What frying pans and grammar have in common

Saute Pan

Thanks to Sister Mary Clarentia (who we adoringly called Sister Tarantula or The Tranch for short) in seventh grade, I fell in love with the usage rules of the English language. When I went on to high school, Sister Ursula, (Sister Rubber Lips, sorry. † self) my Latin teacher, showed how language had even stricter rules. In my senior year, Ms. M-P (the first person I knew who had a hyphenated last name.. she still scolds me that she doesn’t want me to use her real name in my blog) showed me that these rules can be manipulated to create all ranges of emotion and bend people to your will based on your words alone.

Wow, that was real power, I thought, I wanted more of this seductive drug.


11 Replies to “What frying pans and grammar have in common”

  1. I took my first linguistics class during my second term of my freshman year and it opened up the world to me, thanks for the reminder. 28 years later I still remember my phonetic alphabet and can tell you the difference between an alveolar tap and pharyngeal fricative. That class was a quick survey of the world’s languages. One week we’d be dissecting Mandarin, the next we’d be poring over Swahili. The point wasn’t to learn those languages, it was to figure out how different cultures use their respective languages to express thoughts. I was hooked immediately. During that class too, I learned to let go of my prescriptivist tendencies and just let language be. I still bristle when I come across grammar errors though, some things are just hard-wired.

  2. I enjoyed linguistics because of the sound (music) but only became better at writing in my post-college years.

    You are a gifted writer and I enjoy your posts very much.


  3. Well, all right. It turns out I’m NOT the Nerd Nonpareil today! I learned the rules of English grammar and took a refresher course in junior college, but I never learned the esoteric terms you and Paul have been tossing around today. I just wanted to learn how to write a sentence in such a way that the person who read it could not possibly misconstrue my meaning, which, as I understand it, is the whole point of grammar. Years later when I worked in an escrow office, those English skills served me well.

  4. Joe, I think that is what you call a law degree 🙂 At least that is how my lawyer justifies the 8,345 words in our Terms of Service document when all I really want to say is, “Have fun on our blog, but don’t steal anything!” See? 9 words and I didn’t charge me $400/hr.

  5. Fricative to me these days sounds like a delicious chicken dish… You say malaprop, I say… phhhtttttt 🙂

    Seriously though, the only group which I don’t exempt these days from my grammar wrath are those who make a claim of authority for which it is their responsibility to learn and hone the craft — writers, broadcast, journalists and yes, even bloggers. Nobody forgives a builder who doesn’t know the difference between a jack stud and a king stud, or a surgeon who doesn’t know a sternum from a patella. When a blogger dismisses the skilled use of language as unnecessary or displays an obvious lack of command of the language in a blog post, it cheapens the craft for us all.

    The rest of the folks who don’t use the language well I view as a gift from a government that pillages education budgets. Like a free zoo where you can go to watch the animals pick their butts and fling poo, completely oblivious to the fact I am being entertained.

  6. I have a staff of a million monkeys all banging away at a million typewriters. It is only through sheer luck I get anything worth publishing. 🙂

    Thank you. Some days are easier than others to get thoughts from my head to the page intact.

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