Saturday, February 20, 2010

Full Frontal Grammar Rant — The Return!

What I liked least about Tiger Woods’ press conference was that he kept pronouncing the indefinite article — a — to rhyme with day, rather than the last syllable of algebra. This is sort of endearing when a second-grader does it, and really stilted and annoying for anyone older. And yes, I am indeed including Mr. Obama.

With my phenomenal memory, I can fairly lucidly remember the first time I thought this. I was myself a third grader at the time, at Loyola Village School, the first elementary school north of Los Angeles International Airport. A bunch of us young scholars were seated in a semicircle, and a sort of doughy boy named Douglas Treadway, with whom I never had any dealings of note, read from Fun With Dick and Jane, or whichever other novel we happened to be considering that day, pronouncing a each time as though beginning to recite the alphabet. I can’t recall the name of the next boy to read — so much for my phenomenal memory! — but do recall that he had a troublemaker’s duck’s-ass coiffure. I found his reading aloud revelatory, exhilarating; he dared to pronounce the indefinite article as we did in real life!

People imagining that I is preferable to me in every instance also annoys me. Take (please!) that Doors song I used to hate so much, the one containing the lines I’m going to love you ‘til the stars fall from the sky for you and I. Every time I heard it, I felt as though in a Styrofoam factory; there is no sound in the world more upsetting to me than the shriek of Styrofoam. But I found it less excruciating than this, from "We Are the World".

We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

I could forgive its ungrammaticality if the vowel sound of the would-have-been-correct I didn’t exactly match that of the antecedent lives. It’s as though Michael and Lionel set out to annoy me! I thought for decades I’d never have to hear it again, and then Haiti had the nerve to be devastated!

I very much dislike when someone addresses a group of women, or even a sexually mixed group, as guys, and cringe when athletes keep sticking the same superfluous word into their interviews. “I think we’ve got one heckuva football team, and that if we execute and nobody gets hurt, why, we can win this football game.” As opposed to a heck of a synchronized swimming team, Coach? As opposed to a game of gin rummy?

I believe that precocious and pro blush, from "Bette Davis Eyes", may be the most egregiously awful attempt at a rhyme in the history of popular music. God knows you hear dreadful rhymes every time your turn on the radio, but has there ever been one more convinced of its own great cleverness?

I very much dislike when people get quote/unquote wrong, and who have you ever heard get it right? What you hear all the time is something like “We blame the quote unquote civil unrest on outside agitators,” which looks, transcribed, like this: We blame the “” civil unrest on outside agitators. (What you want is "quote civil unrest unquote".)

And another thing! In the UK, the end-quote goes after the punctuation (“...on outside agitaors”.) Here, we stupidly put in inside, though I must tell you that I’ve been rebelling the last couple of months, and doing it the British way, and nobody seems to have noticed, much as I’ve been spelling my surname with and without two s’s since 1979 now without anyone noticing.

I grumble audibly when Simon Cowell says something like, “That’s the worst singing I’ve ever heard in my life.” If it’s the worst singing he’s ever heard, I think it’s a pretty safe bet it’s the worst he’s heard in his life. Similarly, I hate big signs on the front of businesses that proclaim, “Now open!” If they said only “open,” would people drive past, imagining the places to be closed? I believe if we stopped squandering person-hours painting superfluous nows on signs, we could afford universal health care.

God, it’s been good to be in full rant mode again. It’s been too long!

1 comment:

  1. Just a moment. I'd like to remind you that I remarked earlier that John Mendelssohn, or was it Mendels(s)ohn?, is written about (or writes about himself?) in Wikipedia with one s. Now, in addition to everything else, I have to think about how I am pronouncing my "quote a's unqoute"? But, then I agree with you about "guys" and "I" versus "me" - so rant on, Mr. Mendelssohn, Mendels(s)ohn, Mendelsohn.