Speak Better Grammar

July 18, 2011

Me, Myself, and Myself

“There was a meeting the other day with myself, Betsy, and Billy Bob, and we decided to move forward with the barn-raising.”

Sorry to pick on barn-raisers.  I bet you’d never actually misuse the reflexive tense.  But so many other people do that it hurts myself.  (See what I did there?  I mis-used the reflexive in such an egregious way that I hope you all recognized it without me pointing it out.)

Let’s check with my good friend Mr. Bernstein, whom careful readers of this blog know.

“The ‘-self’ words are used for two purposes: for emphasis (‘I’ll fix it myself’: ‘The others were hesitant but he himself had no qualms’) and reflexively, to turn the action back on the grammatical subject (‘She dressed herself quickly’; ‘He makes himself inaccessible’).

So please stop using myself as the subject of a sentence by itself, because it never will be.  It will always be the object.  (Myself opened the door.  I opened the door myself.)

Don’t say that the people at the party were Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, and myself.  It was just Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, and me.

And please don’t try to tell me that Coach Taylor is going to holiday in the Hamptons with the whole family: Tammy, Julie, the baby, and himself.  It’s going to be him, Tammy, Julie, and that late-in-life baby he can bounce on his knee.

(Don’t get me started on hisself.  You all know better than to use that.)


March 29, 2011

It’s Tough Times

Filed under: Grammar,Punctuation,Rants — Vander Kitten @ 9:34 am

I’m going to start charging $20 a piece for unnecessary commas.  Watch out.

February 2, 2011

Blizzard 2011: Grammar Watch!

Filed under: Grammar,Weather — Vander Kitten @ 11:39 pm

We may not have any snow in Portland, OR, but we’re still keeping an eye on the blizzard and its accompanying grammar gaffes.  My favorite so far has come from my old local newspaper, The Chicago Tribune.  Outgoing mayor Richard M. Daley was visiting an Emergency Management Center, where his coat and hat were evidently taking care of their own business.

Now Where Did My Hat and Coat Say They Were Going?

December 27, 2010

I’m Sorry, and It May or May Not Be My Fault

Filed under: Grammar,Work — Vander Kitten @ 4:36 pm

Whew.  I’m getting in another post just before the end of the year.

So, I’m sorry I haven’t written.  And in this case, I’m very much to blame.  But some of my dear friends might want to make me feel better, or might know what work has been like the past few months, and could very easily say “Your life has been so busy, you really shouldn’t feel guilty for not writing.” Or, the kindest among you might say: “It’s not your fault.”  (Thank you, Dr. Dan.)  Nonetheless, I’m very sorry.

Can you be sorry without admitting guilt?

I have for years maintained that you can be.  I’m sorry your cat died, but I didn’t kill Fluffy.  I’m just sorry for your loss.  (Sorry for your loss seems to be the one time it seems to be ok to be sorry and not be accepting blame.)  My friend told me he was in a fender bender yesterday.  My reaction?  “Oh!  I’m so sorry!”  He looked bewildered and said “Why?  You didn’t run the red light.”  Yeah, I know it, but I’m still sorry it happened to you.  (Shit, man, now I’m sorry I said anything.)

I’m bringing this up now because at work we’re teaching new hires how to empathize with our customers.  We encourage them to react to customer statements with genuine empathy in the same manner that they would to a friend. (“Aw, bummer, that’s too bad.”)   Every time we teach this lesson, one or two new hires says “I’m sorry” as an empathy statement.  The company only likes them to do that if it’s actually the company’s fault, otherwise it sounds like we’re accepting blame for something we didn’t do.  Example:  Customer says “Hey, my service isn’t working today!”  Rep says “I’m so sorry!  Let’s get that fixed!”  Sounds great, until rep discovers that the service isn’t working because the customer didn’t pay the bill.  Woops.  That’s not our fault, so we wish the initial “I’m sorry” had never been part of the conversation.

Yes, but….  Maybe the rep was just sorry in the way I was sorry when my friend was in a fender bender.

Here’s the thing.  I’ve been here six months now, and it’s been long enough to break me of my own “I’m sorry” habit.  It just causes too much confusion, too much “It’s not your fault,” etc. so I’ve just cut it out.  (It’s simplified things a lot, even though I sometimes feel like I’m not expressing my full range of emotion.)

Have you been through any grammar conversions this year?  I’d love to hear about them.  And again, I’m really sorry I haven’t written lately.  (Totally my fault.)

September 22, 2010

Fighting the Good Fight, At Home

Filed under: Family,Grammar,Rants,Words — Vander Kitten @ 7:57 pm

Me: Can you believe people still think irregardless is a word?

FilmChris: Isn’t it?

Me:  Very funny.

He wasn’t joking.  How do you fight the grammar fight out in the world when you face this at home?


Note to FilmChris: I love you, baby, and I love you for your mind.  And we’ll get through this.  I know we will.

September 3, 2010

Portland, Buzz Words, and Weather

Filed under: Life with the Vanders — Vander Kitten @ 8:47 am

Mea culpa.  I know I’ve been away a long time.  It feels like ages to me.  (Sorry, Dad.)

Portland is friendly.  That’s the best description I can do right now.  It’s an amazingly accurate word.  I think I’ve actually started to become numb to how friendly Portland is, in fact.  Maybe it’s just that I’ve become used to it and ready for it when I leave the house.  When we first got here, I certainly wasn’t used to the in-your-face friendliness of the residents.  My dear agoraphobic husband had to mentally prepare himself for outgoing, chatty and helpful waves of locals before stepping out in the streets.  He’s adjusted beautifully, striking up conversations with store clerks and passersby alike.

But what we haven’t seen is equally friendly neighbors.  We knew nearly everyone in our apartment complex in Mountain View.  In our Portland condo complex, we know no one.  Well, Chris has met one neighbor.  I helped another chase down her dog one morning, but then never caught her name.  My theory is that Portlanders use up all their friendly before they get home, and then escape into their condos and hide.  We’re itching to make some friends.  I’m working 12 hour days lately, and Chris and Obi could really use some local company.

I love the work that comes with those 12 hour days (though I’m hoping to get them down to 10 hours soon.)  I work with incredibly smart, talented, and witty people.   And if I have to be in a corporate culture, this is a pretty good one.  The people in this company are self-aware enough that this week we started playing Buzz Word Bingo.  Well, we started building the board, at least.  On a flip chart near our workspace, we have the following squares of the board built out:  same page, fully baked, organic, circle back, touch base, deeper dive, low-hanging fruit, ping, leverage, cart in front of the horse, tribal knowledge, in the weeds, context, and holistic.  There are 10 spots left on the board.  Once it’s full, we start playing bingo in meetings.  (On a positive note, I think I can take any combination and write my next email.)

I was starting to think people had lied to me about Portland weather.  It’s been gorgeous.  But then the humidity sneaked in.  And I sneaked back to Mountain View for a few days.  And when I came back to Portland, it was raining.

I’ve seen some pretty atrocious grammar around here, and I can’t wait to share it with you.  I promise I will soon.

July 11, 2010

The Not So Long Goodbye

Filed under: Friends,Life with the Vanders,Northern California — Vander Kitten @ 11:26 am

Three weeks ago, I accepted a dream job offer in Portland, Oregon.  Instead of immediately finding a place to live in Portland and packing up our current home in Mountain View, CA, we went on a previously planned family vacation in Tennessee.  And stopped to see some dear friends in Michigan.  And experienced travel delays in Chicago.

Now we’re three days away from handing over the Mountain View keys, and we still don’t have a forwarding address in Portland.  (Does the Marriott Residence Inn count?)  Things have moved quickly around here, and I can’t figure out how to get the fast forward button unstuck.

This move is bittersweet, we tell everyone who asks.  Bittersweet.  We’re excited about Portland.  Three weeks ago, I bought two travel books on Portland and read them cover-to-cover, spewing forth facts about Oregon (no sales tax! illegal to pump your own gas!) each time I turned around.  And I’m over the moon about the job.   Then we spent a week on a houseboat in Tennessee, I took time to process the change that was happening, and I slowed down.  I thought of what we were leaving behind.  Friends, yes, absolutely.  But friends we can keep with us forever.  What I’m feeling this weekend is Mountain View.

We chose Mountain View to be our home when we moved here from Chicago four years ago, because I fell in love with it as a town.  Mountain View gave us more than I thought I wanted: the quaint but active downtown heavy on restaurants but still maintaining two bookstores; our apartment walking distance from what would become our favorite sushi, our favorite wine store, our favorite pub, our yoga studio; the busy stretch of road that runs along the entire peninsula but in Mountain View takes me to a Michelin-rated Indian restaurant in a strip mall and the best butcher a mid-western girl could ask for.  And when we moved in to Mountain View, we had friends in other towns of the bay area: Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco.  And then by last night we had our “last supper” at the sushi place and had so many local friends most of us were able to walk home.

So the past few days, I’ve been saying my goodbyes to Mountain View.  I had my nails done at the nail salon with the ladies at Gorgeous Nails.  I told them I’m moving, and they chattered and smiled and said “You come back when you visit!”  and “We miss you!”  I had tea with a dear friend at Red Rock, and for as busy as they are, Red Rock won’t know we’re gone, but my husband and I’ll miss them a great deal.  The cold and hacking cough I’m nursing this week are keeping me from one last yoga class, so I’m going to send my favorite instructor a note.  I’m really bummed to miss that last class.  I’m told there will be no shortage of great yoga studios in Portland, but that’s not really the point.  Or that’s precisely the point.  I know it sounds like I’m listing off business we frequent, but I’m talking about what makes up our community here.  Nob Hill is our grocery store, but it’s the grocery store I’ve gone to once (or twice or three times) a week for four years, and I know those people, even if they won’t notice we’re gone.  As I visit these places these last few days, I’m realizing how much Mountain View became home.

Here’s the best part of all of this, though.  I’m sitting here, amid boxes and mess and chaos in the kitchen, listening to World Cup (Go Holland!  Go Vanders!) and watching Chris read on the couch with Obi napping next to him, and home is exactly where the three of us end up together.  So that’s the sweet part.

I’m still working up the emotional strength, though, to go say goodbye to the butcher.

June 7, 2010

My New Pen Pal From Spain

Filed under: but amusing,Completely unrelated to anything,Friends — Vander Kitten @ 7:50 pm

I just received this spam email and it made me laugh SO hard.  It sort of made my evening and I thought you should all enjoy it too:

“Dear sir/madam,

I got your email adress randomly from the business data. My name is David Jones. I am from Spain. Recently I have won the European Lottery with 1,000,000.00 Euro.
After spending it for a nice villa and a car , I decided to keep 200,000.00 Euro in my savings account for my life and keep 180,000.00 Euro ( About 200,000.00 USD ) for charity.
I am sending you this email to ask if there is a charity organization or an orphanage nearby, just reply and let me know . Once I get your reply, I will discuss with you more about the money transfer.
Please ignore and do not reply if you are not interested. I am serious and do not say bad words to me.


David Jones”

May 23, 2010

Unintentionally Punny

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vander Kitten @ 11:08 pm

When I have to peel my own shrimp, it loses its appeal.

May 10, 2010

Shoulda, Would’ve, Could Of?

Filed under: Grammar,Spelling,Words — Vander Kitten @ 4:59 pm

One of the laziest habits we’ve picked up as English speakers is to forget what words have been contracted to when we seek to “un” contract them.  It’s usually most prevalent with should’ve, would’ve, and could’ve.  (Not to mention they’ve, we’ve, and more.)

The words here are, of course, should + have, would+ have, and could + have.  But if you listen to the way we speak it (in our hurried way), it usually comes out as though the combination was could + of, etc,.

“I should of have called you sooner.”

“I would of have baked a cake.”

“I could of have paid attention in English class.”

There is no could of.  You could have learned back then, but you should certainly learn it now.

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