Thursday, July 10, 2008

Because You're Teachers....

Why would you expect us to know how to compose a statement with grammatical correctness to reflect the author's intent?

Because We're Teachers.

You wouldn't expect to see me write "Because Were Teachers..." or (heaven forbid) "Because We're Teacher's..." now would you? That would be blasphemous, not only because it's grammatically incorrect, but also, BECAUSE WE'RE TEACHERS! Teachers ought to know this stuff. That's the general consensus, of which I was reminded today, but not for the first time. I find this slightly amusing.

You see, the general population (those in the teaching profession included) has very little idea where to properly insert an apostrophe (or how to spell it) or a coma or a colon or a semi-colon. (I ask you quite honestly to tell me the last time you even used a semi-colon.) So if I am repeatedly incorrectly using punctuation, my argument is that most of the general population (I was going to say "my readers" but I have a very superior sampling of followers) wouldn't find it appalling at all, because they wouldn't even notice. (I misspelled the word "weird" for the first 29 year of my life).

Today, J. Duffy, one of Mark's very best friends, phoned us in the late morning. Because we are teachers in the summertime and because Mark was out at a concert late and I had to go get him at the GO station at 2:30 a.m. and because I couldn't get back to sleep because my abdomen gets in the way, we were still alseep (don't tell J. Duffy - I told him I was up). And I'm sure J. Duffy had some social reason for calling (I forgot to be really conversational since I was half-asleep), but when he discovered Mark was not coming to the phone, he decided to go to Reason #2 for the call. "You guys are teachers, right? So we have a question for you." I was then bracing myself for an educationally-related question, such as "Is it okay to put your kids in French Immersion if the parents don't speak French?" or "What do you think of a segregated gifted program?" And when J. Duffy began, "You know how people sometimes put signs on their front lawns...." I began to expect a political question such as, "Do you feel the Catholic Board should get as much funding as they do?" or "How do you feel about Black-Centred Schools?"

Instead, I got, "When people put signs on their front lawns, you know, that say THE SMITHS or THE WARDS or THE DUFFYS....should there be an apostrophe? You guys are teachers, so we thought we'd let you settle this argument."

And suddenly honoured with all this power, I began to falter and doubt myself. Did I really know the answer? "Well," I said, "Do you mean to say, this place belongs to a bunch of Duffy people? That would be DUFFYS with no apostrophe because you're just pluralising the DUFFY. But if you mean, this house belongs to a person named DUFFY and you want to show this is DUFFY'S HOUSE, that would be apostrophe S. However, there are two of you, so if you want to indicate that there are several DUFFYS and this is their place, you'd write THE DUFFYS' (HOUSE) with an S THEN an apostrophe," then I added, "but, nobody ever does that."

There was silence. Nobody ever does that was a funny thing to say about correct grammar.

"Are you still there?"

"Oh. Yup. I'm just shocked."

"Why is that?"

"'Cause it's been about twenty years since I was wrong about anything." His fiancé in the background called out, "I WAS RIGHT!" J. continued, "The guy at the sign store said that too, that it should be DUFFYS with no apostrophe, but I just thought, you know, it's a small town, what does he know?"

The pause was a 30-year-old guy (sweet as pie but stubborn as an ox) changing his mind because a TEACHER had told him that this was the way it was.

"Huh. Well, I like your reasoning. (That's a very dignified way of saying, I ACCEPT your reasoning. I might have been wrong) Thanks, Meliss."

"Any time J."

And another apostrophe can sleep peacefully tonight knowing he will not be called to duty somewhere that it is inappropriate for him to be.

(I'd better go back and proofread my work.)

Disclaimer: Teachers don't really necessarily know where to put apostrophes, by the way.

1 comment:

Deaner said...

PS...just because I'm a self-proclaimed grammar/spelling snob.... you spelled comma wrong...and you should check out the way you spelled 'weird' in your blog description... ;)

I only know that because I'm a teacher. :)

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