In the interest of complete disclosure, I want to admit something to all of you that I've been holding out on ever since I started this blog. It's only fair that I come clean now. I almost feel like I've been lying to all of you by omission. But, Internet, I'm here to expose myself now and finally tell the truth...
I am a complete (and borderline dysfunctional) grammar and punctuation freak.
It's not that I get appalled when I hear someone butcher the English language. It's more like every fucking bone inside me writhes in pain. I'm not like normal people. I've come to accept that about myself. It's something I've worked on internally for many years. But sometimes I kid myself into thinking that I've got it under control and can safely reenter the world as a functioning member of society. But last night, I had one of those conversations that rapidly reconfirmed the fact that I'll never be completely cured. It turns out that I can't even order dinner without raising a ruckus.
Witness my phone conversation tonight with Carl's Cheese Steaks...
Me: "Does the steak chili have beans?"
Carl's: "Yeah, a few. Less than regular chili though."
Me: "You mean fewer?"
Me: "You mean your chili has fewer beans, not less."
Carl's: "Are you fucking kidding me? You want the God damn chili or not?"
Me: "Yes, please. How long will it be?"
Carl's: "When it's ready, I'll have someone bring it over to you."
Me: "You mean he'll take it over."
Me: "Um, nothing...Please don't spit in my food!"
Ok...so I left out that last part about spitting in my food. But let's face it, people. I've worked in the food service industry for years. I've scrubbed floors, prepped food, bussed tables and waited on hundreds. Let's be honest. We all know that he totally spit in my food. Or dropped some rat shit in there. Maybe even coughed on my cheese steak. And you know what? I totally deserve it. I know I deserve it. And I still can't help myself.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that my mother was a linguistics major in college. She speaks six languages and has always been a stickler for correct grammar usage. It's funny because English is nowhere near her native language but, when I was a child, she was constantly correcting my grammar. She'd even correct my friends' grammar. It used to drive me fucking nuts! It's probably what drove me to therapy. (On the other hand, my father came to this country barely speaking a word of English. I like to think I'm the illegitimate love child of Strunk, White & Fu Man Chu.)
But as if my problems at home weren't bad enough, my parents then chose to send me to a very small prep school that was famous for its traditional focus on the classics. In particular, the school was known for producing a bevy of talented writers (famous alumni include Jack Kerouac, William Carlos Williams, James Salter, Robert Caro,and playwright Ira Levin.) So not only was I a seventh-grade geek studying Latin, I was also being exposed to an environment that had a zero-tolerance policy for incorrect grammar or punctuation. I'm not saying my teachers used the cane but there were several times I thought I was going to pee my pants because I was having problems with the subjunctive.
Life, over the years, hasn't gotten much easier. It's tough being a stickler for punctuation these days. The feelings of panic, anger and isolation are not easily understood by others. Frank McCourt once wrote about missing his bus because he was so angry to see a billboard with the movie poster for "Two Weeks Notice." Who was responsible for this? Where was the apostrophe? The producers certainly would have used it if the film were named "One Month's Notice" or "One Week's Notice." What happened to "Two Week's Notice?" Do you care? Probably not. But my problem has deep-seated ramifications that affect my daily life. Witness...
I stopped going to Food Emporium because all their checkout signs said, "10 items or less" (it should be "fewer.")
When someone asks me when I finished college, I literally flinch on the inside when I say "I graduated from Cal in '91." (instead of "I was graduated from Cal in 1991.")
I loved Steve Carrell's work on "The Daily Show" and I continue to love him in "The Office." But this past year, I really did cringe every time I saw reviews of "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" (correct title should be "The 40-Year-Old Virgin.") I almost couldn't go to the movie.
And although I'm lactose intolerant, I still would never order sweets from a restaurant that listed "Deserts" on its menu (Remember..."cold desserts taste good in the desert.")
I know I've got a problem here. I'm really trying to get better. But in actuality, it's probably much worse than you think. In fact, don't even get me started on bad spelling, dangling participles, misplaced modifiers or mix-ups regarding "they're", "there", and "their." I'm working on it, my friends. But does anyone else have the same fucking problem? Am I really the only one who cares about this crap?
CORRECT GRAMMAR IS THE ONLY THING THAT HOLDS US TOGETHER AS A SOCIETY, PEOPLE!
(I'm the only one, aren't I?)