When writing her thesis – many a year ago now – my daughter thanked me for having been a stickler over English grammar throughout her childhood. I cannot deny that I was surprised – in fact, you could have knocked me down with the proverbial feather – for all my persistent corrections to her speech had been greeted with a decidedly teenage roll of the eyes.
I’m not sure exactly how my being an English grammar stickler came about as, in truth, I missed that period of schooling when you’re taught the varying aspects of English grammar. Verbs, nouns, adverbs and adjectives are pretty much the limit of my learning as a result. But I’ve always read voraciously – junk & classics, lightweight & heavyweight, slang & Shakespearean English – and I think that did a decent job of filling in the gaps.
I was roomed with Spanish students in boarding school, not to help me develop my Spanish but to improve their English. Unfortunately, as I didn’t know the rules of English grammar, I could only tell them what I knew was right (or what was wrong) and not why. For I work from an instinct derived from all that reading – things either sound and look right, or vice versa. Despite this, during the year we roomed together, their English improved in leaps & bounds (and my Spanish made a little progress too).
Later I learned that being the only one of my family and friends who cared about the subject of grammar made me stick out, so I tended to hide my pet peeves away – until it came time to teach my daughter that is.
Much, much later in life, I found my people – and was able to fully embrace my inner grammar nerd. Sitting around a table in a pub, many
glasses bottles later, some wag decided we each had to select just one grammar pet peeve. I’ve never seen so many tipsy people struggle with a decision. Eventually I came up with mine … instead of saying “John and I”, it’s the saying of “me-and John” (or me-and anyone in all truth), especially when the first two words are rolled together to sound like one. I don’t know why, but me-and has always been like chalk on a blackboard to me.
Of course, mis-use of they’re, there & their, and where, wear and we’re, are also way up there in the irritation stakes, but they’re written rather than spoken. So me-and is mine – and it still makes me shudder inside.
What would be yours? Or are you rolling your eyes at me right now? 😀
© Debra Carey, 2020