complaints

I just found out that being a grammar snob makes one “classist”…

Bill and I had a wonderful night at Jumeirah Hotel in Frankfurt, where we also had a very good dinner. This morning, as I was waking up on exquisite sheets in the very fancy skyline room I booked on account of our anniversary, I read an interesting thread in the Duggar Family News Facebook Group. Someone shared a photo of a post made by Carlin Bates… okay, she probably has a new last name, but I don’t follow the Bates family. To be honest, I quit reading after the third word of Carlin’s post because it was very poorly written. Here’s a screenshot.

I am one of those “grammar snobs”. It bugs me when grown men and women don’t know how to form proper plurals (no apostrophe needed). The older I get, the less time I have to waste. Trying to figure out what someone means when they make elementary era spelling and grammar mistakes is a waste of time.

I initially only read the first three words of this post, but I noticed that it was about pregnant women holding their bellies. I mention that I do that too, only I have a beer gut. I thought that would be the end of it, until I happened to read a rather contentious altercation that erupted when someone dared to correct a person who wrote “Duggar’s” when they really meant “Duggars”. Here are some screenshots of the epic debate.

I was obviously late to the party, because I was celebrating my wedding anniversary. Still, I was a bit shocked that one poster thinks that someone who corrects another person’s grammar is “classist”. You know, I get why it would be annoying to have to deal with grammar snobs, and I can sorta see the argument in the whole “you had access to better schools than I did”, thing. On the other hand, I have heard and known of many people who rose above poverty and made it their mission to learn how to speak and write properly in their own native language. The stuff I typically complain about, and what the people in that thread were upset about, are things most folks learn in early childhood. We’re talking first, second, and third grade language arts! I know not all schools are created equally, but this is elementary school we’re discussing.

I get that people get screwed up by the auto-correct on their phones. It annoys the hell out of me, too. The problem is, when you post something like “my sister’s and I”, other people think it’s correct and follow suit. Before you know it, you have dozens or people writing “The Smith’s” because they’ve seen others do it, and can’t be bothered to find out if that’s right. You only need to use an apostrophe in certain situations. You don’t need it if you simply wish to make a plural, and that includes last names. Don’t sign your Christmas card, “The Smith’s” or whatever, unless you are intending to show possession. Pointing this out doesn’t make someone “classist”. That’s ridiculous.

I also think that browbeating a perfect stranger on the Internet for correcting another person’s spelling or grammar, especially when you don’t know them from Adam and are accusing them of being “condescending”, is a prime example of pot meeting kettle. For some of us, reading poorly written stuff is highly annoying and a huge waste of time. If you can’t form basic sentences with proper grammar and spelling, why would I want to know what you think? You could be brilliant, but if I have to work super hard to understand you, I probably won’t make the effort. Is it potentially my loss? Maybe. But I would submit that putting that poorly written crap out for the masses is a waste of your time and energy, particularly when it’s so easy NOT to make these basic mistakes.

It may make me look like a “condescending asshole” to correct your grammar and spelling, but putting poorly written posts riddled with elementary mistakes makes you look ignorant and lazy. And if you are writing with the aid of a computer, smart phone or tablet with Internet access, you have even less of an excuse. You don’t even have to haul out the dictionary to get the proper spelling or usage. Just visit http://www.dictionary.com. I do it all the time. I also use grammar sites when I need a refresher on things… you know, because one too many people have written “sister’s and me” when they really mean “sisters and I”.

I may be a grammar snob, but I’m certainly not classist. It doesn’t take a lot of money to avoid these basic mistakes, particularly if English is your native language. Honestly… if the worst you can say about me is that I’m a grammar snob, I think I’m doing alright. By the way, my guess is that most people who are guilty of making these mistakes DO know better. They just can’t be arsed to fix their mistakes.

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rants

There is no “we” in he…

One of my greatest pet peeves is when people include themselves in another person’s singular event. For example, I can’t stand it when people say, “We got pregnant.” Um… biological males do not get pregnant. It’s impossible. A man deposits his sperm into a fertile woman and she gets pregnant. Once she’s pregnant, his part of babymaking is over until the baby is born.

I know people say “we got pregnant” so that the man feels like he is a part of the pregnancy. But until that fetus is dancing on his bladder from the inside, he has no idea. Until his nether regions are ripped up or his abdomen is cut open to get the baby out, pregnancy is not an experience he can relate to. Hey… until he has a positive pregnancy test, and it’s not because he has a disease (testicular cancer), he’s never been pregnant and, therefore, is not a part of “we” in “we got pregnant”. Fuck that. Incidentally, a man doesn’t “deposit his seed”, either. Sperm is fertilizer, not seed. If one is going to use the euphemism “seed”, it makes more sense for it to refer to the woman’s egg. Fertilizer isn’t the same thing as seed.

But I realize that’s just me… and I am a lot more uptight about language than most people are. I am also an irritable person, especially as I get older. This morning, I encountered yet another annoyance. This time, it was in the Duggar Family News group. Someone had posted a screenshot of Sierra Dominguez and her baby, who was just diagnosed with RSV bronchiolitis. Sierra, who despite having been helicoptered with her baby boy to Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas, had the time and composure to write a lengthy Instagram post complete with several pictures regarding her son’s medical condition. Behold:

“We were diagnosed”? Is she sick, too?

I have to admit, I stopped reading when I read “we were diagnosed”. Yes, I’m that uptight about language. I get that momma Sierra is concerned about her baby, but unless she’s also coughing, wheezing, and feeling horrible, there is no “we” in this case of RSV bronchiolitis. The baby is sick. You’re not, Sierra… at least not yet. Hang around the hospital for awhile, and that could change. Unless she actually is sick… which maybe she is.

Anyway, that’s just me and my pet peeves. I do hope baby Merrick recovers quickly and no one else gets sick. I’m sure Sierra is scared, and posting on Instagram is one way she gets moral support. Still, while she’s understandably very worried about her son, he’s the one who’s sick. She doesn’t have a diagnosis of RSV; he does. Correct pronoun use is essential.

Moving on…

Looking at the photos from Sierra’s Instagram post just reminded me of another unpleasant memory. It’s unrelated to Sierra’s situation or the fact that I hate it when people include themselves in someone’s individual experiences (ie: “How are WE doing today?”). Sierra has included a photo of her baby boy, wrapped up in blankets and hooked up to machines. And that reminded me of the summer of 2014, when my father was dying after he’d had emergency gallbladder surgery.

I have three sisters. They’re all significantly older than I am. They were 13, 11, and 8 years old when I was born. Because of the age gap, sometimes my sisters treat me like I don’t have any sense. They become manipulative to the point of insulting my intelligence and my character. This has happened so much in my life that I have become exquisitely sensitive to it, to the point at which I get really angry when it happens. I think being manipulative, rather than being straightforward, is the height of disrespect.

In the summer of 2014, Bill had just left the Army and was job hunting. Just before my dad’s gallbladder attack, he was in talks to join Cubic, a government contractor, on an assignment in Stuttgart, Germany. We were living in San Antonio, Texas at the time, while my parents were in Hampton, Virginia. We didn’t have a lot of money to spare, nor was it the greatest time for us to drop everything and fly to Virginia. We had just a few weeks to plan our international move.

One of my sisters, who is worse about being manipulative than the other two, went to Virginia and took a picture of my father lying in his hospital bed, tethered to machines and covered with a huge CPAP mask (he’d had severe sleep apnea). She sent me the photo with a very shitty two line email about how I needed to come to Virginia to see him. Naturally, I was extremely pissed off at her for taking that photo and sending it to me as if I needed convincing that the situation was serious. I didn’t need her to send me a picture of my dad in that condition, nor was I taking orders from her. I was in touch with our mom, who had been keeping me apprised of the situation. I didn’t need her input or “help”. However, because we were already stressed out and I knew ripping my sister a new one would make things much worse, I simply replied with “Thanks for the update.”

I don’t know why my sister felt it was necessary to take a picture of our father on the brink of death as a means of convincing me to come to Virginia. I found it very hurtful that she’d assume that I needed that kind of “proof” that he was that ill. She basically sold me short, assuming that I’m that much of a selfish asshole that I needed to see a photo of him on his deathbed. By sending that picture, she implied that I didn’t care about our dad. I did care about him. In fact, I loved him. I didn’t always like him very much, but I had good reasons for feeling that way. It was neither appropriate for her to send that picture of him to me to try to convince me to visit, nor was it even really her business.

My sister is a controlling person, and I think she has trouble trusting that people will do the right thing. I don’t understand why she feels so free to be such an asshole to me, since I’m sure she doesn’t do this shit to everyone she encounters. In retrospect, maybe I should have sent her the seething, scathing email I had composed in my mind and in a blog post that I later deleted, because I was so hot with fury when I wrote it. Maybe she would have gotten the point that I’m now a grown woman and she would get a lot further with me if she’d simply make respectful requests or suggestions rather than manipulative demands. I can’t stand manipulators. They really piss me off.

Incidentally, I don’t remember if I told our mother that my sister took the photo. I don’t think I did, because I knew it would upset her. I’m sure she would NOT have approved of it. It was unnecessary, disrespectful, and just plain RUDE— and more to him, than to me.

But then, as if the tasteless photo of our dad wasn’t enough, when it became clear that my dad was going to die very soon, this same sister sent me instructions on how to speak to our mother! She wrote, “If you call Mom, please be kind…” As if I wouldn’t have been kind to our mother under these circumstances. She seems to forget that speaking to people in crisis was to be my career. I actually have professional training in it. Aside from that, I’m not such an asshole that I would deliberately pick a fight with our mom, especially as her husband of 56 years is on his deathbed.

Once again, I resisted the strong urge to tell my sister, in no uncertain terms, to go fuck herself. However, I ultimately responded, once again, with “Thanks for the update.” That’s all that really needed to be said, although the temptation to escalate the situation was definitely there. I was really pissed. What sucks is that the situation doesn’t escalate when I respond calmly, but I’m still left furious that, once again, I’m being forced to interact with an asshole… because I assure all of my readers, I don’t start this shit. I do my very best to avoid people who piss me off. They contact me, and usually with ill-conceived emails, unexpected visits, private messages, or public comments on Facebook or my blog. 🙂

I had actually forgotten about that incident involving my sister sending our dad’s photo… but Sierra’s Instagram picture of her baby in the hospital brought it all roaring back to me. I think if my sister does something like that when it’s time for our mom to pass, I will give in to the urge to tell her that it’s not appropriate to send pictures of people who are on their deathbeds as a means of getting other people to do your bidding. I think I will also tell her that if she thinks so little of me that she feels the need to be manipulative, she can count herself minus a sister. Life is much too short to have to deal with that crap.

Ah well… it’s Sunday, foggy, and chilly. Guess I’ll quit writing this post and go work on a puzzle.

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complaints

Repost: I’ve never been prone at the dentist’s office…

In light of today’s fresh content about grammar and word usage, here’s a related piece from my old blog, originally posted February 12, 2019.

I am currently reading actress Rose McGowan’s book, BRAVE.  To be honest, I didn’t know who Rose McGowan was before I picked up her book.  I never watched her on Charmed; I wasn’t a fan of the movie, Scream (and don’t even remember if I ever watched it); I don’t follow Marilyn Manson; and looking at McGowan’s page on imbd.com, I don’t even recognize anything she’s been in since 2011.  I have heard of Law & Order, but have never watched the show.  I probably should watch Law & Order, because I probably would like it, but not because Rose McGowan was ever in it.

I picked up her book because someone in the Life is Not All Pickles and Hairspray Facebook group mentioned that Rose McGowan had been in the Children of God cult.  I recently wrote a couple of posts about that creepy sex cult that was big in the 1970s.  Rose McGowan is about my age, and she was born in Tuscany.  Why?  Because her parents were in that cult.  The Children of God sent members around the globe in an effort to recruit new people.  McGowan’s parents must not have been as closed in to the compound as others in the Children of God cult were, as McGowan has actual memories of Italy instead of just the Children of God compound. 

Fortunately for Rose McGowan, she wasn’t forced to stay in that cult until she was an adult, as some others have been.  Her parents eventually moved to the Pacific Northwest, which McGowan hated after her time in Italy.  I can’t blame her for that.  Italy is a magical place and the food is insanely good there.  I had to chuckle as McGowan described the first lasagna she ever encountered in the United States.  My very first memories are of England, not the United States (although I was born in Virginia).  I think it permanently affected my world view, just as Rose’s world view seems to have been affected by having been born and spent her earliest years in Italy.

So anyway, I don’t have too much longer to go before I’m finished with Rose’s book.  I’m kind of glad I’ve been reading it, particularly since I also just read Justine Bateman’s book about fame.  McGowan kind of echoes Bateman’s comments about how fame isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.  There is a definite downside to it.  Unfortunately, at this point, McGowan’s comments about her experiences in show business are not what is sticking out the most to me about her book.

A few chapters ago, McGowan wrote about having visited the dentist, who was pressuring her to get her teeth the “Cadillac” treatment.  You know, a lot of people in Hollywood have perfect teeth that are straight and brilliantly white.  And this is part and parcel of being in show business, since people are always looking at your teeth when you’re in a movie or on television, or even if you’re photographed for a magazine or album cover.  McGowan’s point was that this dentist was trying to pressure her into spending big bucks to repair her perfectly serviceable, but not quite perfect, teeth.  It’s toxic to women, particularly those in entertainment, that so many of us are pressured to look beautiful all the time.

But… as she was explaining this very good point about how women in show business are objectified and pressured into staying as young and gorgeous as they can for as long as possible, McGowan wrote something along the lines of, “There I was, lying prone at the dentist’s office…”

I had to stop and scratch my head at that.  In 46 years of life on this planet, I have never once been asked to lie prone at the dentist’s office.  If I ever had been, I’d be concerned about the dentist’s competence.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is what it looks like to be “prone“, if you are writing or speaking about lying flat and you want to be accurate.

If you’re lying flat, but face down, you are in a “prone” position.  I would hope your dentist wouldn’t want you lying like this during your checkup.

I think the word McGowan was looking for was “supine”.  

Yes… you want to be lying on your back so your dentist has access to the right hole.  I have altered the original version of this photo, which was generously made available in the public domain by user Asanagi.  Many thanks!

I will admit, I get hung up on these kinds of “trivial” things all the time.  It probably annoys a lot of people, especially on Facebook.  In fact, I remember recently getting into it with people in the Life is Not All Pickles and Hairspray Group about the proper way to spell HIPAA.  People got snippy with me about it, claiming it’s not a big deal.  

Maybe it’s not a big deal to you, but it is a big deal to me.  Words have meaning.  Spelling is important.  Word knowledge and proper usage is important.  If I ever get to a point at which something like this doesn’t make me twitchy, it may be time for me to see a physician.  I know some people don’t care about this.  It’s one of my quirks.  I also hate it when people use the word “utilize” when they could just as easily and more accurately employ the word “use”.  Or when they write or say “jettisoned” when they actually mean “rocketed”.  The word “jettison” is not akin to the word “jet”.  Look it up.

Remember this photo, especially next time you see your dentist.  If he or she asks you to get into a prone position, you may wish to switch doctors.

Incidentally, this morning I became aware of a new book that I’ve decided I must own.  Although I doubt I’m quite the guru professional copywriter Benjamin Dreyer is, I think we may be spirit animals.  

I hope to finish Ms. McGowan’s book today and perhaps I’ll review it later today or maybe tomorrow.  There’s more to it than just an improper use of the word “prone”.  If I know myself, though, I will probably think of her next time I get a cleaning. (Click the link at the beginning of this post for my review of McGowan’s book.)

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book reviews

A review of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m kind of a stickler about language. I’m especially uptight about word usage. I get twitchy when people misspell or misuse words. Every time I see someone incorrectly use the word “phase” when they really mean “faze”, or “tow” when they actually mean “toe”, I want to break out my red pen. That’s why I was excited when I saw the new book, Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, made available January 29, 2019. I knew I had to read it.

Benjamin Dreyer, author of this book for uptight language nerds like me, is Random House’s vice president, executive managing editor, and chief copy editor. Dreyer never set out to be a copy editor. Originally, he pursued writing and acting, then worked in a lot of bars and restaurants. He fell into copy editing and it turned into his career. In 1993, he joined Random House as a production editor and climbed the ranks to the lofty position he holds today. I kind of admire how Dreyer’s working life evolved into what it has. A combination of luck, skill, and talent have taken Dreyer from behind the bar to behind the words of thousands of authors. It’s his job to supervise the publication of hundreds of books every year.

I bought this book in February, but only now got around to reading it. I finished this morning, feeling pretty satisfied with myself. Not only was Dreyer’s book informative and useful, it was also entertaining. Dreyer has a fun writing style; he likes to play with words and seems to think of language as fun. I also think language is fun and fascinating, so Dreyer’s book really spoke to me. I think it would be a fantastic read for a lot of people, especially those who are very smart, but not quite as anal retentive about words as I am.

Seriously, folks. I think a lot of people get kind of lazy when they write. They have an idea they want to express, say with a common expression. But then they mess up the expression, and write something like “She wanted me to tow her line.”, when they really mean “She wanted me to toe her line.” You put your toes to the line; you don’t “tow” a line. This isn’t waterskiing.

Dreyer has been called the “unofficial language guru on Twitter.” I wouldn’t know about that. Although I do have a Twitter handle, I very rarely use it. My problem is that I like to use words and Twitter forces users to be brief… briefer than I’d ever want to be, anyway. On the other hand, brevity is a virtue. Time is money. All of those flowery, extra “verys”, “quites”, “reallys”, “of courses, “actuallys” and “rathers” take time to read and space on the page. Dreyer equates them to “throat clearing”. A copy editor helps to fix all of that so that books are easier and more pleasant reading. I am horribly guilty of using all of those extra words myself. Maybe thanks to Dreyer’s book, I will finally break myself of that “very” annoying habit.

Dreyer’s English is mostly a fun read, even though it’s mainly about grammar, word usage, idiom usage, capitalization, and punctuation. Dreyer loads his copy with fun facts and trivia, and helps readers understand why some rules have changed. I particularly enjoyed his list of proper nouns, along with notes on spellings that have become obsolete. For instance, when I was growing up, the Soviet Union still existed, as did the “Iron Curtain”. It wasn’t uncommon to see Romania spelled “Rumania” or “Roumania”. Dreyer writes that those spellings, unless specifically quoted from works that existed when they were still used, are obsolete.

Another rule that used to be iron clad was that writers weren’t supposed to split their infinitives. It was wrong to write something like “I’d like to quickly run to the store.” However, Dreyer writes that it’s okay to split infinitives now. And, it’s also okay to start sentences with “and” or “but”– good thing, too, because I do that all the time. You can also end your sentences with prepositions, and he lets you know when it’s all right to use “alright”.

If I have to offer criticisms of Dreyer’s book, it’s that some of the stuff he includes is elementary. But then, to people who don’t write all the time, maybe they’re not so elementary. He also uses a lot of footnotes, which might be distracting to some readers. And, although this wasn’t an issue for me, some reviewers on Amazon were evidently offended by Dreyer’s political commentary. If you identify as a political conservative, you may not enjoy this book as much as I did. Maybe Dreyer shouldn’t be including political comments in a book about grammar, although I suspect it probably made Dreyer’s English more interesting for those who aren’t enjoying our current political situation. Finally, readers should know that this is an American flavored book. Dreyer encourages writers to write in American English. That might not sit well with those who prefer the “Queen’s English”.

If you always hated grammar class, but you have to do any professional writing, you may want to give Benjamin Dreyer’s book a look. He could help you improve your writing, and that might help you improve the impression your writing makes on others. As for me, I will try to keep reminding myself that I should stop “throat clearing” in my writing. Be clear, concise, and accurate… and spell things right. And stop using ellipses so often. Sigh… obviously, I have some work to do myself.

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