Sunday, October 21, 2012

31 Days: Day 21— In which we have a little drama.

Here's what my day looked like:

After very sketchy sleep for the past two nights, I spent the morning doing some editing, and then Ben and I went out to spend a whole lot of money buying a truck. When we first pulled in to the car lot, Ben got a text from his friend TJ, who is in St. Louis with Mansquared and a few other people to see the Rams/Packers game tomorrow. This is the trip Ben decided not to go on because he didn't want to leave me home alone sick.

It turns out that might have been a better decision than he thought.

TJ was texting because the group was getting ready to go out and do something but they couldn't find Mansquared and his friend Nathan (who drove up from Noodleville, TN to go to the game with him since Ben was not there and somebody had to use the ticket).

So Ben texted TJ Mansquared's cell phone number, and we went in to buy a truck.

(I realize this has nothing to do with grammar, but it's been that kind of day. I'll get to grammar in a minute.)

But being a mother, I couldn't get past the fact that my son was 14 hours away in a strange city and no one knew where he was. So I sent him a text: Did TJ find you?

Twenty minutes later, he called. When I said, "Hello?" I heard groaning and a pitiful voice said, "I'm dying."

Well, no, he's not at all dramatic.

Once I ascertained he was not dying of a gunshot wound in some back alley, I began the painful process of extracting specific information from a weak and dying 19-year-old male.

There is puking. There is weakness and stomach pain and body aches. We think it's food poisoning, since only he and TJ have it. If it were a virus, the others would get it (we hope they don't).

So I gave my standard advice for teenage boys far from home with no mother figure: Send Nathan out for ginger ale and saltine crackers (except auto-correct changed it to saline crackers, which is almost as accurate). I hope Nathan's parents don't mind me sending their kid out into a strange city.

I just sent another text (9:45 pm) to see if the puking had stopped yet. While I was in the bathtub tonight I wondered if he has his insurance card and military ID with him in case they have to take him to the hospital for dehydration. I don't know where that boy gets his drama.

Anyway, we finally got the truck Ben wanted, and he is fully prepared to hop in and drive to St. Louis if it's necessary. I think he's secretly hoping it is. See how hopeful he looks?


Today I'm going to share a common error that drives me crazy, which the grammar gurus at Chicago Manual of Style have now decided is perfectly acceptable. And I want to hang them by their toenails for it.

We've covered the topic of pronouns and their antecedents here before. Here's what I wrote, so you don't even have to click over there to read it:

Everyone knows what a pronoun is. It's a word that takes the place of a noun, so you don't have to sound ridiculous like this:

          Bob rode Bob's bike five miles to Bob's house.

Instead, you can sound intelligent and say:

          Bob rode his bike five miles to his house.

In the second sentence, his is the pronoun, and Bob is what we call the antecedent, or the noun to which the pronoun refers. I think Bob needs a car, but that's another story for another day.

The funny thing about pronouns and antecedents, though, is that they must match in number. Singular antecedent, singular pronoun. Plural antecedent, plural pronoun.

You wouldn't say:

          Bob rode their bike five miles to their house.

would you? It doesn't even sound right. Yet I see this error all. the. time.

Take the letter I got from Liberty University (the school I am currently paying $25,000 a year to educate my daughter) today. Here's how it begins:

          Dear Parent/Guardian,

          Over the years, you have invested in the life of your child. As the time comes for you to guide them . . .

Wait, what? THEM? I thought we were talking about my CHILD (singular). Why would we use a plural pronoun?

The $25,000 answer is: we wouldn't. We would use one of the singular pronouns, her or him. Since this is obviously a form letter, we would say, As the time comes for you to guide him/her . . .

Unless you are the parent of twins, in which case you would be out of your mind sending them to Liberty anyway. That would be $50,000 a year.

Well now the editors at CMOS have decided that it's okay to use a singular noun and refer to it with the plural pronoun their. As in each student should have their own book.

In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, really? You're a major style guide and now you're giving permission to further butcher the number-one language in the world? Great. And how do you propose we explain THIS exception to ESL learners? As if English weren't difficult enough!

I can't begin to tell you how much this frustrates me, and I've already determined that I will fight this ruling tooth and nail. I will not give in. I will not take part in throwing another aspect of a perfectly good language on the compost heap to rot with the potato peelings.

It's a good thing I'm not the dramatic type.

Be thankful ~

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, sorry to hear about your son. However, your hubby looks happy. =)

Great post today and I totally agree.

I hope you have a great week.