Friday, June 22, 2012

Speak real good

We all need to speak and write more better.

Use of good grammar is dear to my heart because I believe it is closely tied to reading of good literature. And we should all definitely be reading more books. My research shows that to speak and write well one must read well which is why the world becomes a more challenging place every time a book store closes.

I'll be the first to admit my grammar and punctuation are not perfect. I have an unreasonable resistance to learning the proper use of the word 'whom' and only say things like 'one would imagine' instead of 'you would imagine' in moments of facetiousness. I overuse commas. My hyphenation is excessive and incorrect 90% of the time. However I'm a merciless snob when it comes to basic grammatical errors made by others, and am very critical of a tone I deem too casual.

Once a (former) boss sent an e-mail that contained the following sentence:

'We will walk over to Macy's for lunch. Macy's have a large selection of food.'

I seriously almost died. We're not exactly questioning the oxford comma here. Subject-verb agreement is not up for debate and is covered in third grade. I spent the next 12 minutes thinking sarcastic thoughts about my boss and forwarded the e-mail to at least 5 people.

Once a friend mentioned a date who asked someone to borrow him a pen. I urged her never to see him again.

Other terrible things include: saying '_____ and I' when it should be '______ and me', incorrect choices between 'there is' and 'there are', and, most seriously, the use of the word 'ain't'.

Some might argue that communicating informally, 'writing like we talk', is the new norm. I read an article in the WSJ today titled Grammar, a Victim in the Workplace that contained the following paragraph addressing communication via social media:

"Sincerity and clarity expressed in "140 characters and sound bytes" are seen as hallmarks of good communication—not "the king's grammar," says Jason Grimes, 38, vice president of product marketing. "Those who can be sincere, and still text and Twitter and communicate on Facebook—those are the ones who are going to succeed."

I don't disagree. However it's possible to sound sincerely and clearly dumb, and a message of just 140 characters leaves even less room for sloppiness. For heaven’s sake, you only have to re-read 140 characters and there could be, at most, 3 grammatical questions to google. How is anyone going to take you seriously if you can't write one sentence correctly?

We don't need to write or speak Dickensian (much as I adore such language and believe its emulation should be a goal under certain circumstances) to be considered good communicators. It's entirely possible to be concise, informal, well-spoken, and smart (oxford comma!). Whether you're on facebook or e-mailing your minions, by all means be casual and brief - just be so correctly.

P.S. While satisfied with the merely correct, part of me will always long for more mainstream use of 'the king's grammar'. Fun example, an old theatre review I came across:

‘It has lately been a practice with one or two of the female performers at Drury-Lane Theatre to refuse appearing on the stage, though much after the time of commencing the play, because the boxes may not happen to be filled with fashionable visitors, regardless of any disapprobation which may arise from the impatience of the audience. When the new theatre is erected for the managers of the Old Drury, it is in contemplation to fix a clock over the stage where the inscription is now placed that if the performance should be improperly delayed and the audience become clamorous the managers may be informed to whom the blame should be applied.’

Friday, June 1, 2012


So I was listening to some techno at work

(I thought this would make me drink more coffee, but techno is actually a caffeine substitute. You just sit at your desk half way *insert-cool-words-to-describe-how-people-move-to-techno*-ing, releasing endorphines and totally forgetting about your caffeine headache.)

and all of a sudden I hear this track.

Tiesto Adagio for Strings

"Is that what I think it is?"

Yes, that is definitely one of classical music's most moving moments, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, woven into a techno track. Or a techno track woven into SBAFS.  Whatevs.

I think it's basically super cool.

True, classical--other-types-of-music fusions are about as new as the hills, but I just discovered this one so the question resurfaces: Artistic license or butchery of a masterpiece?

Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings - BBC Orchestra