Monday, June 21, 2004

I was at the mall today with my son--a task that can either prove to be daunting or one that can be lots of fun depending on his mood. I've always had the biggest beef about improper use of apostrophes, but as we walked by various stores, my gripe turned from mild irritation to full-on exasperation.

Has our society become so lazy that we've recklessly abandoned one of the most basic tools in English?

I'll admit I was not thrilled of my grammar class in seventh grade--the year we dissected sentences and were immersed in punctuation. After all, I had Sister Elizabeth as my English teacher. She was pushing 85 at least and she was one hairy broad. She never shaved her legs and her hairs were so black and coarse up against her pantyhose they looked like morning glory vines without the pretty flowers.

I could remember struggling with present- and past-perfect tenses and dangling participles, but never considered apostrophes a challenge. I was no brainiac either--so I could never understand why apostrophe usage is so difficult to master.

When I began volunteer work as a "community moderator" for iVillage I noticed people posting on message boards were not always mindful of their errors. At first, I let is slide; but then it began to bother me to the point where I wondered if half of these people slept their way through college (if, in fact, they really did attend college). Little things like using "advise" when they meant "advice" or the ever-present misuse of the apostrophe, in cases like "CD's" or "son's" (as it related to the plural sense).

Having worked in advertising and PR for many years, I guess it's the proofreader in me. As an account person (read: shit rolls downhill) I was always responsible if there were any typos in any published material. But it's deplorable to see typos generated by major corportations such as retailers because they're perpetuating the sort of laziness, backasswardness that drives me utterly insane.

Some of the irksome typos I've encountered:

At the gym: Sport's Bars
At JC Penney (also Boy's Shoes

Hey and how apropos! Here's a sweet, little spam e-mail I received from the Reverend Morgan(
"A few year's ago I was in Liberia where I had established a little congregation where I preached regularly, but the civil war escalated and the church was converted to a hospital of sought. On one faithfull day three Liberian Soldiers,whom l later learnth were special aids to the Liberian former President (Late Samuel Doe) came to me and left one trunk box containing money with me and swore to come back for it. But you guessed it, they never did because,they were among those who were captured and killed by one of the Liberian Rebels then,Charles Taylor,who later became the president,but now in Political Asylum in Nigeria. After this incident,l was left with the box containing about $10 Million Dollars(TEN Million United States Dollars) Because of the risk of keeping the said box on my pocession due to the in-security in my temporary Church/Hospital,l decided to deposite the aid box with a security Finance Firm,which has it's branches in many parts of Europe,Asia,America and Africa. O ver years after this urgly incident,l had tried all l could to locate either the address of the slain Soldiers or any members of their immediate families,but all to no avail..."Morgan(

Gee, you think I oughta send him some money?

I also believe that with the advent of the Internet, many people have slacked off in terms of spelling and proper use of grammar. Do a Google Search of an inaccurate use of apostrophes (like boy's shoes) and you'll be surprised how many retailers come up. At least Google's team is smart enough to ask me if I meant "advice" when I type "I need advise"; but there still several entries with the incorrect word exists.

I have cousins in Germany who are my age and we used to visit them every couple of years. While in Germany, it never ceased to amaze me how perfect my cousins and their friends spoke English--in fact, their speaking my native tongue almost had a lyrical quality to it. It made English sound--pretty. Sad thing is, I know many people who use English as a second language, and have respect for our difficult grammar rules (albeit they are not nearly as difficult as other least in English one does not have to conjugate based on the subject's gender).

So where am I going with this? Can I single-handedly change the American Way of Life by writing some sort of a bill to stop Internet typographical errors? (Hey, if Tim Eyman can write pathetic bills and get them passed, why can't I?) No, sadly not. You can bet, though, that I'm going to be a hardass on my son when he hits seventh grade. By the time he does, however, I believe our entire grammar system will be torn to pieces and soon no one will know the difference between "loose" and "lose."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wanna drive yourself really crazy? The New York Times style book actually requires reporters to use "CD's" and "SUV's." We get a ton of comments about it from English teachers, too.