School’s out for summer. But will my grammar return? Will I be left with words and phrases like “conversating,” “presentating” and whatever you call the verb tense that includes “be gettin’?” Will I recognize that nouns and verbs combine to make complete sentences, and will I continue to acknowledge people with affirmations like “aiiight,” and “s’up” always nodding up, never down…
Grammar’s an important part of my life. I write. I articulate. I appreciate crisp, clean sentences and the proper Oxford comma. But has teaching high school ruined my grammar…or can I credit this problem to Silicon Valley? Not sure. I deal with high school students who are busy trying to out-cool each other with the number of non-achievements they can rack up–the dreaded anthem of mediocrity, “I’m passing,” or worse “I’m only failing four subjects,” followed by a slew of misspelled congratulatory texts from friends. HIgh school students ruined my ability to formulate a grammatically correct idea.
I’m honored to work with the Silicon Valley group–they are certainly geniuses and have knowledge of grammar, but they lack time. “We get a lot of email.” Yeah, I thought, “What’s your point?” “A lot” isn’t like my childhood pen pal return stack…it’s a lot. My friend Heather coined the phrase, “Heather’s inbox…where words go to die.” Okay, it’s a lot. I (not so) quickly learned to ping, text, email and communicate the shortest way possible–grammar be damned. Thanks to Silicon Valley these posts are 50x shorter…no longer lauded by fans of Tolstoy but appreciated by you. Thanks be to the Golden Gate Bridge, I even think in sentence fragments these days. As if my brain needed to be more scattered.
So, I’m trying to decide which group at the polar extreme destroyed my grammar more efficiently. The high school group doesn’t know any better, and certainly doesn’t care. When I point out some travesty of the English language, nine times out of ten I’ll get “Huh?” Silicon Valley certainly knows the back and front end of Warner’s English Grammar and Composition but spends too much time coding, pitching, or creating companies to note grammatical conventions– a classic case of American exceptionalism, and for good reason. But grammar is grammar–on either side of the divide.
Teaching high school ruined my speech and spelling in the short side of a year. Silicon Valley beat the complete sentences out of me in no more than two months. I clearly remember the first sentence fragment I employed in a blog post. It gave me as much anxiety as my first “ain’t” in teaching. Heart palpitations. Literally. But today, I alternate both with double and triple negatives quite freely and without compunction.
And you know what? It feels really, really good. When some kid asks me who’s presentating next and I say, “Not sure. Let’s conversate about that in a minute,” I’m okay. When I look at something I wrote a year or two ago that looks like Herman Melville’s whale died on my desktop, I smile at my linguistic liberation.
Once a while, I use proper grammar, just to practice, just so I can sit in a restaurant with two forks should the need arise. But other than that… I’m free. And freedom…is a good thing.
[images: simplygrammar.com and venturegalleries.com]