I’m raising Grammar Nerds. I refuse to call them Grammar Nazis and I truly do wish we could retire that term.
I recently commented on Facebook about the poor grammar in a letter sent out by our school. I said something about expecting better from the school I send my children to. What I forgot to consider was that I live in a small town. And so I probably know the person who wrote the letter.
Well, I do. And she’s one of the sweetest, nicest people you could ever meet. And she was embarrassed and hurt by my remark. I felt terrible. On the one hand, I don’t think I was (strictly speaking) wrong to expect more from my school. On the other hand, I had caused harm by bringing it up in a public manner. Normally, I would do it privately, and only if I felt the person would want to fix it.
At any rate, I was telling some friends about how terrible I felt. One of them very sternly told me, “That was bad. Really bad. People don’t like it when people do that. That’s where the term Grammar Nazi comes from. Because it’s bad. People don’t like it.”
Let’s just rein it back in for a minute, shall we? I publicly remarked that a letter that did contain grammar mistakes… contained grammar mistakes. This wasn’t a random post on Facebook. It wasn’t an email or text message or some other throwaway communication. It was official correspondence from my child’s school. And it was not well edited before it was released.
Was my complaint really comparable to the starvation, torture, rape, and execution of tens of thousands of people? I mean, really? Let’s try to keep it in perspective, please.
Needless to say, when I saw a sign on the door at the school saying “Our student’s safety is our top priority”, I kept my mouth shut. Well, not completely. I told Jane about the sign, without telling her the mistake, and asked her how it should be spelled. She said, “S-T-U-D-E-N-T-S apostrophe. What, did they put the apostrophe before the S?”
She smiled as I commented that I didn’t realize the school was only worried about one student and wondered which one it was.
It was less than a week later when the boys brought home a T-shirt order form from their school. The logo said “To Our School We Proudly Hale”. Jane was the first to point out that they meant Hail.
We contacted some folks who were very appreciative that we brought it to their attention before the shirts went to print. It’s nice, as a grammar nerd, to be granted appreciation instead of scorn. It’s much nicer than being scowled at. Then again, I suppose how we approach the correction makes all the difference.
But you see, it’s not easy to turn it off. We notice. And we actually don’t find grammar all that hard. We get that it’s easy to type something wrong. But if it’s something that you’ve read over, there probably shouldn’t be many mistakes. At least, not the really big ones. We try to consider people’s feelings, but sometimes the timing is just too perfect or the temptation too great or the frustration too much to bear in silence.
Take a conversation Jane was having with some friends. She remarked that she was not going to be an orchestra teacher when she grew up and then pointed to one of the girls and indicated that she probably would.
The girl responded, “I’m not going to be no orchestra teacher.”
Jane immediately fired back with, “You aren’t going to be an English teacher either!”
Ok, so out of line? Yeah. Probably. Funny? Hell, yeah! I couldn’t believe she had said it, but at the same time, I couldn’t help feeling a little proud of her either.
One final proud Grammar Mom moment? I’ve had multiple adults tell me that they ask Daryl for any spelling help they need. One of them had barely met him two years ago when he was in the third grade. One of the other students had made a sign that said “Flower Shop”. Only, she had spelled it “Flower Shope”. All the other kids told the girl that the E shouldn’t be there. Daryl walked by, glanced at the sign, and said, “If you want to spell it with an E, you need two P’s.”
We can’t help it, my children and I. We live in words. We immerse ourselves in books. We love to write. We love the language. And it actually hurts to see it butchered, even accidentally. So we try to be compassionate and consider people’s feelings, we really do. But sometimes, our instincts get the best of us and we just have to let it out. At least I haven’t taken to carrying around a bottle of white-out and a Sharpie to fix all the misplaced commas and apostrophes that I come across!