Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Grammatically Infuriated

I seem to recall a time when Wolf Blitzer didn't annoy the hell out of me.  Whenever it was... and I just spent a minute or so trying to place it in context.... many years have past since then.  Now, his little face and little voice and little mouth make me want to scream.

We all have our annoyances; I'm just sharing mine out loud.

TBG likes listening to the talking heads of all descriptions.  We have this conversation periodically, when I open my ears and hear words strung together in vague approximation of sentences by bloviators on the left and the right.  I cannot argue with his response to my astonishment that he would spend time letting them into his ears let alone his brain. "Without being there myself, without seeing it in person, I can only gather as many facts and opinions as are out there and decide for myself what to believe."

He spends his days thinking and comparing and groaning aloud.  This afternoon we watched Wolf and his reporter deconstructing the Romney campaign's attack on President Obama's donors and the government contracts they received.

I thought CNN was the thoughtful arm of the media.

Duh.  What voter is naive enough to think that donors don't receive federal dollars?  That's what appropriations are all about.  Living in Tucson, where Raytheon is a major employer, I certainly hope that they are spreading their wealth around Washington, reminding our legislators that jobs are needed here, too.  I'd be disappointed if they and their spokesmen lobbyists were not extending their largesse on both sides of the aisle, covering all their bets.

This is the best that they can come up with seemed to be the reporter's thesis.  His disdain mounted, Wolf's eyebrows lifted, and then the graphic came on the screen, the one with the misplaced apostrophe, the one that makes me throw pillows across the room.

I know you think that you're being very clever, using a grammatical rule.  Unfortunately for you, oh person who is typing the words I saw on the screen... and for the editor/supervisor who monitors your work..... its is possessive without the apostrophe.  It goes against the rule you think you are following.

When you see it's it means it is.  Nothing belongs to it at all. 

And so, there I sat, fuming at the folly of it all.  The facts are the facts.  A company gave money to the President's campaign, now that companies are people and can do that sort of thing, and then that company was awarded a federal contract.... or a grant... or an opportunity of some sort.  I was too infuriated by that errant ' to pay much attention to the content. 

This was CNN, not the local middle school's audio-visual department..... which would probably have a teacher who could correct the mistake before it went live so maybe it should've been in a middle school.  This was on television.  I remember when that meant something.

My grandparents, immigrants to this country at the turn of the 20th century, read four or five newspapers each day.  They listened to the radio.  They needed to learn the language and that was the best way to do so.  Care was taken with the words that were printed or broadcast; good grammar was absorbed along with the content. 

They went to the movies, where they read titles like this one, from Buster Keaton's The General
So I thought it best to hold her...... all that grammar packed into eight little words.  My grandparents learned English, their third (or in G'ma's mom's case, her fourth) language by imitation and through conversation.  I remember being chastised for using slang.... It's not right!

There were expectations of excellence, and no thought of dumbing down to the lowest common denominator.  Valentino, The Sheik, expected his audiences to contend with screens like this
And, somehow, they did.  G'ma remembers reading the titles aloud and having them read to her.  There was hooting and hollering and laughing accompanying the pianist down in front, and then there was a low murmur when the words appeared as seatmates shared their English expertise with the newly arrived or the infantile.

Reading aloud as a group exercise... I'm loving the image right now.

And my brain is back at being furious with CNN and Wolf Blitzer and the reporter whose name I've blessedly forgotten.  If you are that flippant with the rules of grammar, why should I not assume that you are simiarly oblivious to the rules of good reportage?  Why should I believe a word you say?  You obviously don't care about doing things well.. or right.... nor do you check your work.

Humph.  I am infuriated.


  1. You have touched on one of my greatest pet peeves. Whenever I see or hear incorrect grammar, I just tune the person out. I know that's quite rude of me, but it's just that I cannot get past the stupidity of their comment(s).

    As for Wolf Blitzer, the whole bushy beard bugs me. I'm not a huge fan of facial hair. He also bugs me with how sensational his reports are. I'm quite tired of everything being made a big deal. Real news should be made out to be a big deal, but not all news is big news. With some reporters, the more salacious and sensational, the better.

    I could go on and on about the whole news/press arena. So probably best for me to stop venting my spleen. ;)

    Happy Tuesday.

    Megan xxx

  2. The its/it's thing is my biggest pet peeve, and I spent a lot of time haranguing my students about it. Ugh!!!!!

  3. Yes, Megan and Laura, that nerve this post touched in you is the one that had me throwing decorative pillows. GRRRRRR.......

    Good for you, Laura, for hollering at your students about it! Someone has to do it!

  4. The thing that bugs me is NOBODY uses the words lie and lay correctly. The three parts of verbs drilled again and again in English class:

    lie lay lain: I lie down today, I lay down yesterday and I have lain down many times.

    lay laid lais: He laid the book on the table today, he laid it down yesterday and has laid it down many times.

    Since I never hear it used correctly, I should be over it. Somewhere they probably are saying it's colloquially accepted to be WRONG.

  5. My pet peeve? When words ending in -ise are misspelled as ending in -ize... words like, oh, say... chastise.

    Sorry. Couldn't resist. :) This is the reason why I almost never go on tears about grammar and spelling; I'm pretty sure I'd misspell or -type something in my fury, and all the steam would blow out of my argument. But for what it's worth, the usage which drives me up a wall is hone for home, in contexts like He honed in on the most annoying abuses of the English Language.

    Do you know Lynne Truss's book Eats Shoots and Leaves? (Subtitle: "The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation" (ha!). Right up your alley, I'd wager.

  6. Just try going to the hospital with my mother, marlu. Try talking about lying/laying/just get in the damn bed already..... She is SO on your side :)

    And JES, I went in and changed it just for you. You were right. I was wrong. I don't think all the steam went out of my argument.... I learned from my mistake! I honed in on it as soon as you pointed it out.... hehehe :)

    Yes, I love Eats Shoots and Leaves.... in fact, it's the last book G'ma read all the way through.

  7. Since you brought up grammar, I noticed a little typographical error you seem to have inherited (along with most of the rest of the typing world).

    I've been instructed to tell you: "If you type two spaces after a period, you're doing it wrong."

    But don't take my word for it, this handy article will explain it all: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2011/01/space_invaders.html

    I trust you'll take this comment as it's (ha, see what I did there?) intended, which is as an attempt to politely and happily spread the joy of beautiful typography, and not as snark. I hope anyway.

  8. Elle, how do I train my fingers, which have been space space-ing after the period for 50 years, to change? And leaving only one space after the period looks weird to me. Don't you agree?

    And, as I said to JES above, I am not insulted, I am learning!

    Besides, The Burrow has its (hehe) own punctuation standards.... no grammar text would love my ....'s


Talk back to me! Word Verification is gone!