There are a few advantages to having a big sister who is an English teacher. I can text her things like, “Is it shone or has shined?” and “Do I say farther or further?” and she texts me back the proper usage without passing judgment.
She can correct me in public when I use bad grammar and I can tell her to shut up without getting in trouble. And I can purposely say things like “I ain’t got no ...” and watch her head explode.
I am a fan of good grammar, that is for sure, but not so much a stickler as others I have known who have zero tolerance for misplaced participles and an overuse of commas. One writer I recently read declared, “If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me.” And one of my all-time favorite bumper stickers says, “Let’s eat Grandpa. Let’s eat, Grandpa. A comma can save your life.”
It’s true. Flagrant grammar mistakes can make people look less than smart — OK, I’ll just go ahead and say it ... stupid — and I’m somewhere right in the middle of that line. I have been known to mix up my itses on occasion and to throw around commas like a mad woman, but I try to keep myself in check most of the time. Where I get myself into real trouble, however, is typos. Those little boogers seem to fly off my fingers like nobody’s business — some days are worse than others.
Last week, I emailed someone a most lovely note, gushing over my appreciation of their help and ending with how much I hoped I could see their family soon. But instead of my usual Regards, Mandy, I unknowingly typed ... Retards, Mandy. Did I hit send? Why, yes, I did. Not my proudest moment.
As a young journalist starting out some 25 years ago, I would be so excited to see anything I had written make its way to the published page that I would wait anxiously to hear the first roar of the huge printing press at the back of the building and then run to get one of the first copies off the presses. One day I did just that, tore open the newspaper to the second page and proudly read aloud a religious brief I had written announcing that the preacher would deliver holy massages all week during revival. I bet those felt good.
I have learned that spell check is great unless it doesn’t recognize your typo because it, in itself, is an accurately-spelled word. Thus my surprise when I emailed out to everyone that the informal meeting would take place in our pubic area. To add insult to injury, I asked everyone to disregard the mess there as we were in the process of having it cleaned.
I am not alone. I once received an email from a female friend who wrote, “I am so busty today I probably will not be able to get out of my chair at all.” I wrote back, asking if I needed to call in the Jaws of Life to help her. And on another occasion, I was told that I did an excrement job! Excellent?! I’m still not sure. And when a book a friend inquired about online wasn’t in stock in the store, the company sent her an email saying they will check the whorehouse. Warehouse? Let’s hope so.
When all is said and done, I tend to believe that grammar mistakes show that we should have paid more attention in school, and typos simply show that we are human. After all, there ain’t no excuse for bad grammar, but a holy massage might not be so bad. Not bad at all.
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.