Good English, Bad Grammar, and Lifelong Learning

As loyal readers of this blog – all three of them – have reminded me, I haven’t posted anything here for nearly two months. While my sense of humor remains healthy, my excuses for inactivity on this site are lame. I could blame my failure to blog on the weather – too hot outside – but I can’t; because I work at home – under air conditioning – unless there is a power outage like the one that recently occurred. I cannot say that I lacked motivation and inspiration, because I didn’t and I don’t. Both qualities are fully functional, except upon occasion when they stall behind writer’s block. The honest explanation for my absence from this Boomers blog is that my other two blogs are demanding and getting more of my attention — and more traffic — than this one; so simply put, I have been procrastinating about coming back here. But this card carrying AARP member and opinionated Boomer has returned.

I’ve been doing some serious thinking about the difficulty of creative writing, especially on this site. Oh, you thought it was easy, did you? Well unbeknownst to you – until now — one of my pet peeves is people who make quick, uncorroborated assumptions. But don’t take offense, because that leads to my subject for this post. 

Topping my list of pet peeves is verbal ticks and bad grammar – sometimes referred to by more formal persons as poor English. I’m less formal. And I preface this by saying that I do not pretend to be an authority on grammar, written or spoken. There are many days when I wish I had paid closer attention in the English and grammar courses I took in high school and college. Education is a lifelong learning process, and I strive constantly to improve my grammar skills; so it annoys me when I hear someone break the basic rules of grammar or murder an impressive dialogue with verbal ticks. What is more distracting than to hear an otherwise smooth conversation ruined by someone repeatedly uttering non-words or repetitive phrases like “Um” or “Ah” or “Uh, you know I’m saying?” or “Know what I mean?”  

Some grammatical errors are worse than others. Many an unsuspecting person has missed an opportunity – including a good job – because of poor English.

When I was growing up, my mother constantly emphasized the importance of using good grammar. I did the same to my own children and grandchildren, at every opportunity. Mother often repeated to us a statement that her high school science teacher frequently made to his class. She never forgot the lesson, nor have I. “You can see a well-dressed man with his pants creased and shoes brightly shined, and you think that’s an intelligent man — until he begins to speak.”  The man’s poor grammar destroys the illusion. Although at first glance, he appears to be refined, after uttering only a few words he is perceived to be ignorant and uneducated.

We hear grammar-killers all the time in public venues. Whose head doesn’t swing toward the television screen when, during a newscast someone says “I seen her” or “he be going” or “when we is at school” or “I done lost my mind”?  My most annoying pet peeves are — ready for this? — same difference or exact same. One phrase is an obvious contradiction. The other is redundant. 

Whether spoken or written, the confusing and contradictory rules of English grammar are mindboggling enough to make a Mensa candidate weep. And while you’re studying that, ponder this:  Author, Editor and Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Sandburg wrote, “ I never made a mistake in grammar but one in my life and as soon as I done it I seen it.”

2 responses to “Good English, Bad Grammar, and Lifelong Learning”

  1. Felicia

    And let us not forget the grammar tick, “like.” Like, which is used incessantly by teens, drives me up the wall. When I hear too many likes, I start counting on my fingers. When I get to 10, I put my hands up and say, “Let’s try this again without using like.”

    I’m beginning to wish the word like (also a teenager Facebook obsession) were dropped from the English language.

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