June 4, 2014

Brett Endeavors a Grammar Maneuver

Hello!  Today I have made a momentous decision which I must call out and justify for the public record.

I'm no longer saying "his or her".  

I hate that damn phrase.  Starting immediatley, I am saying "they."   I realize this is a second-order grammatical faux pas; I forge ahead nonetheless.

Grammar Snobbery
Brett, Grammar Dandy
If you know me, you are likely aware that I am a ferocious grammar snob.  The rest of you will surely lose respect for me when you read this post.  It's pathetic, and I am not a proud man.

But the truth is:  I delight over grammar and its rules like a foppish aristocratic manchild.

It's quite similar to how I feel when reading The Economist, where I'm all like "Mmm yes, Belarus, do implement those reforms." or "Tut tut Zimbabwe!"

So here's one of the symptoms:   I cringe when I hear a first-order offense  like "irregardless,"  "could care less," or "supposibly," and internally recoil like I've been bitten by a snake.  I mean, you could never tell by looking at me; but inside, I'm aflutter like an aging schoolmarm. 

Another symptom:  I fawn over parallelism, and bestow silent accolades to myself for my skill:
*   Incorrect: I want to do some creating, then learn something, then have grown. 
*   CorrectI wish to create, to learn, to grow.

Violating parallelism will get you dinged on the GMAT, and plus, it sounds terrible.  Seriously, if you replace "have grown" with "have, like, grown and shit." in the "Incorrect" sentence above, it flows just as well.   (Parallelism says, when listing verb clauses, if one verb ends in -Ing, all must end in-Ing; if you use the Infinitive once, you use the Infinitive every time.)

I also secretly delight myself at distinguishing between the use of that and which.  "That" is a required phrase, "Which" is optional.  Hence, one should use "that" only if you kinda gotta know it for the sentence to make any frickin' sense whatsoever, but if you're charming people with delightful side details, then it's which.

I preen over such details, and give myself little blue ribbons for getting things like this correct.  I am generally, if for fleeting moments, quite the dandy.

I'm Not Normally A Tight-Ass
You might wish to say "Yes, Brett, you are anal retentive.  Get over it."  But I'm NOT!   I swear, I do more than my fair share of cursing and occasionally dabble in some rather questionable (if quite amusing) effrontery.

Like, last year, I was on a conference call with twelve people, and the project lead said, "Okay, so we've got a number of issues to discuss.  Number one is...."   While we were discussing that, I raised another concern, and she says, "So Brett just put a big Number Two on the table."  and I immediately interjected, totally straight-faced, "I'd like to clarify that I did NOT just put a big Number Two on the table.  That's gross." before going on mute and weeping with laughter.  Total silence on the line. Truly, one of the finest moments of my life.

On another call, our India team kept saying that they "have to take a [data] dump" or "who took the last dump" or "I look forward to that dump."  Each time it would make you wince slightly.   After a while, I had had enough, and so I said, "Well, if you need any help, [co-worker] would be happy to help you take a dump.  Wouldn't you [co-worker]?"  Then I ran over to his desk (we're good friends) and we both cackled on mute, while our Indian colleagues remained oblivious.  Another life highlight.

Back to My Grammar Faux Pas
Okay, so now that you know that I'm a grammar dandy (even if I am occasionally vulgar) hopefully you understand that I don't lightly violate the grammar rules by which I derive my fragile self-worth.

But I'm willing to give it all up, because I'm sick of "his and her."  It makes all sentences sound awkward:   "If each student could take his or her seat".   Oh please.

What's worse, this is a brand-new, self-inflicted problem!  Until the 1970's, people wrote "if each student could take his seat".  See how much nicer that flows?  Unfortunately, it comes an unpleasant side effect of sounding like (if not arguably, being) a sexist asshole.  So society changed it.

Total aside: I super-cringe when someone  uses her for the generic, instead of "his" or "his or her."  It's like some failed offering to the Gods of Progressivism.  Like, "if each students could take her seat" (when speaking to a mixed group).  This sounds forced and weird, like, every goddamn time.

Anyway, I think a gender-neutral phrasing sends a healthy message to men AND women.  Plus, I read that women comprise over 15% of the total population.  I bet a lot of people don't realize that there are quite so many women.   So we should be, like, nice to them.

Screwed The Replacement
So I love the spirit, but  our implementation sucked:  We should have chosen "their", not "his or her." "His or her" sounds like total crap.  And even THEN women get kind of screwed because they're still  in second place!  Arrgh!  I have yet to hear someone say "her or his," but I imagine that the term exists in copious feminist diction.

So screw it.  I'm making the bold decision to switch to "theirs".  Like so:

Current:  If each student could take his or her seat.
Brett's New Way: If each student could take their seat.

Current:  I'd appreciate it if he or she would call me back.
Brett's New Way: I'd appreciate it if they'd call me back.

Please Don't Judge The Grammar
I understand if you don't agree with me, but don't lump me in with the grammatical riff-raff -- as if I had confused "their" with "there", or wrote "you're" for "your."   I couldn't bear it.

I'm begging you.   Grammar snobbery is all that I have --  I couldn't...  I couldn't bear to lose it...  I'm feeling faint just thinking about it.  Where is my silk fan?   Where is it?  Where is my fan?

Ah yes, here it is.  Okay... One sec.

...Okay, I'm feeling better now.  Where was I?

No comments:

Post a Comment