I had two separate grammar encounters today that got me thinking about the subject. I’ve always liked grammar. In high school I actually enjoyed diagramming sentences and got a kick out of the complex grammatical structure of Latin and ancient Greek (okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but it did interest me enough to study it for five years). I understand that most people aren’t like me. But what is happening to our country when our native speakers can’t understand subject-verb agreement or the difference between to/too, your/you’re, it’s/its and there/they’re/their? I feel like that material was hammered into my brain as a child.
On my way back from picking up Meat Loaf’s new album (I needed to physically feel it in my hands on the release date, not wait for it to arrive in the mail or download onto my computer), I saw a sign above a clothing store: “Where clothes comes to life.” I’m not positive that was the correct wording of it, I just remember the subject and verb. This wasn’t a hand-written sign in the window, they actually paid to have this slogan screen-printed on their awning. I then came home and got into the elevator with a man wearing an embroidered polo shirt. The shirt read: “I’m to old for this sh*t.” Yes, he either bought or made a shirt with the wrong “too.” And he probably didn’t even notice or care.
That’s what gets me. Even I occasionally have a slip up when I’m typing quickly on gchat with a friend. I’ll type “your” instead of “you’re” and then correct myself. But I would never turn in any professional or school work with the wrong word and most certainly would double check anything I was going to hang in my business or display on my body. I think the sad truth is that people just don’t care. There are bigger things to worry about in the world than proper grammar use, right? Just another reason our country is on the decline…
I’ll leave you with this story my former Latin teacher told me. Her daughter is currently studying in France for a year. As part of her curriculum she must take an English class. The teacher asked the students to complete the sentence “He __ for 10 years” with a form of the verb “to die.” My teacher’s daughter of course said, “He has been dead for 10 years.” But the instructor corrected her, saying it should be “He died for 10 years.” My teacher’s daughter said that wasn’t right. “Oh you Americans never speak proper English!” the teacher replied. It was only after the girl from Wales chimed in that the teacher admitted her mistake. Nice to know we Americans have an international reputation for butchering our language.
(In case you were wondering, it almost caused me physical pain to type and read the title of this post. Hopefully reading it gives you an icky feeling to too.)