Here’s a little lesson in humility for the following:
* Every North American who sees no value in learning our own language well, let alone anyone else’s
* Every North American who makes fun of people who come from other countries and struggle to live in our country, learn our culture, and speak our language
Over the years, I have led numerous grammar “review” sessions at various colleges and universities where I’ve been a professor. These sessions cover the three major problem areas for most people:
3. Irregular verbs, especially transitive and intransitive (the biggies are lie vs. lay)
Did you notice how I put the word review in quotation marks? That’s because, for many of my students, it’s the first time they’ve ever heard it.
Of course there are other trouble spots. These are the main ones that lots of people get wrong, including many “professional” writers. Again, note my use of quotation marks.
In all my years of review sessions with hundreds of students, most of whom have come through our public K-12 schools, I have met only one student who already knew this material thoroughly — knew it so well, in fact, that he was able to stay one step ahead for most of the review session.
Want to know where he’s from?
*PS: If you caught all eight errors in my headline, then you are probably either: a) as frustrated as I am at the appalling state of language instruction in the United States; or b) foreign.
In today’s headlines, we have this little gem from The Huffington Post:
New Hampshire Republican lawmaker Peter Hansen drew outrage from his own party when he sent out an email to his colleagues on the official legislative electronic mailing list earlier this month in which he referred to women as (and here I am quoting him directly) “vagina’s.”
Here’s the direct quote:
What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT, Germany, and the bowels of Amsterdam? Why children and vagina’s of course. While the tales relate the actions of a solitary male the outcome cannot relate to similar situations where children and women and mothers are the potential victims.
Am I outraged too? You’d better believe it. I am shocked and appalled. Everyone knows you don’t form a plural by adding apostrophe “s.”
On the other hand, it does sort of figure. After all, this is probably only one of the countless ways in which he daily proves himself to be an utter ignoramus.
Do you hear the sound of fingernails on the blackboard when you read that “the dog wagged it’s tail”?
Do your lips turn an angry white around the edges when an event that was “supposably” happening today has been rescheduled?
Does your head swim with murderous possibilities when the teacher complains that your kid is “mischievious”?
Take heart, kindred spirit. I, your comrade in the fight to stop the senseless slaughter of the English language, have taken it upon myself to address these pressing matters head-on.
Watch this spot for commentary on everyday criminal acts that make your tongue itch, your skin twitch, your reason unhitch, your concert pitch, your blanket stitch, your drainage ditch, your … (feel free to finish this sentence with any rhyming word that comes to mind).
Whether it’s apostrophe abuse, tortured verb tense, sins against syntax, maladroit malaprops, or some other form of verbal villainy, if you watch this page long enough, you’re sure to find your pet peeve given its proper dressing-down.
I figure that should keep me busy writing, and you busy reading, for the foreseeable future.
Irregardless of the consequences.