Monday, September 28, 2009

reteaching an old dog some old tricks

I am ashamed to say it, but I really must. My name is Shannon, and I'm an apostrophe addict. I have a problem, a problem that runs deep, and has been lingering within the depths of my being for years.

I have a problem with the ever-lovin' apostrophe.

You're thinking, wow-- this is all she has to write about-- the apostrophe? It isn't all I have to write about, but it is what is bouncing around in my head right now. Well, there is a lot bouncing around in my head right now-- like why my house is always cleaner when my husband is deployed than when he is here with me, why people look outside themselves to find happiness instead of within, and why my 10-month-old son has glitter all over his face and feet. But the apostrophe thing is bouncing the loudest.

I promise to translate my eye-opening, jaw-dropping grammar lesson into something a little deeper. Just bear with me for a few minutes. Or paragraphs.

I was reading a mommy blog today, one which I have grown incredibly fond of lately, and was getting very involved in the topic (she discussed the Duggar family and whether or not they have too many children, what really is too many children, by whose standards, etc.) when the writer made a teensie weensie grammatical error. I didn't notice the error in the bulk of her blog because I was more engrossed in the thought-provoking topic, busy formulating my opinion.

Wait, that's not entirely true. The reason, the true reason, I didn't notice the error is because I make the same error, time and time again, and until tonight was not aware that it was an error.

So, I am reading....."Do the Duggar's have too many children?". And there it was. Staring me in the face. And I completely missed it. Do you see it? Well, let me point it out for you.

Duggar's. Duggar's. Duggar's. Duggar's.

I was only made aware of the error when I was reading some comments. Duggars. No apostrophe. It's a noun. Yes, I know- a proper noun. But a noun, nonetheless. And when we pluralize nouns, we simply add an 's', in most cases, not an apostrophe.

I knew that. Deep, deep down, in the banks of my journalism studying brain, I knew that. But, for some odd reason, I pluralize nouns incorrectly, and often.

I immediately set off on a quest to change. I didn't go far. Actually, I just reached down into my nightstand, so it was more of a symbolic quest. I pulled out my old journalism books and AP style guide, and read up on the darn on nouns and making them plural. Then, the reality began to sink in. I have been making this mistake for years!! To think of all the stationary I have soiled, all the photo captions I have sullied by using that dang apostrophe. The articles, the essays, the cards, the RESUMES. Oy vey!!

And, as I was thinking of the photo cards we sent out at Christmas (yep-- signed with love by the darn Nelson's), I started to laugh.

Me, the person who studied JOURNALISM for nearly four years, the wife who CORRECTS her husband's grammar, the woman who SHUDDERS upon seeing statements punctuated with a question mark or questions punctuated with a period.....ME!!! The woman who WROTE for our local newspaper, and then got promoted to EDITOR of that very paper!!!

Go ahead and laugh. I'll join you when my embarrassment subsides. The weird thing is, the mistake is ridiculous. I never insert an apostrophe when I am referring to writers or dentists or rabbits or roads. And I should know that a noun, is a noun, is a noun- proper or otherwise. Oy veyyyyyyyyy.

At one point, while going through all this in my head, I found myself trying to reassure myself that the English language is a difficult one, tough to learn and even tougher to write, with so many rules and exceptions, blah blah blah.

But I stopped.

The truth and the lesson here is simple. When you think you've got it, chances are, you really don't. I kinda thought grammar and I had a thing going. Now I see, not so much. What a silly fool I was.

I wasn't so rude as to correct my friends. Good thing, right? I saved that service for know, those who were forced to love me, regardless.

But the point is, I'd been walking around thinking that, grammatically speaking, I rocked the house. So tonight's little lesson was humbling, taking me down a peg or seventy, but also very positive. I finally get it.

I realized my error, I sought to change it, and I learned quite a bit, and refreshed A LOT of my knowledge in the process. Still, though, I'm a little miffed. To think it took comments on someone's blog, a woman I've never met, to teach me this lesson, some 16 years after I've been writing. Wow. The next time I hear my husband end a sentence with a preposition, I'll bite my tongue. YEAH, RIGHT!!!

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