Wednesday, March 11, 2015

OGD: Obsessive Grammar Disorder

I've seen a lot on social media lately criticizing people's grammar and, honestly, it's time to cut everyone a little slack. The Your/You're/There/Their/They're thing has been done to death. I understand when to use an apostrophe, when a quotation mark is called for, and who's on first. But typos happen, brain farts happen.  Bad grammar happens.

As an English major-turned-blogger, you'd think I would be all about the grammar.  But we didn't study dangling participles or dependent clauses in my college classes--I guess they thought we already knew all that.  I have a confession to make:  I couldn't diagram a sentence to save my life.  (Please don't tell the English Department at UW, because they might revoke my diploma.)  My 7th grade daughter recently asked for help with language homework that involved predicates and subordinating conjunctions. (Cue chirping crickets.) Not a clue...

I have probably broken three major grammar rules in this post alone--I couldn't tell you which, of course, since I am not a Grammar Nazi. This is not to say I don't think good grammar is important, but an occasional slip here and there does not doom one to Punctuation Purgatory.  I will not think you're stupid if you misuse parts of speech, but it's quite possible that I won't  understand you. "They're dog was over their with there cat" would leave me puzzling for days.  I know it's a personality flaw of mine--being so literal means I spend way too much time obsessing over such things.

Hello, my name is Kristin and I suffer from Obsessive Grammar Disorder.

I love words and how, when combined just right (and with a little pixie dust) they can create magic.  While growing up (the youngest in a family of five) I realized that I was never going to best my brothers at anything physical, so I decided to out-vocabulary them. (See, I'm pretty sure that was not the correct way to say that, but I'm going to call it "Poetic License" and move on.)  I started looking up words in the dictionary and dropping them casually into conversation.  I once told my brother that he was obtuse and he stared at me with such a mixture of such frustration and loathing that I felt a little giddy inside.

When used correctly, words can exert tremendous power; when used incorrectly, they create confusion.  And it drives me insane.

There was a construction site near our house last summer that posted a sign along the road that read "Truck's Crossing". Every time I drove by there I went a little crazy trying to figure WHAT THEY WERE SAYING. Was there just one truck that somehow owned that part of road?  Could I not cross there? Curse you, OGD!

There are many examples of grammar gone bad on Pinterest.  I came across this beauty recently: "Southern Born/ Southern Bread/ and/ Southern Girl/ Til I'm Dead."  I got to the "bread" part and was prepared for a clever play on words, but instead was sadly disappointed with plain old bad grammar.  She, of course, meant "bred," but there I was trying to figure out what southern bread was (biscuits maybe?) and obsessing over what could made this into something funny. ("Southern Baked/Southern Bread/and/ Southern Girl/ 'Til I'm Fed," maybe?)
Web MD defines Obsessvie Compulsive Disorder as a "potentially disabling illness that traps people in endless cycles of repetitive thoughts and behaviors."  Much like its counterpart, Obsessive Grammar Disorder causes those afflicted to compulsively try to extract meaning from bad grammar. Treatment involves a dictionary, a thesaurus, and spell check.  Or you can go with the holistic approach:  read three books and call me in the morning.

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