Your Friendly Grammar Ninja, Lesson 1:
Addressing Grammar with Humor and Hyperbole One Word Crime at a Time
Hmm. Where did my obsession with words and articulation spring from? I’m not entirely sure, but I do remember sitting in the small office of an older woman during math class with a couple of other students who were like me: different.
We spent about thirty minutes of our time with this kind lady (I can’t remember her name) with ageless dark brown skin, hoop earrings, a neat afro (no, I’m not a 70s baby, but this lady rocked the hairstyle most righteously), and bright lipstick on her ever moving mouth. This lady wasn’t only kind, but wise. I didn’t exactly know why I was in the class, but I had a feeling it wasn’t completely good. The other two students I shared this time with were different, like me, but not quite like me. You see, one, a boy with long-lashed, doe shaped blue eyes spoke real soft and real slow, like a Jazz song without the swag and all the heartache. Real uncertain and hesitant. And the girl, she couldn’t pronounce words that started with “sh” or “th”. Me? Like I said, as I child, I didn’t know why I was in this class, but we all called it Speech and at the same time three times a week, we hustled down the elementary school hallway with our red Speech folders and met with this lady.
One day, she turned to me and asked: “What are you doing here?”
My heart caught in my throat. “I don’t know. I was told to come here.”
“You don’t’ belong here, honey. You speak fine to me. All these weeks you’ve been here, you speak just fine to me. I don’t know why these people tossed you in this class. You should be in class learning your math. You’re excused. You don’t need to come back. Good luck to you.”
I remember whispering a low “’thank you” and skipping back to class. My mother and father speculate that I may have been placed in the class because people were concerned about the way I pronounced the word “ask”, like in “may I ask you a question?” but that’s not the way I pronounced it. If I don’t catch myself, it sounds like I’m inquiring whether or not I can use an axe to cut down questions for you. My parents are from Jamaica and Haiti and as accents go, it’s not unusual for their children to pick up and mimic the nuances of their lyrical language.
I’ve grown to love languages. I love words. I love the delicious feel of words like conjugate, alliterate, refulgent, akimbo, and tsunami. Words are fun and if I could eat them I would.
And yet, I sometimes get offended when my love of words is seen as an oddity. Especially when my color is used as the reason why. Once, an ex-boyfriend told me, “Wow. You speak so proper. So eloquently.” I asked him if he would have said that if I were white. He shook his head and added, “Of course not” and we broke up not long after. What should color have to do with how I speak and what I love? Sheesh. For this post, that is a story I shall not linger on.
So, in this blog post, let’s surrender to silly entertainment. Each week, I will discuss a grammar pet peeve or gripe that adults and children use in abundance. Ohhh, and what I do about them. (These absolutely true tales will appear in a book of short stories called “The Lies My Teacher Told Me” or the Middle Grade series of the same name, so no indulging in naughtiness and copying what my beautifully insane mind has wrought. COPYRIGHTED, PEOPLE! COPYRIGHTED! 🙂
Examples: You’re, they’re, it’s, Monique’s piece of cake – not yours
Apostrophes are used to show possession or ownership and also used in contractions when one wants to combine two words into one. When I used to teach elementary school I taught my students the real history of the apostrophe.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, apostrophes were actually aliens hailing from the planet of Apostrophia. They came to Earth because people needed help speaking more efficiently and showing what belonged to whom without sounding redundant and repetitive. People had become tired of saying things like, those shoes are the shoes of John or that cake belongs to Abbie. People had also become lazy with language and no longer wanted to state things like, I do not like ice cream? Cannot you do it?
Language had become a complete bore to the people of Earth, so the aliens of Apostrophia traveled at light speed (with some help from Doctor Who) to save the day! The apostrophes knew a better way and decided to leave a small amount of themselves here on earth. They have wings, you see, so they could hover in between letters, (unlike the lowly, but still important comma) and snuggle in between words like do and not; can and not, did and not, but not in between the words it and is unless you’re talking about the contraction – not the possession! Got it? Good.
The otherworldly apostrophes handled the possession problem in the same manner, by making their wings, arms, eyes, and feet (they don’t have legs) invisible and only leaving the glory of their signature shape visible to mortal eyes! Their true name which is more complicated than super cala fragalistic expialidoshus and can’t be pronounced in the human tongue is silent when people are talking. That had been the tradition for centuries that hasn’t died and that’s why I’m able to write this sentence using contractions in several words, thanks to the assistance of the apostrophe aliens. True story.
Your Friendly Grammar Ninja
P.S. (Anyone spot potential apostrophe errors I made in this post?) Where in the world is the error? Reveal your answer in the comments.