Tuesday, May 27, 2008

a team i could join

The Madwoman of Preserve Path, a fellow wordsmith, posted this article from the Chicago Tribune May 21 about two guys out to rid the world of bad punctuation and poor spelling. I love the photo alone!

Here's a snippet:

They entered a men's clothing store near Ashland Avenue. The large faded metal sign out front read "Mens Clothing." They swung open the door. An older man was resting his elbows on a shirt rack. They approached. Deck spoke. "We noticed your sign."

The man said nothing. Deck explained it needed an apostrophe. The man is Robert Marks, the manager. He is 60 years old and said he had been coming to this store (founded in 1914) since he was a child. (He said the sign is at least as old as he is.) He listened to them explain why the grammar on the sign was wrong. And then he shrugged, never changing his expression.

Deck asked if he had a ladder, so he could climb up and ...

"Don't worry about it," Marks said.

"We could jus ... "

"Leave it alone."

As I told the Madwoman, it just gets me that so many people in the world don't even notice punctuation errors, much less care. Either they don't read ... or they have no concept of grammatical rules in their heads. Either way, it's hard for me to fathom what it must be like to drift along through life with such a mind. If that makes me a snobby word nerd, that's OK.


LutherLiz said...

I confess, while I understand most grammar and endeavor to use it properly, I'm notoriously bad for hitting enter before proof reading. So I beg forgiveness from the grammar police out there and hope you can forgive those of us premature enter-ers!

Anonymous said...

Gentle Reader,

As someone both acquainted with the practices of Miss Manners and bereft by grammar mistakes, I think that Miss Manners herself would commend you for both of your recent blog posts. First, she would congratulate you on your attention to the often forgotten necessity of the thank you note. Second, she would delight in knowing that there are others in this world who lament the loss of needed apostrophes (though I myself am most angered by the use of extra ones). On the subject of breaking the news, I believe she would allow you to mention it in the note, so long as you continue to couch it, as you have, with an apology for how busy you have been. In all aspects I believe Miss Manners herself would say that you have been impeccable. We look forward with great anticipation to our visit with you this weekend.


Katie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christina said...

What a great article! Thanks for sharing.

I just noticed, with dismay, a typo on a plaque at my grandparents' cabin, where I spent the holiday weekend. It said, "Capecchi's" -- as if the door belongs to one Capecchi, rather than marking the home of multiple Capecchis. Oy.

Like Charles, I too may be particularly vexed by the needlessly added apostrophe. It's like, "Hm, it seems we could use an apostrophe somewhere -- how 'bout here?!"

Anonymous said...

"First annual" is a pet peeve since working at newspapers & knowing better.

I love that Lands' End tells the story of the typo that became to expensive to fix.

Aunt LizzieBoo

Jodie said...

My big grammatical pet peeve is the whole "you're" and "your" thing. It simply amazes me how many people don't know how to use these correctly.

And ha..after reading this it made me cringe knowing you had to check me for grammar/punctuation..hehe. My problem is I tend to often write just bam!..quickly...and there it is. I need to learn to go back and check more closely for boo-boo's. =)

Madwoman of Preserve Path said...

And another thing: You know what gets me most? People who forget the difference between "that" and "who." Witness this quote today from a reporter (who should know better) blogging on the KSTP-TV Web site: "My heart goes out to the tornado victims, especially the little boy that perished in the storm." (That little boy was a "who." He was not a baseball.) It's fun to whine about grammar; you can do it without hurting anyone, really. And it's not snooty to be passionate about punctuation. Special care in using those little marks or picking up a dictionary shows the ultimate in respect for your readers. Huzzahs to clear communicators everywhere!

Christina said...

Madwoman -- sorry I don't know your first name -- THANK YOU for calling this out. Uck! You'd think the KSTP reporter would know better. (But then again, those broadcasters are not as brainy as the print reporters. Ha! :)

This is such a common mistake, and if only the speakers knew the implications, that in doing so, they are reducing a person to an object.

Oprah made this mistake when she was stumping for Barack last December. She stopped just short of calling him the Messiah, and then she went and used the word "that" rather than "who."

You'd think O would have a *little* room in her budget to hire us on as proofreaders, wouldn't you?!? :) Just a little investment to ensure the Talk Show Queen really is a royal speaker...?

I know Emilie could carry her weight. She's the one who taught me when to capitalize after a colon. (Answer: only if a complete sentence follows).

Madwoman of Preserve Path said...

Now there's an idea, Cbristina! Go ahead: Send a proposal to Oprah. I dare ya. Emilie could use a little diversion right now, and we could pay one heckuva nanny for her kids with our earnings. We could be the first proofreaders to earn what we're really worth, eh? :)

Wordgirl said...

Eats, Shoots & Leaves -- have you read it? If not, you'd LOVE it.

I was -- am? -- a comp. teacher -- not that I am much of a grammarian -- my MFA in writing brought me to it. It was incredibly intimidating to teach grammar -- largely because, if you're a lifelong reader, much of it is intuitive.

I still have to rush feverishly back to my Diana Hacker to make certain about things.

I am surprised at how vibrantly the dexterity with language comes through in the writing-only medium like blogging -- which is why, I think, I love your blog so.

My blog is still riddled with unclear referents and dangling modifiers and god knows what else...at least I learned that the past tense of 'hang' is NOT hung -- luckily a friend, and fellow teacher saved me from that embarrassment. The men were not 'hung'...well, they may have been...but that's an entirely different matter...



Anonymous said...

My pet peeve? Poor use of commas. It drives me nuts. I am particularly bothered by a failure to use commas before conjuctions in compound sentences.

I just read a high school senior's scholarship essay and squirmed the entire time. Was this her best? Had anyone proofed it? It almost makes me long for the return of typewriters, white-out, and mandatory footnotes.

--Laura S.

Emilie said...

And while we're on the subject of "who" vs. "that," how about the dismaying decline of "whom"?

Here's an example that makes me scratch my head, though: "Just Who Do You Think You Are?" the new book by Maria Shriver. My application of the general rule of whether the "who/whom" could be substituted or answered with "he" (therefore, who) or "him" (therefore, whom) leads me to believe this book should be called "Just Whom Do You Think You Are." But that sounds so wrong and prissy. No one says that.

But still, it technically should be "Whom do you think you are?" Right? And "Whom do you love?" (Thanks a lot, Bo Diddley, or The Who, or ... whomever.)

Emilie said...

Wordgirl, I have read Eats, Shoots and Leaves — great book! Also, I know what you mean about teaching grammar. I did it right out of college, never having had one hardcore grammar course in my life (or, at least, in my memory). I seriously taught myself what gerund phrases were the night before I taught them to my class.

Jessica G. said...

Add me to the word nerd list. I hate it when stores have "apple's" for sale.

The worst? The phrase "very unique."

Ahuva Batya said...

I am so on board with you. I have such a problem with bad grammar. In fact, I was considering starting a weekly blog entry where I photograph misuse of the ubiquitous "" which drives me particularly insane. My favorite so far was on Lexington the other day. The sign said, "FREE" stuff.

So does that mean it's not really free?

Rebecca said...

Here here. How are these people get jobs in the sign-making industry?

My husband has a related pet peeve. He hates when an infinitive is broken up by an adverb. A lot of corporate communications do this. An example phrase: "to BETTER serve our customers." He hates that. It should be "to serve our customers better."

Anonymous said...

I once corrected a hostess at Perkin's regarding their sign and she was so offended. I would have thought she would appreciate the comment. The sign said "Take home a hole pie today!"


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