Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Blind Feeling the Wife

When I was little, my mom and dad arrived home earlier than expected from a party. My mom explained to me that they left early because everyone started playing a game they didn’t like. In this game, someone was blindfolded, and the blindfolded person was to see if he or she could identify his or her spouse by touching members of the opposite sex.

My mom sounded kind of disgusted when she told me, and I remember thinking that it did sound like a super boring game. But for some reason it stuck with me, and then at some point when I was older, it hit me: those adults were dabbling in some light swinging. (And that my parents are total prudes!)

Even though I would really only want to play that game if I were partying with Jon Hamm, Clive Owen, and Johnny Depp, I always wondered if I would be able to identify my partner through touch. 

I would feel badly if I wasn’t able to. What I mean by that is that I would be bad at feeling in the sense that I would not be good at perceiving or examining by touch. 

I would also feel bad if I couldn’t identify my partner.
By that, I mean that my state of mind would be affected: I would feel inadequate because I hadn’t memorized every inch of his body.

Feel is an interesting verb. It swings both ways. Sometimes it’s an action verb and sometimes it’s a linking verb.
An action verb is just what it sounds like: a verb that expresses an action (e.g., jump, run, grope).

Feel can be an action: 

My hand must have slipped; I meant to feel her arm.

A linking verb, on the other hand, describes a state of being. It “links” the subject to an adjective (a word that describes the subject). Some of the most famous linking verbs are is, are, were, was, and am. For example, in the following sentence, the linking verb are links the word biceps to a word that describes them: 

His biceps are larger than her husband’s.

Feel can also link a subject to a description of that subject: 

I feel excited when the blindfolded man touches me.

I feel bad that I feel excited when the blindfolded man touches me. 

The moral of the story is that it’s correct to say “I feel bad” when describing your state of mind. 

Now, who wants to play?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Grammarmobile (Re)rises

As many of you know, last year, I converted my car into a grammarmobile. Well, a few months ago, I was driving along in my grammarmobile promoting grammar awareness throughout the streets of Orange County, and this bitc ..., I mean woman, one lane over was as passionate about making a right hand turn as I am about grammar. Consequently, she didn’t seem to care that there was actually a car in the right lane. So my grammarmobile and I plowed right into her--and the grammarmobile was totalled. 

But ... there’s good news. 

The police officer deemed it her fault (even though she totally started crying and complaining of a sore neck as soon as the cops arrived).

And, more important, I got a new car and made a new and improved grammarmobile. 

Finally, I can return to my career as a grammar vigilante--fighting grammar crimes and protecting punctuation. AND it's eco-friendly.

Check her out: 

Do you think I should add more punctuation marks (because I've got 'em), or do you like it as is? 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


House Bunny is one of the movies that you have to watch several times to fully grasp because it’s so highly nuanced, but the plot basically goes like this: 

Anna Faris’s character, who is a Playboy Bunny, awakes on her 27th birthday to find a note by Hugh Hefner telling her she’s too old and she has to pack up and leave the mansion.  She leaves immediately, and she ends up as house mother of a super nerdy sorority. Hilarity ensues. Then, it turns out Hef didn’t actually kick her out; it was a jealous Playboy Playmate who forged the note. 

So let’s say you’re Ana Faris’s character on the morning of your 27th birthday, but instead of leaving the mansion, you want to convince Hef that even though you’re an over-the-hill 27-year-old you don’t deserve to be kicked out? What steps would you take?

I would make sure my hair was peroxided super blonde, and I would make sure that my head was the only place on my body with hair. I would obviously spray tan. And I would make sure to mention how I hate wearing panties.

My students, on the other hand, would dye their hair gray, let the bikini wax grow out, and talk about physics.

I say that because my students can be so clueless when trying to state their case. 

After I post grades at the end of every quarter, I inevitably receive emails from students asking why they failed my class. And these emails are unfailingly the most grammatically disastrous emails I receive. Here are some examples:

hi jenny i had a few questions about my final grade

how did i end up with my final grade being an F?

I was kinda sad that i got a d, i thought i would get an B- or a C+, anyways im sure i deserved that grade but I thought I would get a good grade on the final so I was wondering if you clarify why.

i am very displeased with failing your class. An I don't agree with your assumption of failure. I would like to review this over in person with you and the director beacuse i don't feel  i should have to repeat the course. Thank you and I look forward to speaking to you.    

This never ceases to amaze me. I’m not particularly subtle about my enthusiasm for proper grammar. They know I am the crazy English teacher who drives a grammarmobile. If you are going to take the time to write one grammatically correct email, wouldn’t it be the one appealing to your English teacher to change your grade?

Can anyone explain this phenomenon?

It’s like telling Hugh Hefner he should reconsider kicking you out of the Playboy Mansion because you plan to put on twenty pounds and get a boob reduction.

Monday, July 2, 2012

I Am Not a Hypocrite

Sometimes, I am afraid of being thought of as the Rush Limbaugh of grammar. You know what I mean:  Rush spoke out against drugs and then got arrested for drug use whereas I speak out against grammar errors and then occasionally (okay, maybe more than occasionally) commit them myself. 

Lest you consider me a hypocrite, I’d like to take this moment to remind you that I am not promoting grammar perfection; I am promoting grammar awareness. In addition to making errors myself, I certainly don’t know every single grammar rule. In fact, I am totally unsure about the grammar pet peeve expressed in this review I just read on Good Reads:  

Like everyone else, I've got personal pet peeves when it comes to grammar. Here’s an example of something that makes me cringe: He poured himself a cup of coffee. Arrrrgh! That and countless other variations of it make their way into writing every day. In actuality, he didn't pour himself; he poured a cup of coffee for himself. Do I understand the meaning of the first version? Sure I do, but the writer might just as well write: Throw me down the stairs my shoes.

Here’s the thing: He poured himself a coffee doesn’t seem incorrect to me. 

After I read the review, I decided to investigate. My first stop: reflexive pronouns (i.e., himself, herself, myself). We use reflexive pronouns to refer back to the subject of the sentence. The following two examples were provided as the correct way to use reflexive pronouns:

Bob is going to buy himself one of those new cell phones.

Mary sent herself a copy.

If the person who wrote the review is correct, then wouldn’t these examples be incorrect? 

By the reviewer’s logic, Bob’s not buying himself; he’s buying a cell phone for himself. Mary didn’t send herself; she sent a copy to herself. 

The reviewer seems so certain it’s making me insecure.

What do you guys think?