Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tales of a Grammar Nazi

I'm sure it doesn't surprise many of you who know that I am an English teacher when I say that I am a grammar nazi. I have been known to give detentions to students for saying "ain't" or who use double negatives in my presence. I tell my students that their speech is the first indication they give people of who they are and that they should want that first impression to be one of intelligence and not hillbilly-esque rubery. I am exacting on myself as well, frequently beating myself up when I realize that my pronoun and antecedent aren't in agreement minutes after saying them. (Like many, I struggle with indefinite pronoun antecedents and often make the mistake of making "everyone" plural.) Lately, I've been struggling to come to terms with the fact that my mother is CHOOSING to marry a man who says things like, "I like them french fries they got at Buffalo Wild Wings." (Okay, not an actual quote, but he DOES use "them" as an adjective. It's like nails on a chalkboard every time!) I just find it highly ironic that the woman who lectured me numerous times about the inappropriateness of saying "ain't" (I can still remember the lecture I received in the middle of Montgomery Ward's!) can overlook something so heinous as someone's speech.

Good lord -- I am a snob!!

But we all knew that.

Since I suspect my attempts to correct my future stepfather's grammar would either seem rude or become a joke to him, my poor speech team bears the brunt of my quest for good grammar. I hold much higher expectations for them than anyone else. I mean, they are a SPEECH team. They should be a model of excellent SPEECH!

My biggest pet peeve which has become a team mission is when people use "good" as an adverb. For example, let's say Rachel my Super AD comes out of her poetry round at a meet and I say, "Hey, Rachel, how did Poetry go?" Her response SHOULD be, "It went well." Also acceptable would be, "I did well." An unacceptable response would be, "I did good." Thanks to my hero Tina Fey and the folks at 30 Rock, I come back at the "I did good" with the response, "No, Rachel, Superman does good. YOU do WELL!"

Luckily, I have a speech team that is good natured and good humored. The first time I said that to them, they all laughed. It has now become a team mantra. The kids have taken it so far that they have created the "good jar" -- a tub into which people put money when they use "good" as an adverb. It's a struggle and the amount in the jar inches up slowly but surely. When they got off the bus Saturday afternoon, Rachel came up to me with the report that Katrina owed the jar 25 cents on Monday and Claire owed 75. Rachel does a weekly counting and reporting of what's in the jar so far -- a couple dollars at last count -- and I believe she and Katrina even wrote a little rhyme about the jar -- something that involved the rhyming of well and going to hell. To me, what's most important is that the kids are making a concerted effort to improve their speech and working together to make that happen one baby step at a time.


Danielle Mari said...

I had a similar jar at the Academy! By the end of the year, I supplemented their offerings and had a pizza party. One student said, "Ms. Fi-Fi-- bad grammar never tasted so good.... or is it well? No, no it's good." I had never been so proud.

Jen said...

I'll join that grammar snob club. Think of it this way--at least you are being a snob about something that everyone has equal opportunity to excel at (if they so choose). Your kids will thank you, if not now, then probably around the time they start going for job interviews.

Mel said...

Oh my gosh, Jen, I just said that to them today -- that they would thank me 10 years from now when they got their "dream job" because they used saw instead of seen!

NICKI said...

My sister, a 5th grade teacher, argues with her students about grammar as well. But they all plan to be NFL or NBA stars, and they feel it is a moot point. Plus, "We is going to the store" sounds right to them. Its an uphill battle, but one worth fighting!