Sunday, November 2, 2008

Little known grammar rules

First - cards fully on the table.

1) My grandmother is a retired English teacher. She literally had me do grammar exercises sometimes when I would visit her. I can do a fish diagram of a sentence better than I can fry a fish (no comments from the peanut gallery).

2) I am a complete political junkie. I watch election coverage to the exclusion of my TIVO'd shows. And I talk about it whenever I can. My son knows Joe Scarborough like he's a member of our family, and will stop eating to listen to Chuck Todd (sincerely hope you don't know who either of those people are). I also read like Sarah Palin claims to, "any of them, all of them, everything." I literally read three daily newspapers, three weekly news magazines and 3+ 24/7 blogs on my kindle. I even read transcripts of things.

The two points above make me Sarah Palin's nightmare. Because what is "folksy" on television, when read, just comes off as ridiculous (at least for any adult with more than a Chicago Public School high-school diploma). And what irritates me, and I'd guess all English teachers and their offspring, is her butchering of the English language. For instance, take the phrase "who are desiring" which she says all of the time. Is this the Alaskan equivalent of black english?
Seriously --- people "who are desiring," ..... is that the same as saying "people desire?" Do these people desire something now? Are they contemplating what they will desire in the future? Are they currently "desiring", but really don't want to desire it, so they're going to stop soon? Or are they just as confused about what the @!$!# she is talking about as I am?

The secret writer in me wants to scream at the TV, newspaper or Kindle that "desire" is in a category of verbs that cannot be correctly conjugated in any continuous tenses. But then I realize that would go over Palin's head like she thinks Putin's planes do. Besides, I don't want to focus on the rule she's breaking as the specific rule isn't the point. I don't expect anyone to know the arcane rules of grammar (part of me wishes I didn't know them myself).

But my grandmother didn't expect this either, not even on those long-ago summers. Nana's overriding rule to me was always "Say it aloud. If it sounds wrong, it probably is." Sarah Palin's words, reading them, hearing them or speaking them just sound wrong. If Barack came out today and said, "I just glanced at the polls and we be winning," it would upend the polls. It would just sound wrong.

Never have I felt more my Nana's grandchild than in the past 8 weeks as I've listened to this woman. There's a little known Dr. Seuss book entitled "Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now!" I so very much want to say this to Sarah Palin.


LG said...

I wonder if that speech pattern is northern thing. I work with several Canadians and they often use phrases like "are desiring".

Nelda Brown said...

I hear you, LG. But come on. Whether you're coming from Canada or Black English is your thing, we ALL know how to code switch. One would hope that a vice presidential candidate (at least one who is competent and up for the job) would know when it is and is not appropriate to fall back to our natural speech patterns (smile).