Grammar nerds unite!

In a book review on Salon.com, Laura Miller dips a toe in the prescriptive vs. descriptive linguistic debate, one in which some of us (no names) stomp around furiously when people use the phrase “where are you at?” and others (no names, but doubtless their mailboxes have unnecessary apostrophes scratched out) notice that everyone understands what it means, whether or not it is technically correct grammar.

Now, I heart Miller because she hearts David Foster Wallace, and that’s all I really need to know about a person. I believe, however, that she’s a bit too lenient with the descriptivists. She mentions her own pet peeve of dangling participles. Otherwise, she’s pretty laid back about the whole fall of civilization as we know it, at the hands of the business jargon creators, the advertising grammar bastardizers, and the genuinely lazy. (Please. I taught college English. I know some of it is laziness and “I have better things to do” -ism and “why bother” defeatism. But that most of it is really bad education in the early years wherein something like 50% of students are getting As.)

Ladies and gentlemen, would it kill us all to learn the proper use of “whom?”

I would like to announce, in light of this discussion, the production of my new album, Grammatically Corrected Songs. The playlist of final tracks:
I Can’t Get Any Satisfaction
Lie, Lady. Lie.
I Have Spurs That Jingle Jangle Jingle
You Are Nothing but a Hound Dog
Lie Down, Sally
Isn’t It Coincidental (and Generally Annoying but Not Ironic)?
and a medley of every song that should have “I Want You So Badly” rather than “so bad” but barring those that actually mean “I want you when you are bad,” regardless of their connotation for bad.

Send additional track suggestions to my producer. I’ll get to work on them when my band reconvenes next month.

It’s too easy to screw up contemporary English, so now you’re butchering Shakespearean English, too?

Sign painted on outdoor shopping mall of upscale shops: Feel not shame for thou (sic) love of shoes.

Thou love? No, you dunderheaded idiots. (I know, I know. I taught critical thinking. If you insult the party to whom you’re talking, you generally have no point. But this is a collection of stores who would sell me (if I had that kind of money or cared what I looked like) a $150 sweater and $200 pair of shoes while befouling my sensibilities and dainty editor’s eyes. Shit like that makes our retinas BLEED, y’all.)

Who is hiring these writers, and who is hiring these advertisers?

Thou is a pronoun. It’s Elizabethan “you.”  Thy is a possessive pronoun. Sixteenth century “your.”

So your big marketing push this holiday season reads: “Do not be ashamed of you (sic)  love of shoes.” Take it from me: you meant “thy” love of shoes.

And you painted it on the wall. Like your nudge-nudge-wink-wink lame attempt at a joke is supposed to get me to swerve off the road and into your dank, dimly lit parking garage in the unholiest of all consumerist greed-fests: December. You think classing up being elbow-deep in polyester and perfume-reeking humanity makes shopping somehow more appealing? Well, you’re entitled to your opinion. But you’re not entitled to your own version of Elizabethan English. Use a dictionary when you’re writing. Or an editor. Or stop letting the boneheads in the strategy department write your advertising.

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On an upbeat note, I’m pleased as always to congratulate Trader Joe’s for being one of the few stores in the nation to have a sign reading, “12 items or fewer.” Kudos. Your “unique grocery store” image remains credible to the educated but underpaid masses who traipse into your store for an affordable selection of organic, sugary, and obscure. Thank you for having hatch green chili bread, organic egg nog, and Jack Daniel’s all ready for me, btw, so that my trip down the twelve-or-fewer aisle is particularly sparkly this holiday season.