Grammarant: I Don’t Like Your Rules.

There are certain tips and tricks teachers give students to help them keep their grammar in check.  “Never start a sentence with the word ‘because.’”  “It’s ‘you and I,’ not ‘you and me.’”  Sound familiar?  Guidelines such as these are meant to help kids with their writing and are easy to remember.  And that’s fine.  What I don’t like is when teachers throw out these tips without explaining them properly, making them sound like rules rather than guidelines.

“Because of the storm, we couldn’t go bowling that night.”

“We couldn’t go bowling that night, because there was a storm.”

The above two sentences say the same thing.  Some people may prefer the second version, maybe because they were taught the aforementioned rule, but depending on context, the style, or the sentences around it, the first may sound better.

Obviously, the reason for this rule is that this, by itself, is not a complete sentence:  Because of the storm.  But as long as a sentence has a subject and a verb and makes sense, it is a complete sentence.

The second rule I mentioned I see abused fairly frequently.  Then again, I also see it ignored.  Every day.

“You and me need to go out sometime.”

This sentence IS wrong.  This is the reason the “rule” is even taught.  In this instance, “you” need to go out sometime, and “I” need to go out sometime.  If you wouldn’t say “me” if you were only talking about yourself, don’t say “me” when you’re talking about others as well.

“You and I need to go out sometime.”

People who blindly follow the rule, thinking they are being proper, sometimes make the opposite mistake.  I once heard a manager of mine say, “Can you meet _____ and I at the front?”

“Can you meet _____ at the front?”

“Can you meet I at the front?”

In this situation, if you separate the two, you know that it’s supposed to be, “Can you meet _____ and me at the front?”

The purpose for this rule is that when you are talking about you and someone else, and you and that person (or people) are the subject of the sentence, you always use “I.”  When you are not the subject, you use “me.”  Most often, if you are at the beginning of the sentence, you ARE the subject of said sentence, as in the previous sample sentence.  Please don’t leave that out if you are ever teaching someone that rule.  Separating  like I did above usually helps clear up any confusion.

I understand the purpose of these rules, and with English being as wacky as it is, I don’t blame anyone for giving out any quick guidelines, but if you are going to teach or use them, please do so responsibly.  Otherwise, we get a bunch of people thinking they sound intelligent when they are in fact just misinformed.

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Grammarant: Running Words Together

Because I love English, there are things that bother me about the way it’s used (and misused).

Ignoring for now the most prevalent mistakes any internet user is bombarded with on a daily basis and what I believe to be the root causes, I want to write about why we run some words together and not others.  To keep things short, I’ll stick to these three examples:  backyard, forever, and all right.

Keep in mind that even though this is a “rant,” most of these are just observations and don’t all necessarily bother me.  It’s just that some people don’t think about why they use the words they use.

If you check any dictionary, you will find that the area in front of your house and the area at the back of your house are not treated equally.  While the yard in front of your house is, understandably, the front yard, the yard in the back of your house is the backyard.  How did this happen?  In “front yard,” the word “front” is a modifier telling you that the yard we’re talking about is specifically the front one.  The front yard.

With backyard, it becomes one word.  Why is it not “back yard”?  It would only make sense.  We’re talking about the yard in the back, back modifying yard.  Running them together only makes sense to me if the whole word—backyard—is itself being a modifier, because that’s how it sounds when we speak.  So a barbeque in the back yard would be a backyard barbeque.

How about the word “forever”?  This one doesn’t bother me as much as some, but if you think about it, this word is a combination of two words.  This is probably because we don’t typically use the word “ever,” meaning “always” or “continually,” this way anymore.  When we say “I will love reading forever,” we are saying that we will always love reading.  Not “for the next two months” or “for another few years,” but “for ever.”  As with “backyard,” “forever” as one word sounds righter to me as a modifier, meaning “always” (e.g. “forever young”).

Yet even as I type, Word is underlining “for ever” and in blue, hinting that I’m doing something wrong, because it is now normal to make this phrases into one word no matter the context, at least in American English.

It’s similar in concept to “any more” and “anymore.”  Though very similar, they don’t quite mean the same thing as one word as they do separated.

“No, thank you, I don’t want any more (more in quantity than I already have/had) potatoes.”

“I did want potatoes for dinner, but I don’t want them anymore (any longer—I’ve changed my mind).”

As for “alright,” my issue with it is a little different.  If you look up the word “alright” on Merriam-Webster.com, it’ll link you to “all right” instead.  All sorts of new words get added to the dictionary all the time, including all sorts of slang, yet “alright” is still not accepted.

If you ask me, “alright” has also become its own word with its own meaning.  Slang it may be, but I use it myself all the time, and not the same way I would use “all right.”  When I see “all right,” I think “all correct” or “all the way it’s supposed to be.”  When I see “alright,” I understand it to mean “okay” or “fine.”

“Are these statistics for the article all right?”

“Yes.  You can publish the article with those changes.”

“Alright.”

But I keep seeing words run together when it doesn’t make sense.  “Can we fit anymore people in here?”  This ended up being much longer than I wanted.  Am I the only one who thinks about this stuff?  Do I make sense?

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Grammarant

If you’ve read some of my older posts (such as this one and this one), you’ll know that I love reading and editing.  Language is something that’s always interested me.  Ukrainian was my first, but English is my best.  I have taken several years of French, but only half a year of Spanish and only one semester of Japanese.

Now some of these languages have a lot in common (e.g. cognates), but they are also very different.  For example, in Ukrainian, as in French, nouns have gender.  Ukrainian, though, unlike French, doesn’t give every noun a gender; spoon is feminine and bush is masculine, but chair has no gender.  Japanese doesn’t assign genders to nouns.  Japanese, like Ukrainian, is a reflexive language and doesn’t use articles (a, an, the), but its roots are very different.

What does this have to do with anything?  Well, it’s one of the reasons I love learning things about languages, but my point is that different languages have their own set rules.  Usually, these rules are consistent.

English doesn’t always make sense.

Why?  In the words of one of my professors, “English is the most bastardized language of all.”

English is a Germanic language that has changed and shifted a great deal over the past few hundred years.  There are rules in English that seem arbitrary to us.  Why should we never end a sentence with a preposition?  Are we making some kind of faux pas that makes us look silly and uneducated?  In fact, the reason for this rule stems from the early English-speakers who wanted to take English from its lowly, unappreciated roots and make it acceptable as for use in “official” forums, where Latin and French were traditionally spoken.  They tried to conform English to Latin rules, where ending a preposition was not possible.  Some people will still correct you on this anyway, but should they?  It IS possible in English, and often sounds better and righter to our ears than trying to re-form the sentence so this doesn’t occur.

Over the centuries, it has absorbed many rules and phrases that sometimes make it confusing.  Take plurals, for example.  Absorbing foreign words into a language happens all the time in just about all languages.  But depending on whether it ends in –s, or –f, or –x, or –v, whether it came from Greek or Latin, whether or not it’s a collective noun, or whether or not you’re wearing socks at the time, making a word plural has different rules.  In fact, Wikipedia has 12 sections to explain these rules.

Native speakers may not always appreciate just how colorful the English language is, because it’s what they grew up speaking, but I hope we can agree that it’s at least a little interesting.

I’ve been thinking of doing a few more (shorter) grammarant posts, specifically on running words together and how irresponsible teaching makes us believe we are using proper English when we are in fact doing just the opposite.  I’m sure I’m not the only one it bothers, and even though ranting about it does little, it’s kind of nice to do it anyway.

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Protect the Boss

I’ve been watching a lot of dramas lately, mostly Korean, even though I never really took myself as a drama kind of person.  More accurately, I guess I’m just picky about my dramas—the Koreans just do it right.

Now if you’ve never seen any Korean dramas, they often rely on certain tactics to make the show worthy of its genre, such as mistaken assumptions that are not corrected, misunderstandings, disapproving parents, and pushing lovers away to protect them.  These tropes usually get the job done, but as you might imagine, they do get rather overused.

So when I started watching Protect the Boss, I was pleasantly surprised by the almost absurd amount of honesty from the majority of the characters.  Just when you expect a denial or silence, you get a straight-forward, frank response.  If you expect a character to be a baddie or be really malicious, they turn around and surprise you.  This, combined with a strong, admirable, and overall likeable female lead, amusing elevator scenes, and a healthy dose of childishness, makes for a refreshing comedic drama.  By a couple of episodes in, I was loving it.

That being said, by around episode 13 or so of 18, I was already starting to look forward to the end.  Perhaps that’s because although the characters surprise you by standing up to powerful parents and making friends rather than enemies, you can already guess how things will end.  And they do.

Every show needs a climax before the end, I guess, but without spoiling anything for whoever may want to watch this show, they do rely on some of the aforementioned tropes to build up to a climax, though it’s not as intense as a non-comedy drama.

Overall, the show is not terribly deep and probably won’t keep you guessing, but if you’re looking for something a bit refreshing and pretty funny, I’d recommend it.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for something a little more involved, I have watched and would recommend these K-dramas so far:  Sunkyunkwan Scandal, Coffee Prince, Boys Over Flowers, Playful Kiss, and My Girlfriend is a Gumiho.  Next: The Great Doctor a.k.a. FAITH.

Some of said childishness:

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Back to School

It’s just about that time, when students return to school to learn things they hope they’ll someday find useful and make them more well-rounded, informed people.  Some will be less pleased about this than others, already groaning about the imminent research papers and exams casting their shadows across the upcoming months.  While I am not part of the group returning to an educational institution, I of course still remember the feeling.  After all, one of the most basic things school teaches you is the art of procrastination.

Yet although I don’t think I’ll be going graduate school anytime soon, I do miss the learning part of the whole process.  When you stop thinking about assignments as a chore and allow yourself to appreciate the very interesting and diverse amount of knowledge you’re being exposed to just by sitting in a class and absorbing a lecture or a discussion, you understand that it’s not only worthwhile, but special in such a way that little else is.

This becomes more apparent when your teachers or professors stop seeing this process as a chore and recognize it as an imparting of knowledge that will only be taken seriously if they themselves find it worth talking about.  I’ve had a few professors who talked to the class, made lectures more than bearable because they were genuinely interested in and knowledgeable on the topic.  You could tell.  That’s what set them apart from those teachers who have simply stopped caring, or never did.  They’re the ones who make me miss those classrooms.  They’re the ones who made me want to better myself and be passionate about not only absorbing, but thinking and using ideas.

Sadly, I think a lot of people take school for granted, especially since it is mandatory to a certain point, then more or less expected after compulsory education.  That’s when it becomes a “chore” rather than brilliant.

My point is that I agree with the awesome John Green, who recently made a video on just this, except more interesting:

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People Are Scary

My brother is taking his driver’s test in two days, so I was out with him in a large, mostly-empty parking lot for one last round of parallel parking practice.  There were cars in front of some of the stores  and people walking through the lot at times, so we weren’t too surprised when some guy on a bicycle stopped at the edge of the lot near the trees.  I made some joke about him picking berries from the tree, just because he was near us and apparently inspecting leaves on a tree for whatever reason.  As my brother kept on practicing, the bicycle guy moved to another part of the lot, next to a smaller tree and just stood there, looking around.  We weren’t sure what he was up to—he wasn’t near to any of the stores and didn’t seem to be doing anything in particular.  At some point, a van pulled up in his general vicinity and its driver opened its back doors, and we joked that bicycle man must have been waiting for his dealer. 

“Takes a whole van to deliver.” 

“Hey, man, it’s a lot of coke.”

The van left, but the guy still stood there, doing nothing but looking around.  We largely ignored him, seeing as he wasn’t directly in the way of the car.

Then things got weird.  Bicycle man started moving again, which wasn’t surprising in itself—I mean who wants to stand around an empty parking lot doing nothing in ninety-something-degree weather?  Thing is, he was headed straight for us.  I thought he was just cutting through our path on his way elsewhere, until he stopped right next to our cones, maybe six feet from the car, and looked straight at me.  We didn’t know what he wanted, and it was, frankly, pretty creepy.  So he went to make another big loop around the lot, hoping the guy would just move on by the time he went back to the cones for another practice, only to find that he was following us.  On a bike.   Now with his shirt off. 

I had been willing to believe that he was just riding around for some reason of his own, but my brother said he was rubbing his fingers together, as if asking for money.  And also that he looked like a crack head.  Okay, I’ve had people ask me for money before, so it’s not all that shocking, but here he was, chasing us down as if we owed him something.  My brother kept driving, making a larger loop around this time, but the guy kept waiting for us, trying to get in our path.  By this time, we were a bit freaked out.  Thus came about the plan:  my brother would make an even bigger loop (as there was plenty of space) in order to lure him far away from our cones.  When he was far enough, he would speed back to our spot, throw the cones into the trunk as fast as possible, and high-tail it out of there before the guy could catch back up.  I felt bad at first.  I mean what if he really was just homeless and hungry or something? 

That is until he kept chasing after us, doing something with his fingers, even as we made our way to the lot exit and unfortunately hit a red light.  He somehow managed to make it all the way over to us from a different direction as we stood there waiting, coming right up to our car on my side.  Now he was yelling at us, too, but we were too freaked out to even make out what he was yelling.  He was being pretty aggressive, and I found I lost any sympathy I may have had for him.  My brother said he was going to run the red light to get away from this guy if he had to.  I thought he was joking, but as soon as the road was completely clear, he went for it.  I was nervous, but not as nervous as I was to be around that crazy man.  He even FOLLOWED US INTO TRAFFIC AS WE DROVE OFF and we were afraid that we’d hit another red light and he’d catch up.  We finally got away from him, and I found that I was glad my brother had run that light.  Had a cop pulled us over for that, I would have explained that we made sure nobody was in our way before going and had only been trying to get away from a hostile crazy man who was chasing us all over and yelling at us.

Now my brother can hardly make fun of me for locking my car doors when waiting inside it and always locking the house despite it being in a relatively safe neighborhood. 

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The Frustration of Originality

For years now, I’ve had characters slowly developing and evolving in my head.  They have personalities, characteristics, back stories, interactions, and purposes.  I know them and like them.  But there are times when I’m reading or watching something and find characters or plot points similar to my own.  It’s never a perfect comparison in any way, of course, but it’s still slightly disconcerting nonetheless.

Now this is to be expected.  We take in a lot of things throughout our lives, and inspiration comes from sources you may not have even considered.  Traditional mythology, literature, popular culture and tropes, people we know, all affect us in little (and sometimes big) ways.  With millions of stories in existence, some similarities between different works or even your own ideas should not be surprising.  We all want to be original, and some writers can pull it off better than others, but in this day and age, it’s truly difficult to be unique.  I always worry that something will come off as cliché, or not the way I intended.

That won’t stop me, though.  I like to think my characters developed in whichever way they have together and that everything fits together the way it’s meant to.  My characters are who they are, and I hope to one day do them justice on paper.  Anyone else feel this way when they try to write?

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