October 19th, 2005

Books

The Wordsmith

There aren't a lot of things that I am incredibly passionate about, but two of them are proper grammar and word usage. I remember writing a story in second grade, and not being able to spell the word "unconscious," and it drove me crazy to the point of frustration. My teacher had no idea what I was talking about when I spelled it "u-n-c-o-n-s-h-u-s," although it was partly because she had no imagination. Even as I spelled it completely wrong, I knew that it wasn't spelled that way. I guess I was born with this innate sense of spelling and words.

By fourth grade, I had discovered a magnificent and brilliant device: the dictionary. In my fourth-grade class, we had an entire shelf of dictionaries that we were allowed to go to and find words during classwork time. One time, I got up to find the proper spelling of "definitely," and my teacher broke the silence of classwork time. "Class, look at what Kim is doing," Mr. Sherant said, "she is looking up a word instead of guessing the spelling. That is a good speller."

His remarks made me feel a very special type of happiness. Kind of like the happiness you get when you give blood, or donate money to starving orphans in a Third World country. You know what you are doing is right, and that feels good.

In fifth grade, I managed to make it to the school spelling bee. As the class representative, I was provided with a list of excruciatingly long words that I only looked at once to admire their complexities. I quickly memorized how to spell "antidisestablishmentarianism," although in true ironic fashion, I got out on the five letter word "fiery." (I spelled it "f-i-r-e-y.") I did get fourth place; not that I got any type of special recognition for that.

Through the middle school years, I trudged onward, trying to increase my vocabulary. It was sad, though. My seventh grade teacher was more interested in listening to herself speak than actually teaching us anything, and gave us mountains of busywork whenever she lost her voice. My eighth grade teacher was super nice; all the students (including me) loved her, but she never really challenged me.

Ninth-grade English was Heaven. I had a teacher who taught me all the things that I had been wondering about, such as the proper use of an apostrophe, the difference between "farther" and "further," when to use a comma, and several other life-changing grammatical facts. He also had a weekly vocabulary list, where he effectively taught the proper spelling and usage of everyday words.

Perhaps it is just my personality, but I love using words properly. One thing that can make my brain explode is words used incorrectly or spelled incorrectly. I swear I can feel my forehead vein pulse with repressed rage whenever I hear someone use the nonexistent word "irregardless." It's always "regardless"; who was the fish head who came up with that crap? I also prefer the American spelling over the British spelling, which is why I like my "canceled" with one, not two, Ls. I have never really seen the point of spelling "favorite" or "color" with an extra letter. I don't think it makes people seem well-traveled or avant-garde, but pretentious. I may come across as judgmental, but I don't care. (Did you notice how I spelled "judgmental"? So many people are adding an E in the middle these days that it makes me want to scream.)

I read a lot of things on the Internet, and while spelling and grammar often take a back seat to content, there is one error that I absolutely cannot stand at all. It's when people use "suppose" and "use" incorrectly. For instance, I come across things like, "I was suppose to be smart" or "I use to have a brain." Well, people don't actually write that, but they might as well, since that is ABSOLUTELY 100% incorrect. Every time I see that particular error I want to poke something sharp into my eye until it reaches my brain, and then swirl it around until I die. Some of my best friends write like this, and every time I see those mistakes, I have to force myself to keep reading the writing, silencing my natural instinct to skip the rest of their stories. Of course, being the strict grammar Nazi that I am, I have pointed out their mistakes, yet they still insist on using it incorrectly. Get used to writing the way you are supposed to be doing it, already!

Another thing that I cannot stand is when people tell a story, but refuse to use new paragraphs, so it looks like one giant mega-paragraph. My eyes need a break. It is almost impossible for me to read a three-page paragraph, whereas I could read six properly indented pages with no sweat. I don't know if it is because people are just too lazy to hit the enter button, or they have absolutely no clue about where to break the paragraphs. Seriously, I don't know how people can live like that.

Some grammar rules are written in stone; others are written in a less permanent material, like sand or dirt. I know that there is no absolutely right way to use "apostrophe-S" in regards to words ending in S, and every time I think about it my stomach starts to feel queasy. Since I pretty much hate the look of "Kurtis'," I always write it "Kurtis's." I've even read somewhere online where it said to drop the S on words and names ending in X. I can't get over how hopelessly stupid "Alex' car" looks. Anyway, I really wish there was only one completely correct way, because all the variation makes my head hurt.

Even though I am anal about spelling and grammar, I know that I'm not perfect. Every once in awhile, I will go back and read old journal entries or stories, and be absolutely ashamed of some of the mistakes I had made. None of those mistakes, however, are as bad as this inspirational poster I saw hanging in our school. It said, "Your attitude, almost always determines your aptitude." Extra comma much? On a sign hanging in Wal-Mart I saw the following grammar crime, "We believe good, works." It made me never want to shop there again.

Proper spelling and grammar matter. They are the essential tools needed in order to be taken seriously in written form. They could be your best friends, or your bitterest enemies. For me, obviously, they are good old friends. Kim + grammar = best friends forever!