02 July 2012

Grammar Crime

I just re-read my Christmas letter from last year, for reasons I need not go into at this moment. And part-way through, I found, to my shock and chagrin, that I had committed a heinous, horrible, heart-stopping grammar crime. To wit, I wrote "My son is not yet taller than my daughter and I." Oh, the shame! I cringe, I grovel, I blush rosy-red all over my badly grammarized face. (What's my face got to do with grammar? I don't know; it just sounded good at the moment to say that.)

In case you're not quite sure what's so terrible about this, let me enlighten you. It should have said "...my daughter and me." He's taller than ME, not taller than I (well, he is now; he wasn't when that letter was written). So obvious, so very, very obvious, when you drop the first word out of the list! It works with the reverse case, too- it's not "Him and me are going for a walk," because you also wouldn't say "Me am going for a walk," or "Him is going..." Oh, okay, fine- maybe I wouldn't say that, but you would? Far be it from me (from I?) to tell you how to grammarize yourself.

Actually, truth be told, I'm not all that big on grammar, really. I do know how to use it, for the most part, and it bugs me when it's used sloppily by people who should know better. But I don't really know the theory behind it, don't know the rules. I just know what sounds right, for the most part, but if you want to argue really strenuously about some fine grammatical detail, and have rulification to prove your point, I just might have to back down on it, and I'm quite okay with that. Or if you truly couldn't care less if your speech is grammatical, that's fine by me, too; I'd rather hear a kind word couched in bad grammar than a perfectly worded insult. Grammar is, after all, only a tool.

When I was in grade 5, back in Germany, they tried to teach us grammar in school. My language arts teacher knew full well that grammar is at best a yawn-inducing subject, so he tried to make it more interesting by introducing a little alien who had, purportedly, landed in his backyard, and was trying to communicate with him. Said alien didn't speak the language very well; in fact, it was consistently making grammar mistakes, and our teacher was in need of the aid of his students for correcting the alien's errors. Hmph. The first time he came out with that story, it was interesting (somewhere along the lines of "What the heck...?" It wasn't quite what one was used to from one's German teachers.). The second time, it was mildly amusing. And after that, if the alien was brought up, we knew that we were in for yet another grammar lesson... Sigh.

But, here's something that just occurred to me: my grade 5 days were in the distant past of the year 1978. Hmm. Small alien, bad grammar. Wonder it makes me, that does. I don't recall the physical description of my teacher's alien - but do you think that just, perhaps, after it hung around in his backyard for a while, and failed to learn proper German grammar from him due to the lack of interest on the part of his students in providing grammatical aid, it powered up its spaceship, and flew West across the Atlantic? And then it flew a little further yet, across the Southern States, until, just short of yet another ocean, it touched down in the backyard of a bearded fellow who was busily scribbling away on the script for a new movie. And the alien stepped out of its spaceship - no, wait, it hovered out. And it opened its greenish mouth, and uttered these immortal words: "Do. Or do not. There is no try." (By this point, the alien had given up the attempt to learn proper human grammar, in any language; it just talked any-which way.) And the young man in whose yard the alien had landed took out his movie camera, shot footage of the alien, and released it two years later to great critical acclaim in movie theaters across the world. (Whether the alien got any royalties out of it is hitherto unknown.)

And here I thought my teacher had just made up that alien to try to teach us grammar.

Life, the Universe, and Grammar Lessons. Thought of this I never would have, had it not been for the heinous grammar crime which slipped by me in my Christmas letter.


  1. I make at least one horrifying mistake on every blog post I do....sigh. My dear husband is supposed to check them for me but he never quite gets to it for a couple days or three. Then he finds my blooper and I go and correct it....unfortunately most people have read it by then. Oh well, I can't help it if I like math better than english...did I get the proper then vs than? lol

  2. As you've probably noticed I have the same problem with my newsletters - I just dont see mistakes, typos or errors. I need a proof-reader. I check and re-read until the deadline insists i simply must send. Then I check again and ARRGGH there's always something i missed! but now it's too late. It's sent and everyone is seeing my mistake!

    But reading other peoples gramatical errors and typos never upsets me - infact it usually makes me smile :o)

  3. Ah, Petrina, excellent point- I had not considered the power of other people's grammar mistakes to make one smile. So, Bonnie- maybe you're doing a service to the world by making grammar mistakes in your blog? Oh, and yes, it's the right kind of "than". "Then" goes with "when". :)