Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jews for Christmas

**Grammar errors in this post are intentional. You'll see what I mean.**

“On Yentl and Moishe and Yaakov and Hymie. On Lazer on Tzeitel on Velvel and Chayim,” a Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof look-a-like wearing a furry blue and silver suit hollers to his team of oxen. One hand on his head making sure he doesn’t loose his yamulcuh in the decent and the other hand gripping a bag full of toys, every Hanukkah good ole Hershel Stein (as jolly as can be expected in today’s day and age) visits the homes of all the Jewish children. In exchange for the Manischewitz and rugelach awaiting him, Hershel brings every Jewish child eight toys (provided they weren’t on the meshugeners list). The children try to wait up to catch a glimpse of old Hershel, but always fall asleep to their favorite holiday cartoon, The Schmuck Who Borrowed Hanukkah. Only after Hershel shoots back up the chimney and finally gets comfortable in his cart (the ascension triggering his chronic lower back pain), the sleeping children are gently stirred from visions of matzo balls dancing the Hora as he bellows, “Happy Hanukkah to all and to all a gute nakht!”

That’s my fantasy Hanukkah. I know it looks a lot like Christmas, but growing up as a Jew in the U.S., all I wanted was to be able too celebrate Christmas. Christmas came with dozens of delightful carols; Hanukkah had one twenty-one word dreidel song that was to be repeated ad nauseam. Christmas cartoons were the best; Hanukkah cartoons were non-existent. Christmas had Santa and reindeer and Frosty and trees and ornaments; Hanukkah was rumored to have a bush. While all the other kids in my first grade class were cutting out there construction paper Christmas trees, I was the only kid cutting out a menorah (which, by the way, is a lot more intricate then a Christmas tree).

I know what your going to say: Christmas only has one night of gifts while Hanukkah has eight. Technically, Hanukkah has eight, but at least in my family, it really only had one good one. On the first night, my siblings and I did get some good gifts, but by night two the gift quality quickly downgraded to socks and underwear. And it was a rare Hanukkah that we even remembered to light the candles on night three.

But I’ll stop kvetching. I’m an adult now, and I’ve left my Christmas envy in the passed. In fact, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah. To celebrate the eight nights of Hanukkah, I have included eight grammatical errors in this post. Their not tricky ones, like commas or semicolons; they’re all commonly confused word errors (i.e., there/they’re/their). List the errors in the comments section, and you will get one point per correct answer. I’ll do a drawing, and the winner will win a fabulous pair of socks!

(If you find more than eight errors, remember that the Christmas season is a very sensitive time for me.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Where Have All the Cusacks Gone?

Bill Maher said, “Any teacher that says, 'I learn as much from my students as they learn from me' is a shitty teacher and must be fired.”

If he’s right, then I am an extra shitty teacher: I don’t learn as much from my students as they learn from me; I learn more.

Judging from the research essays I’m in the midst of grading, my students haven’t learned anything from me at all. They’re not citing their sources correctly, they're sticking apostrophes in non-possessive plurals, they’re comma splicing like WE DIDN’T GO OVER IT A MILLION TIMES.

I did, however, learn something fascinating from them yesterday. One of my male students bragged to the class that he scored a date with a girl because she was impressed that he asked her out in person rather than by text.

I learned that a young man asking a young woman out in person these days is as rare as a student starting an essay earlier than five minutes before it’s due. Apparently, the preferred methods are text messages and Facebook.

Not only are texting and Facebook ruining this generation’s grammar; they are depriving them of life-changing, potentially wonderful, definitely awkward interactions. And you know what that means: the screenwriters from this generation are going to write terrible romantic movies.

Imagine: In their version of The Notebook, Noah and Allie would Facebook each other. Jerry Maguire would simply text Dorothy, “You complete me.” And in Say Anything, Lloyd Dobler would tweet Diane Court a link to “In Your Eyes,” (which would be a Justin Bieber remake).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How to Maintain an Erect Part(iciple)

Honk! Honk! Beep! Beep! HOOOONK!

Don’t you love that sound? It’s the sweet sound of burgeoning grammar awareness.

As many of you know, I converted my car into a grammarmobile, and this is the front right bumper:

Therefore, I can only assume that my fellow drivers have been honking their horns at me because they are participle danglers. Since admitting there’s a problem is said to be the first step on the road to recovery, I’m quite optimistic that we’re heading in the right direction. And it’s pretty cool that so many people, especially those driving behind me in the fast lane, know what a dangling participle is.

However, it was brought to my attention the other day that not everyone knows what it means to dangle one’s participle, so allow me to explain.

Let’s start with a non-dangling participle. Let’s call it, I don’t know, what’s the opposite of dangling? How about an erect participle? We want our participles to be erect, like this one:

Driving through the streets, I am trying to spread grammar awareness.

Driving through the streets is my participial phrase. A participial phrase is (and I am oversimplifying here, but it will work for our purposes) a phrase at the beginning of a sentence that starts with an ing word.

When a sentence opens with a participial phrase, the participial phrase should modify the subject of the sentence. And in the aforementioned sentence it does. I am the one driving through the streets.

On the other hand, here is an example of a dangling participle:

Honking their horns, I am delighted by the grammar enthusiasm of my fellow drivers.

The participle is dangling because honking their horns is not modifying the subject of the sentence, which is I; it is actually modifying my fellow drivers. Here’s one way to revise it:

Honking their horns, my fellow drivers express their grammar enthusiasm.

And now that I have clarified the definition of a dangling modifier, I have a question for you about another phenomenon I frequently experience on the road. What is the grammatical significance of sticking one’s hand out the driver’s side window and dangling the pinky, ring finger, pointer finger and thumb whilst maintaining an erect middle finger?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Spotless Minds

I am not a perfectionist. There is definitely a point when I am more than happy to give up even if I haven’t achieved my desired outcome:

If the pasta recipe requires capers but unscrewing the jar causes me to shvitz, screw the capers.

I’m content if I do most of the dishes.

I am fine with a lumpily-made bed.

Unfortunately, I want to be perfect. Or at least I want everyone else to think I’m perfect. I cringe at the thought of others witnessing my mistakes. That’s why it’s so painful to look at photos of myself from the 80s when I was into heavy blue eyeliner and acid washed jeans.

Consequently, every time I discover that I have made an error, I want to pull an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind procedure on anyone who has witnessed it so we can all start over with an unblemished image of me.

That means that I would like to erase all of your memories right now.

I just learned that it’s incorrect to write or say with regards to and in regards to—with the s. The correct form is singular: with regard to and in regard to.

I am sure my past blog posts repeatedly contain this error. And since I write a, you know, grammar blog, it’s extra embarrassing that I have repeatedly committed a grammar error. But since I am not a perfectionist, I am too lazy to go back and correct it.

So if these guys show up at your door

you'll know why.