Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Grammar Check (It's Kinda Like Curb Check, Only Different)

I think I can safely say that I’m a fairly intelligent person. When I’m writing, I try my best not to end any sentences in prepositions or use the wrong form of to/too/two.

Sometimes though, my intelligence might not necessarily come across in an everyday conversation. Maybe I like to downplay my extensive vocabulary in an effort to keep from alienating people...maybe I just don’t feel like thinking all the time.

My 11th grade English teacher’s name was Mrs. Anderson. Although she was not a personal favorite of mine (‘cause come on, nobody holds a candle to Susan Fajardo), she did give me one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. I think the only reason I even remember it is that I was so shocked that she would compliment me at all, since I wasn’t under the impression that she had been especially keen on me. I was even more surprised that instead of saying it to my face, she had chosen to tell a class full of people who are not me that I was “very intelligent...but not an egghead.”

This might not seem like much of a compliment, because essentially she’s saying I don’t seem as smart in person as I do on paper, but that’s actually pretty much what I’m going for. Here’s why: I like to make people smile, laugh, and generally feel warm and fuzzy inside. I do not like to make people feel like idiots.

Case in point: Someone asks you how you’re doing. You say, “I’m good, thanks! How are you?” They reply, “I’m well, thank you.”

In my professional opinion, they might as well have said, “I’m well bred, thank you...at least I’m obviously doing better than you are, you brainless Neanderthal. Did you even finish high school?” And all of a sudden, you don’t feel like you’re doing quite so well.

Here’s the deal. If your automatic response when someone asks how you’re doing is “well”, then good for you! Looks like one of us wasn’t utterly failed by the American school system. I have no problem with people using proper grammar. I’m just saying that there is no need to make other people feel stupid for responding otherwise.

Some might argue that I’m advocating the deterioration of the English language. I'm not! Really. I'm not saying we should all slip into bad speech habits just because it's popular. I am merely suggesting that maybe we should all lighten up, cut each other some slack, and instead of making a fellow human being with feelings and a family feel like a worthless moron, try holding our tongues and inwardly congratulating ourselves on being super smart.

Post Script

This is unrelated but equally worthy of note.

I was walking downtown with a couple of friends from work on my lunch break today because all three of us think Chipotle is delicious and worth strolling three blocks in the hot summer sun to pick it up.

We had come to a point at which only one block stood between us and the roasted chili-corn salsa that so often invades my dreams when I heard Samantha groan. When I asked what was wrong, she said, “Those people are gonna try to talk to us.”

Lo and behold, I looked up to see a couple of moderately clean looking hippies wearing Greenpeace t-shirts and deliberately making eye contact with us as we crossed the street toward them.


“Hey, you look like someone who cares about the planet you live on!”

Crap! I knew wearing this Captain Planet t-shirt out in public was a bad idea!

Sam and Erica took the sensible route by smiling and not slowing down. I, on the other hand, seemed to be having a bit of a conscious-attack, so I slowed down ever so slightly – just long enough to throw an apologetic “we-do-but-we’re-in-a-hurry” over my shoulder.

My reward? Hearing Hipp-ette reply loudly, “Time is a concept of society...” which was followed by fits of snorts and giggles from Samantha and Erica. I guess I brought this on myself.

Needless to say, we walked back on the other side of the street.

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