anyone has heard from me.

Well, you can relax now. I’m back. It’s been a crazy month because my two very best friends got married within a few weeks of each other. I have, consequently, been organizing wedding showers, bachelorette parties, strippers, and toasts.

Both weddings were beautiful, but I can’t help wishing that I could turn back time so that I could have read the article 14 More Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent before I gave my toast on Saturday. There are definitely some words I could have used that would have made me sound more worldly.

I could have, for example, said that my friend experienced koi no yokan when she first met her husband. That’s a Japanese word that means “upon first meeting a person you know that the two of you will fall in love.”

I might have been able to work in the Brazilian word cafune, which means “tenderly running your fingers through your lover’s hair.” Although, that may have been a bit creepy.

I would have definitely said that my friend loves her husband so much that she often experiences gren-jai. That’s a Thai word that means “the feeling you get when you don’t want someone to do something for you because it would be a pain for them.” I have never personally experienced that feeling, but my friend is much nicer than I am.

However, as I said, the weddings were great, and the last one was especially crazy. I mean, you know it’s a good wedding when half the guests had to rhwe. That’s a Tsongan word that means “to sleep on the floor without a mat while drunk and naked.”