High school graduates who refuse to use proper grammar make me *guano psychotic. It’s even worse when college graduates refuse to use it. I must admit that I struggle with correct comma usage from time to time. I don’t always hyphenate two words when I should. I’m guilty of writing sentences that are too long. But on the day I speak or write, “I don’t know what I done…” Or “Me and her are friends, ” or even, “That’s a picture of my daughter and I,” someone please throw a grammar book at me and then kick the hell out of me repeatedly when I collapse to the floor. Keep kicking until I can correctly diagram the sentences, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”
I understand that many people refuse to learn to correctly punctuate a sentence (or to even use punctuation at all) simply because of ignorance. Perhaps they don’t understand basic punctuation or they simply lack the desire to put thought into not appearing stupid. They are not only ignorant, but lazy as well. But how do educated people — people who bought an education and who I suspect were required to read a few books and perhaps write a few papers — justify sounding like they’ve never seen a book, much less opened one and noticed there were words written on the pages? Is it laziness? That’s a large part of it. Did they get the degree merely to make more money with no regard to refining their use of language (or, for that matter, their critical thinking abilities, ability to reason, or ability to research information and assimilate it into knowledge), or are they afraid their less-educated peers will find them “uppity” if they know when to use “who” versus “whom,” and deliberately “dumb themselves down” to meet some unspoken societal pressure?
Just as good hairdressers cringe at the sight of an eight-layer haircut or culinary experts sneer when they hear of someone cooking with mushrooms from a jar, we wordsmiths die a little inside when we see “alot” written on a page or if a co-worker exclaims in a FaceBook comment, “I seen that movie to!” We do correct you in our minds and we most certainly judge you. For us there is no excuse to speak or write with such lack of reverence for words. Words are powerful and they can instantly make or break a person’s credibility. I’m reminded of V for Vendetta author Alan Moore who wrote, “Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.”
I am not impressed with how much money a person makes or how many degrees he has; if he insists on communicating as if he has never read a book, then he’s lost all credibility with me. It tells me he doesn’t care about how he communicates. I have little regard for someone who has no appreciation for speaking or writing correctly, or for words and for how they sound. I look at words like a mathematician looks at equations and expressions, how a logician looks at cause and effect, how a physicist looks at matter and energy, or how a cosmologist looks at planets, stars and galaxies: I love how they look on a page, sound when they’re spoken, and how they work together to form thoughts, ideas, and stories. I’m drawn to people who have a command of the English language, regardless of their stations in life. As an illustration, consider the word “regardless.” I had a physics teacher in high school who said “irregardless” in class one day. For the entire hour of class, I obsessed over the fact that “irregardless” is not a word, and, as a result, didn’t absorb anything else she said. It’s akin to the over-correctness of saying “This house belongs to my mother and I” or the insistence on using “whom” in every instance, even when it’s incorrect. Over-correct grammar usage is a habit that is equally egregious. If you aren’t sure, look it up and save yourself some embarrassment. That’s a short-term solution. A long- term solution is simply to start reading. If you’re feeling really bold, start writing.
Edith Sitwell said it best: ”I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.”
*Guano psychotic: Batshit crazy