06 June, 2005

Admission 1

On the train back from Chicago, I read a passage from a David Sedaris book that got me thinking. I had just had a conversation with Luciana wherein she revealed that my correcting her grammar bothered her. I pointed out that I truly did not do it in order to make myself appear or feel superior, but, rather, because I thought she would want to learn (or already knew, but had simply slipped up). Sedaris was comparing his repeated and unsuccessful cleanings of his sister’s apartment to a missionary proffering Jesus to worshipers of Tiki Gods. This makes me think I am perhaps proselytizing a more formal manner of speaking English. (Wait a second: is the object of proselytize the subject matter or the person whom you are trying to convince? That is, am I "proselytizing a ... manner of speaking" or am I "proselytizing Luciana in favor of a ... manner of speaking"?)

Perhaps now is the time to start making an effort to no longer correct people’s grammar. (Note that I’ve always thought the no-splitting-your-infinitives rule is bogus since it stems from English teachers analyzing Latin, in which such a rule is moot.) As if the fact that it bugs people weren't a good enough reason.


Anonymous said...

Correcting grammar in formal writing is one thing, correcting grammar in informal speech and informal writing just bugs the shit out of people because the message is more important than the means of delivery

Gaius said...

Certainly correcting ones own children or ones students would be fine if you have an interest in them speaking a certain way. I mean, you don't want your kids saying "I dived into the pool," right? I do understand that there's a difference between people who haven't mastered the language yet (e.g. toddlers) and college students who have a firm grasp of it, but choose to spend their energy on other things.

Anonymous said...

I think part of it is that people often do know they make grammatical mistakes when speaking or in informal writing but because of the communcation medium itself don't care enough to correct themselves when they make an occasional mistake or (usually correctly) think the mistake doesn't matter.

Another point to consider is that a child or student would be subordinate in those situations and correction of grammar should be made for their benefit, in other cases though it just comes off as domineering.

Unknown said...

personally, I'm with you - correction is "kind" and not correcting your loved ones on repetitive speach issues is like letting them walk around with a booger hanging out of their noses - it's not kind.

That said - what a sensitive subject - anonymous is correct, if your correction iterupts the communication, you're dead meat.

My spouse likes to make up words - I stopped correcting & started laughing with her at her private dictionary - now she can turn it on & off & knows when she's doing it