Memoirs of a Grammar Bully

Hey. Meet my Dad.

This is a picture my mom took of him in their first apartment when they were newlyweds, so he’s between 30-31 years old. A few years later my parents graduated BYU and had their first child, me!

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Many of you probably thought: “Nice ‘stache, cute kid!”when looking at these pictures. Thank you, very true. 😉 But what you’d never be able to tell from these pictures is that you’re looking at one of the world’s most prominent and intimidating Grammar Bully’s. Although he may be unaware of it, my father has begun building an empire in preparation for what I know to be one of his missions: To cure the world of bad grammar. So far, he’s added seven mini grammar bully’s to his effort: me and my six brother’s and sisters, along with one adopted sister who has joined the ranks.

When exactly he began this mission is unclear, but I do know that his love of language started on a different type of mission, when he served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a little country called Yugoslavia. I will probably write my dad’s biography one day, so that interesting tale will be put on hold for now, but I’ve seen a few of the journals he kept, and one of them is an ENTIRE BOOK of words. Since Yugoslavia was still a communist country at the time (around 1976), my dad and his fellow missionaries weren’t allowed to do a whole lot of proselytizing without risking imprisonment and other sorts of trouble with the government. So, my dad dedicated a lot of time to learning and memorizing new words both in English and Yugoslavian. The journal is just lists of words or lists of translated words. It blows my mind to look at how many he learned and memorized. When you add together his 16 years or so of British schooling in Scotland, his mission, his four years at BYU, and then his years in law school, it’s easy to see how he became a Grammar Bully.

My indoctrination started young. In fact, I can’t think of a time where my Dad HASN’T corrected my grammar, Yes, even now as a licensed high school English Teacher. My dad has a library of books, and so we all grew up reading (well, except for one brother), as well as playing sports and musical instruments. We all dreaded when Dad would want to look over our homework – I even began hiding my schoolwork from him or getting it done at school.

Quite frankly I’m amazed we didn’t all become mutes. We’d hear things like, “You don’t LAY down, you LIE down. You lay a book on the table, and you lie down to sleep”, “I have gone, I will go, I am going”, “Gonna isn’t a word, it’s “going to”, “You don’t say “Me is going to the store, do you? You say “David and I am going to the store”, and so on and so forth. Whether it was using the wrong word in the wrong context, saying a word that doesn’t exist like “funnest”, or putting the right punctuation in our writing, we were always corrected. I could literally go on for pages, but no one knows better than I do that no one likes a Grammar Bully.

I fought very hard to not become one myself. Monkey see, monkey do, right? Did I become an English teacher because of my dad? I’m sure he had some influence on the decision because of my love of reading and writing, but I feel better for blaming him for becoming a Grammar Bully. I consider myself one of the kinder of the species because I fight the outward bullying part of it as much as I can, but there’s no escaping the mental Grammar Bully that lives in my head. But oh the torture when I see or hear a grammar mistake, whether it’s verbal, written on a website, advertisement/sign, or in texts or emails. It’s worse than hearing nails on a chalkboard. I literally grit my teeth and cringe, sometimes inwardly, sometimes outwardly. Do I think my grammar is perfect? No, but it’d be nice to have someone to understand what I go through!

When one considers who they want to marry, they often think about what qualities they would like they person to have, some “must-have’s” and some not. When I was younger, I decided that a college degree was a “must-have”, and that a Master’s or further would be nicer, but now that the world has changed so much thanks to technology, it’s not a “must-have”, but a “would-be-nice”. Thanks to the internet and other venues of school like virtual academy’s and trade schools, a person can be self-made, wealthy, or extremely intelligent without a degree. I will admit, however, that I find it extremely attractive when a man is well spoken or well written and can carry on an educated in-depth conversation about a given complex subject. BUT, I know plenty of guys who don’t have college degrees who can do that. I’ve already told myself that I can’t grammar bully my husband, or if I do, I have to go about it in a nice helpful way so he doesn’t feel belittled. As far as my kids go, well, I don’t want to make grammar bullies with my husband necessarily, but they certainly are going to have proper grammar and know how to read and write and do it well. Just a heads up to him wherever he is ;). Most of the world’s population couldn’t get a crap about their significant other having good grammar or not, but a good principle to apply to dating and marriage no matter who you are is to decide what your “must-have’s” are. It’s good to decide now what qualities you would like your significant other to have, and accept the fact that you’re going to have to tolerate the things your significant other does that drives you nuts (like not putting the toilet seat down or leaving her hair on the counter), and what you’re willing to cross off of your list. (I’ll blog more about this topic later).

Romantic relationships aside, I’ve done some studying up on people like me, partly in fascination and brotherly kinship, partly to compare myself to them. I’ve found that Grammar Bullies are an interesting species; there’s even different classes of them.

“Red Penners”: Some grammar bullies find pleasure in editing and ripping apart essays their friends give them. As an English teacher, I don’t really enjoy it. It gets old when everyone and their brother asks you to correct their papers when you have 220 of your own to grade and get back to your students by the end of the week. However, it is refreshing to know that your friends will at least make the changes to their papers, while my high school students get their papers back, look at the score on top, throw it away, and turn in the exact same draft they turned in to me earlier that week instead of a new final draft – and that’s if they even do the first draft!

Grammar Trolls: Some Grammar Bullies purposely troll forums, chat rooms, or websites just to correct people’s grammar. No matter that blogs or Facebook or chat are not as formal as an essay that will be graded or put in a publication, they must call out the imperfections! Their post is usually followed by someone telling them where to go or something that looks like, “This post has been removed by the moderator.” They just can’t help or resist the urge to fix the mistake and educate others on their grammar follies.

Hitler’s: Some Grammar Bullies have no shame in their bullying. They believe it is a sign of a lack of education and/or intelligence. Who cares if English is the hardest language to learn? They giggle in glee when they see pages like this:

And throw a fit when they see pages like this:

Although they get a hit off of the fact that they can read this so easily, the bad spacing, spelling, and letter out of orders makes their little grammar sensors go off the charts!

Hypocrites: However, FEW Grammar Bullies have perfect grammar themselves, whether it’s verbal or written, myself included. I will be the first to admit I am no Grammar Queen. Like I said, my dad still corrects me to this day. I think I can remember correcting my Dad ONCE, though he will deny it for eternity. And since I can’t remember what it was, his lawyer brain will deny it further. Either way, he’s definitely got me beat. A lot of times I’m too lazy or just don’t care enough to have perfect grammar, I’ve forgotten what I’ve learned in the endless grammar classes I’ve taken, I’m still learning just like everyone else, and grammar is one of those things that you have to keep up on and practice or else you can forget it, like many things.

Grammar Snobs: Some Grammar Bullies pride themselves on their vocabulary and like to pontificate with elaborate verbosity. I’m pretty sure they and fellow grammar geeks are the only people who get a kick out of it. I don’t think it’s very effective in getting your point across or a good way to keep and hold a conversation, but there’s no denying it shows you’re educated – just educated and cocky. Of course, it does depend on the environment. If you’re speaking to a bunch of college professors, who wouldn’t up their vocabulary?

Whether you’ve had an encounter such a fierce creature or find you meet one of the above descriptions, know I sympathize with you. Some say that the mission of Grammar Bully’s is just as pointless as Michelle Obama’s obesity campaign, while others will proudly wear their badge for e’r and e’r. Either way, my hope is that reading and writing never lose their value in the realm of education and communication – regardless of grammatical perfection.

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4 thoughts on “Memoirs of a Grammar Bully

  1. Grammar Bullies unite! My favorite is when I notice grammar mistakes in published works. It makes me wonder who that editor was?!? Miss you, Em! And I love your blog!

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