Monday, October 18, 2010

Confessions of a Grammar Nazi

No, you couldn’t tell by reading my column, or my books, or my blog, or anything else I write, but, I guess, I’m a grammar nazi. Reading some Facebook comments following a post by Alyson Low, this revelation hit me like a sack full of mud. I realize I have no right, but I get really irritated by the little things.
The catalyst for the conversation regarded the use of the word “less” in place of the appropriate word, “fewer.” It’s done all the time – even on TV commercials. This particular one was a TV network that advertised “less commercials.” Alyson explained that "Less" is a modifier for singular nouns, not plural ones. I don’t know if that’s how the rule is stated, having been blissfully unconcerned with such matters when I was expected to be learning them, but it sounds right. I’ve always applied my own rule that “less” would be used in reference to something in the abstract – say, “money” – and “fewer” would be used in reference to something more concrete – like, “dollars.” Less intelligence. Fewer brain cells.
Now, because I am so miffed by seemingly insignificant things like this, some would comment, “Rick, your a jerk.” And, this would just cause me to think “My what is a jerk?” See? The word is a contraction, joining the words “you” and “are.” I’m not angry because you called me a jerk. My wife calls me that all the time. I’m angry because you did it wrong. I wouldn’t say “My a jerk.” I’d say “I’m a jerk.”
Then, somebody might come along and write “Rick, you’re right about this, but you’re letting yourself get a little to upset about it.” And that would upset me even more. What does that mean? I’m letting myself get a little…to upset about what? I realize that the “to/too” thingamajig is an easy typo, and not necessarily indicative of the writer’s mastery of the English language, as much as, perhaps, there typing skills, but, when it happens every time it causes me to wonder. My son called me one day and told me I’d made this same mistake in my latest novel. He was right. But THAT was a typo!
Uh huh. Back up there in that last paragraph, I said “there typing skills.” That’s another one I’m seeing run rampant on the pages of Facebook. Just wanted to see if you’d catch it. Typing skillls? Where? Every time I see something like this, I instinctively duck my head, expecting to be whacked on the back of the neck with a ruler by Ms. Pittman or Ms. Felts. No, they didn’t really do that, but those red circles on the pages were probably more painful.
Come on, people! It’s a complicated set of rules, but the concept of adherence to their usage is the reason they’re there. There, there. Don’t be too mad at me for bringing it up to you, two times in the same paragraph. I know you’re aware that it’s your language, too. Truth is, if you simply want to ignore these rules, there are ways you can do it and never get caught. First, you could become a writer. We do it all the time. People who are smart enough to catch the faux pas don’t know if they’re really mistakes, or we’re using creative license – doing it for effect. Or, is that “affect”? Let the editor figure it out.
The second way to avoid this grammatical bondage is to join the texting generation. Do it while you’re driving, and maybe putting on lipstick and talking on your other phone, in a school zone, at 8 am, going 40 mph. You’ll fit right in.

“OMG ur so sweet 2 LMK iv got 2 cops OMT! Luv u 2!”


Book signings for PURITY and DINNER with WT are tentatively set for November 20, a Saturday, at Paper Chase in Batesville. Call them too get you’re books reserved. We hope to see you their!

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