A couple months ago, I wrote a piece on words. I truly do enjoy words. I also enjoy the cadence of language. Remember in my words piece that I mentioned my friend who feels the words in his mouth? He may also feel the cadence, since it is generally the entire phrase or sentence he repeats. Alliteration gives me a little thrill every time. Puns and word plays are probably my favorites. Some time ago, my sister sent me a comic (which I tried to find so I could post here) showing a scrabble-like board with a few letter tiles on it and several letter tiles on the floor. One guy was searching through the tiles on the floor, and a couple other guys were standing by watching him. The caption said, “It’s all fun and games, until someone loses an ‘I’!” I thought it was hilarious… laughed out loud. Not everyone would see the humor in that (thank you, Jeanice, for laughing out loud with me), but our world works in wonderful and mysterious ways because we don’t all see things the same way.
I have noticed that people who have a strength in a certain area will have a finer sense of the correct and incorrect in that area. For example, I had never questioned the accuracy of touting a product as “chemical-free” until my scientist friend said, “That’s impossible… everything is made of chemicals. If it were chemical-free, it wouldn’t exist!” Well, of course, I know that. I also know the point the manufacturer was making in his ad. However, since chemistry is not an area of strength for me, I never caught the error. A director may view the world through a camera lens, or he may (in his head) edit every film he sees. An artist may view the world as laid out on a canvas, and she will see beauties and flaws in a painting that I never would notice. I tend to edit what I see and hear. Most of the time I’m not judging the writer’s or the speaker’s intelligence (I’m ashamed to say that, once in a while, I do judge, but I’m working on it), I’m just making it right in my own head. One of the most painful-in-my-ears grammar errors is incorrect use of pronouns, especially reflexive pronouns. I know! Who even knows what that means? My good friend Mandy Houk, English teacher and delightful writer, can give you the technical definition. You can read her writing at http://forbetterforworseforlife.wordpress.com/.
I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, the myth was spread that using the word “me” was self-centered and evil. Why is one so comfortable saying, “Johnny gave the gift to me,” but must change pronouns when involving anyone else–”Johnny gave the gift to Julia and I”? Fingernails on a chalkboard! Of course, it’s just as painful to hear, “Johnny and me gave the gift to Julia.” You would never say (Oh, PLEASE say you would never say), “Me gave the gift to Julia,” would you? As I said, the most painful of all, to me, is the misuse of reflexive pronouns–myself, yourself, himself, etc. I’ve noticed it in business more than anywhere else. For example, “If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Jeanice or myself.” Ok, there is no place in this reality that allows me to contact yourself. It’s impossible. Let’s just take responsibility where it is ours to take. I can contact myself, you can contact yourself, I can contact you, and you can contact me. Clear? Good. Now…. right before I step off my grammar soapbox, I have a request. If I ever express my gratitude to you, there are a number of responses that are appropriate: “you’re welcome,” “absolutely,” “my pleasure,” even “whatever, man!” However, I think I would rather read no response at all than to read, “your welcome” because my first response is always, “my welcome what?”
Ok, I’m done ranting. Painful, I know. I do apologize. Once I start…
One side of noticing nuances in the English language is the great stories it affords one. Currently, I’m writing in four blogs–this one, which is just for fun; two professional blogs, human resources and payroll; and another which you’ll never get to know about because it’s private and I only write for my counselor, and even she doesn’t get to read everything I write. In my latest payroll post, I told the following story:
I was working with a new vendor–new to me, but also relatively new in his company. He sent me an email shortly after we established our working relationship, at the end of which he said, “thank you for baring with me.” Umm. Ok, I let it go. However, the next email was addressed to me, with cc’s to his boss, his boss, and my boss. It ended with, “Joni, I really appreciate that you bare with me whenever we work together. It’s been really fun to get to know you.” I replied, just to him, with the following,
I ignored this last time, but now I have to give you a vocabulary lesson so you don’t embarrass yourself with someone who will take you literally.
bare [bair] Show IPA adjective, bar·er, bar·est, verb, bared, bar·ing.
1. without covering or clothing; naked; nude
bear1 [bair] Show IPA verb, bore or (Archaic) bare; borne or born; bear·ing.
32. bear with, to be patient or forbearing with:
I’m quite content to continue to bear with you, but I just thought you’d like to know. 🙂
Evidently, he spit coffee all over his computer monitor… and we’ve been friends ever since.
Last night, I got to be part of an email conversation that became another story:
“So sorry folks! Tis the season for us to be running like chickens with our tails cut off. “
“Wait, what? A chicken with its tail cut off? I had chickens growing up, and having their tail feathers pulled out never even fazed them. However, once we cut their heads off… well, then, the whole situation when south (or east, if you will) in a hurry.”
“Why east? And I don’t know about you, but if I had a tail and someone chopped it off, I think it would be troublesome! “
“If chickens did, in fact, have tails, I’m sure they would be quite disconcerted by the removal of said tails. As it is, they’re much more concerned with keeping their heads attached. East is because… well… that’s not the saying… and neither is ‘chickens with their tails cut off’”
Getting idioms correct can be challenging. I have a friend who says, “let’s meet about this next week to make sure we’re all on the same piece of paper.” I overheard someone once apologize for throwing his friend over the bus.
One last story. This is a conversation that occurred as I was reading a history storybook about Paul Revere to a 4-year-old boy. Since this conversation happened years ago, I will paraphrase. When I came to the part about Paul commanding his travelling companions to return and let him continue on alone:
Me: “Paul commanded his privates to return, saying he would meet up with them later. So they obeyed. His privates turned and went back the way they’d…”
Boy: “Wait, what?”
Me: “What, what?”
Boy: “What did you say? Read that again!”
Me: “Paul commanded his privates to return, sa…”
Me: “Wha… Oh, No!!! Privates… he commanded his ‘privates,’ a rank of army soldier, not his ‘privates,’ something we keep covered and safe…”
Whew! Gotta love the English language! I hope you enjoyed the stories. Thank you for joining me today. 🙂