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Summer Reading, June 1, 2023

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

What are you Reading? I love it when someone asks me that. The Times Book Review has a column that asks what's on your night table? Does everybody read in bed? If I have a good book I can't wait to say good-night.

a Girl lying on her side reading
Reading on a summer Afternoon

But as reading and writing has made me focus on language an abyss of bad grammar has opened before me and I cry out in anguish.

Will I ever become inured to hearing Ivy League graduates on NPR saying, "Him and Me are gonna..." and "Please reach out to John or I?" Terry Gross never corrects anyone's grammar and I respect that, it's not a good interviewing technique, but where are the mothers and teachers? How has it come to this?

And another thing! The misplaced modifier!

In a biography of Willa Cather I read, "At the age of eight, school began to bore Willa." Really? School was eight years old? Miss Cather is rolling over in her grave. And this, from Elle Decor; "As a young girl, her father affectionately nicknamed Agnes and her sister, Les Drolesses." When was her father a young girl? Doesn't anybody else get this? Does this bug you? I once got a card that said, "Dear Everybody, Not to sound slutty, but please use me. signed, Grammar." I felt validated.

I remember all the grammar homework I didn't do in seventh grade and wonder why I feel so strongly--I guess the lessons stuck after all. Mr. Williams would be proud. I thought about how nice it would be to write to him and tell him how much of what he taught me has stayed with me but then I thought--he was so old, he's probably long gone. Then I looked him up in my old yearbook and, I can't believe this, but he looks like he's barely twenty-eight. I thought he was ancient.

While I'm ranting let me toss out a few other things that bug me. Saying "utilize" when all you need is "use." More syllables don't make you more smart. I also hate "cognizant;" why not say "aware?" "Aware" is a lovely word. "Cognizant" sounds like gargling gravel. And "Plethera!" I had a student who said, "I hate 'plethora,' it sounds like a part of the stomach." Now you'll never hear that word without thinking of your stomach. As I look back at this I wonder if I've got the punctuation right; quotations outside or inside the question mark? I'm not saying I know everything. And speaking of adding syllables just to look smart, there's a truck I often see in my neighborhood, delivering linens to restaurants. The sign says, "Servicing the North Shore since 1977."

No, No, No!

Servicing is what a bull does to a cow! Just say "serving," like serving dinner. It sounds so hospitable. OK, that's enough. Here's what's on my drawing table. Yes, I'm still at it with this big house but I've made a lot of progress this week. Almost done with the long hallway on the left, and I finished the marble floor in the rotunda.

A Dolls House
A Big House

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