I once received an unsolicited email from a stranger who suggested (among other more vulgar suggestions) that I should “die slow.” Is it weird that my first instinct upon receiving it was to respond, “I believe you meant to write, ‘die slowly, not die slow.'”
Yes, I am one of those annoying members of the self-appointed grammar police. I can’t help myself. I’ve been a logophile (a word nerd) since my preschool days when I had to follow the words on a page with my finger as I sounded them out.
My compulsion to correct others’ grammar began soon after that. I noticed as a grade- schooler if I asked my mom a question and she didn’t know the answer, she’d sometimes make something up. When I asked her why she did that, she answered, “I never want my kids to know they’re smarter than me.” I replied, “That’s grammatically incorrect. I think you meant to say, ‘smarter than I.'”
“Exactly,” she said.
After I entered middle school, Mom got a job outside the house, possibly to avoid her offspring, the grammar police officer. It didn’t work. When I got home from school, I’d find her note listing the chores I was expected to complete before she got home. With a red pen, I’d correct her grammatical errors and write a grade at the top of the page. She seldom earned higher than a C+. She didn’t appreciate it.
As a matter of fact, no one seems to appreciate my grammatical corrections; they just irritate the speaker. When I helpfully suggest, “I think you meant to say, ‘I saw,’ not ‘I seen,’ the speaker gets a facial expression that seems to say, “Oh, yeah? Well, last night in my dreams I seen me with a brick in my hand and you with a gaping head wound.”
I once read a newspaper story about a bank robbery in which the robber handed the teller a note that said, “Give me all the money or your dead!”
If I were that teller, I’d set that robber straight.
“Young man,” I’d say, sliding a pen across the counter, “I believe you meant to write, ‘you’re,’not ‘your.’ Correct that or you’ll not get a penny from me.”
“I ain’t messing around, Lady! Gimme the money! I gotta gun!”
“Sir,” I might reply, “although the word ‘ain’t’ has become common, it is unacceptable. You should have said, ‘I’m not messing around.’ Also, “gimme’ and ‘gotta’ are not grammatically correct. You should have written, ‘give me’ and ‘I have.’ Furthermore, you are wearing a white jacket and carrying a pearl-handled revolver. Everyone knows that the color white and pearl accessories are to be worn only before Labor Day. Sir, where are you going? You forgot the money!”
I just got an email from my mom. With only the best intentions, I corrected her grammatical errors and returned it to her with a grade. You know, so she might learn something from my helpful suggestions. She grounded me. I said, “I’m a senior citizen. I don’t think you can still do that.” She replied, “I think you misplaced the word ‘still.’ You should have said, ‘I don’t think you still can do that.’”
Wow. That’s irritating. Who does she think she is?