Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Hump Day

This is an especially meaningful Hump Day for me because I just made it over a hump that rivals Kim Kardashian’s.

Just when I thought I had nothing left to write about grammar, my editor requested fifty more pages. But I did it, and I sent them off this morning!

I am excited because now I have more time to dedicate to my new Mad Men addiction and to getting back to reading your blogs—sorry, I’ve been MIA this week.

But I wanted to drop in and say hi and to let you know I’ve missed you. Oh, and I also want to tell you about this new religion I’m thinking about joining. I have been reading about it in my students’ critical thinking papers I'm currently grading in which I have them analyze an interview between Bill O’Reilly and Marilyn Manson.

I, of course, watched the interview, but my students are picking up on something I must have missed. Several of them have pointed out that Bill O’Reilly accused Marilyn Manson of being a member of the Church of Satin.

I’m sure some of you are already familiar with this Satin religion. What do the Satinists believe in?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Do You Know Where You're Going To?

Riddle me this:

Why did the first American settlers never capitalize north, south, east, and west?

Contestant #1: Is it because north, south, east and west are never capitalized?


Contestant #2: Is it because they were from England and the Brits don’t capitalize north, south, east, and west?


Contestant #3: Does this have anything to do with the fact that the first true American settlers were Native American Indians and they didn’t speak English?

Well, Contestant #3, you have a point but I am talking about the settlers that dressed in black and white, wore buckled shoes and hitched a ride on the Mayflower, so …


Here is the answer to the riddle, my friends.

The reason the first American settlers would never have capitalized north, south, east, or west is because we only capitalize these words when they are referring to specified regions of the country, and since the settlers had just arrived, they wouldn’t have specified any regions yet.


We don’t capitalize north, south, east and west when we’re using them to indicate compass directions, so the settlers would have used the non-capitalized versions:

Hester, I’m going to head north and see if I can find any firewood.

Would you like to settle east or west of the river, Samuel?

Today, it’s different. Now that we’ve settled all over the country, we use the words north, south, east and west to refer to specific regions of the country, not only compass directions.

When I say I am going to head to the South to visit family, I capitalize it because I am referring to this specific region:

(I am also lying because I don’t have any family there.)

I live in Southern California (a region that refers to the Los Angeles and San Diego areas), so if I said that I was going to head south, I would end up in Mexico.

But with my sense of direction, I would probably end up in Canada.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Celebrate Your Celestial Body

Yesterday, a student asked me how I felt about Valentine’s Day.

I realized I’m kind of ambivalent about it. One the one hand, how lovely to dedicate an entire day to celebrating love! On the other hand, shouldn’t every day be Valentine’s Day? Shouldn’t I be showered with jewels and chocolates and flowers and cards and expensive dinners and romance every day of the year?

Do holidays like Valentine’s Day allow us to take our loved ones for granted during the remaining 364 days?

It’s really Earth Day that got me thinking about this. We celebrate Earth Day on April 22, but for the rest of the year, we seem to take our planet for granted.

I say this because we capitalize the word Earth in Earth Day, but we don’t consistently capitalize it otherwise.

Now, I realize that earth should not be capitalized when we use it to refer to dry land or dirt; I’m talking about when we’re referring to our planet.

It's not fair; we capitalize the other planets. Saturn already has those cool rings, Mars houses weird green creatures with three eyes, Uranus is the butt of lots of jokes, AND they get capital letters.

We only capitalize words like earth, moon, and sun when they appear in a context with other capitalized celestial bodies.

Example: The sun heats the earth, and the moon provides the earth with swiss cheese.

Example: I don’t care if Jupiter is big and Venus is sexy; I prefer to live on Earth.

It’s as though we esteem the other planets more than our own.

Shouldn’t we capitalize the word earth even when it’s not in the same sentence as the other planets? Shouldn’t we celebrate our planet? Every day should be Earth Day!

I’m so upset, I am thinking about driving my Escalade straight over to my local congressman’s office. But first I need to calm down; I think I’ll take a long, hot shower.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Don't Get Sad; Get Even

When I was in eighth grade, this guy named Chris dumped me out of nowhere after two weeks of what I thought had been total bliss.

I was devastated. I would come home from school, lock myself in my room, listen to my U2 Joshua Tree cassette tape over and over again, and ask myself why Chris still hadn’t found what he was looking for in me. Was it my bangs? Were they not big enough? Was it my jeans? Were they not acid-washed enough?

I was so depressed even my teachers noticed.

If I could turn back time, I would have handled things a bit differently. Instead of suffering, I would have made Chris suffer.

In fact, I would have started a club called the All-Ex-Self-Esteem club. My club would have focused on preserving post break-up self-esteem by engaging in activities against all exes.

The boys in the club would have been responsible for smearing Nair into our ex-boyfriends’ football helmets. The girls in the club would have befriended club members’ ex-girlfriends and put laxatives into their Diet Cokes. There would have been egging and TPing and rumor spreading. It would have been grand!

In addition to helping us poor dumpees maintain our fragile junior high self-esteem, the All-Ex-Self-Esteem club would have helped us grammatically—it would have helped us remember when to use hyphens.

When used as prefixes, the words all, ex and self use hyphens:

all-encompassing, all-knowing, all-inclusive

ex-boyfriend, ex-wife, ex-patriot, ex-Patriot's fan

self-loathing, self-satisfied, self-aware

A club that builds self-esteem and grammar skills! It's not too late. Who’s in? I’ll provide the Nair.

(Do they even still make Nair?)