Years ago a friend in Ocala, Florida gave me a book titled Woe is I, written by Patricia T. O’Conner. Martha knew I was writing a book (at that time, Rabbit Trail) and thought I’d be intrigued and amused by an intense look at grammar mistakes people make, often with unintended and hilarious consequences. I was then, and still am, interested. It can become a monster, this preoccupation; after almost thirty years of marriage, I still sometimes edit my husband’s comments. Aloud. He’s a patient guy.
One woman who shares my passion is Bobbie Christmas, editor and founder of Zebra Communications. I discovered Bobbie through the Florida Writers Association and eventually went on to use her services to edit my third book. In her newsletters, Bobbie begins with a personal message followed by answers to readers’ questions, writing tips, news on current writing contests, agents looking for manuscripts, etc. With her permission, I share the opening of the June edition.
The trend toward reality TV may be the death of me, metaphorically speaking. First of all, let’s be realistic: there’s nothing real about reality TV. Producers intervene in the lives of people willing to broadcast their daily doings, and those producers encourage participants to create scenes, situations, and setups that lure viewers in. I originally watched some of the Real Housewives shows, but soon realized that every show featured screaming arguments over the stupidest things imaginable. Sometimes the arguments got so heated that people threw things—often drinks in someone’s face—but sometimes more dangerous things, like bottles and even tables.
What were the arguments about? Almost always about something someone said to someone else. “Mary told me that Elizabeth said you’re a (fill in the blank with anything at all).” An argument always ensued and escalated into a full brawl.
The worst was the time one person said another person gave the third person “the evil eye.” The third person confronted the person who allegedly gave her the “evil eye,” but the person denied it. Screaming battles followed, as usual. Well, folks, the evil eye is one that is protective. It’s a good thing. Those idiotic folks were arguing over something that isn’t even bad. What the first person actually meant, though, was that someone gave another person “the stink eye,” which is a look expressing annoyance, resentment, or disapproval and is much different from the evil eye, but no one in the whole show ever noticed the error or made a correction.
In my entire (real) life I have never seen an argument break out among my friends about anything anyone ever said. I’ve never witnessed a disagreement turn into things being thrown. Oh, I might add that alcohol is almost always involved on TV, and my friends don’t drink much if at all. Maybe that’s the difference. Or maybe my friends don’t have producers egging them on to make “good” TV.
I soon stopped watching the shows that featured women with fake boobs, fake eyelashes, and heavy makeup screaming at each other. Instead I watch shows that involve people looking for love. Those folks don’t scream at each other or wear quite as much makeup. They speak naturally, though, which means I hear all kinds of egregious errors in English. If the fights didn’t kill me, the bad English will.
Most heard on romance shows: I’s. It goes like this: “She’s getting in the way of Robert’s and I’s relationship.” What? Kill me now. “Me and” is another horrible error that makes my heart want to stop beating. “Me and Robert went shopping.” You wouldn’t say “Me went shopping; why would you say “Me and (anyone else)” did anything? It’s supposed to be “Robert and I went shopping.” Please, for heaven’s sake!
“Feels” has taken on a new meaning as well. No longer do people have feelings on TV, they have feels. Ugh.
Last night I cringed when someone said, “I have a pit in my stomach.” No, you stupid person, the idiom is “I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach.” Leave the pits to peaches, please.
So, does it all really matter? Will you not rise to the highest level in your chosen field because of sloppy grammar? Not attain that coveted corner office? Will that person you are enamored with (or with whom you are enamored) suddenly break off your relationship because you say, “There’s nobody here but we chickens”? Doubtful. But it’s worthwhile to stretch ourselves and develop a habit of self-education. “I am still learning,” Michelangelo said at the tender age of 87. I hope to be able to say the same.