Grammatically Speaking

This post was originally published on August 29, 2006.

My mom is an English teacher.  "Ahhhhh," you’re saying, "NOW I get it."

I grew up in a rural Arkansas town where poor grammar is as much a part of life as Friday night football.  Combine the two, and you had the weekly chant from the stands, as the refs carefully measured a play, "MOVE THEM CHAINS!  MOVE THEM CHAINS!"  Not my mother.  She instructed my brother and me that oh-yes-ma’am our family chants, "MOVE THOSE CHAINS!  MOVE THOSE CHAINS!"  We stood out a little, but around our house, it was appropriate to fall on your sword for good grammar. 

And it rubbed off on me, definitely.  The most romantic thing that happened to me in adolescence was a secret admirer who, for a period of a couple of weeks, covered my ’78 powder blue Pontiac Grand Prix with flowers overnight, every night, as it sat in our driveway.  The first morning, when my mother and I dashed out to investigate, we snagged the note that was tucked under the windshield.  It read,


These are for you; I hope you enjoy them. 


My mother and I, equally giddy, looked at each other and squealed, "HE USED A SEMI-COLON!"

So it should come as no surprise that my sweet Joseph crawled into my lap sniffling last week.  "Mom," he whimpered, "I hurt my toe badly." 

"Oh, sweet boy," I said, rubbing his foot.  "I’m so proud of you for using an adverb."

33 thoughts on “Grammatically Speaking

  1. Leslie says:

    I was catching up on your blog until I saw the Lost post. I am on the third episode of the 3rd season. So, I can’t read your blog for a month or so, just knowing that all I have to do is scroll down the page and I’ll know what is going on may be too much for me. I have to comment on this post so I won’t read the Lost post.
    My husband and I are hooked badly.

  2. Antique Mommy says:

    I tell Sean that even though people we know and love routinely make use of the double negative and improper verb tense (it seems to be the local vernacular) the Antique’s do not because it makes Mommy’s teeth hurt.

  3. Nikki says:

    That is so funny. When I first met my husband, the only thing I could find wrong with him was his grammar, and I actually argued with God about it! Now I’ve influenced him just a little and he’s really rubbed OFF ON me. Cute story.

  4. Granny says:

    Oh my goodness, I SO identify with both you AND your mother. In this day and age it’s almost hopeless to convince people to say or write things like, “He came to talk to my mother and ME.” Sometimes I feel as if I’m swimming upstream, but at least most of my children are turning into grammar mavens in their own circles πŸ™‚

  5. edj says:

    You must have loved the women from the Series of Unfortunate Events who was willing to die rather than let bad grammar pass! πŸ™‚ As did I.
    Also, have you read “Eats, Shoots and Leaves?” If not, you must. You will LOVE LOVE LOVE the introduction. You will find a kindred soul.

  6. Tara says:

    You can see the hair on my husband’s neck stand up straight when our pastor says, “Jesus died for you and I” or something like that. Move the “Shoots” book up on your reading list. You’ll love it.

  7. Julie says:

    Hilarious post today! As a high school English teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed it! When my husband writes me notes, he often includes a rough draft along with the final copy, just to spite me! πŸ™‚
    I’ve got to check out this book several commenters have mentioned. It sounds like something I’d enjoy!
    Your blog is so entertaining each day! Keep up the good work!

  8. ali says:

    you are a woman after my own heart πŸ™‚
    while watching October Road last night, i got really angry at my tv. the DEAN of the college used “i” instead of “me”

  9. Tamara Cosby says:

    I have an English teacher in the family. I find myself somewhere between confused about grammar, and excited about grammar. *Sigh* I cannot stand improper use of certain words…my latest example: picture this, we are sitting outside of Wal Mart (the very essence of royalty mind you) selling Girl Scout cookies. My very well mannered Girl Scout asks the patron if she would like to purchase some cookies to which the lady responds “I done got some.”. What a world, what a world.

  10. Ginger says:

    Oh my, I had a ’77 powder blue Pontiac Grand Prix. It was like a boat. Two door with vinal seats. But I had a car so that was all that mattered.

  11. MyDerbe says:

    Hilarious! I am also a self-professed grammar nerd. And I can totally understand the semi-colon attraction. πŸ™‚ I feel that way when people say, “I couldn’t care less” instead of the more popular “I could care less.”
    And when my children use adverbs properly, my heart is also warmed.

  12. Anna says:

    I have a soft heart towards correct grammar, too! Like when my husband, who is not the greatest speller in the world, carefully uses there, their, and they’re in the correct form! Now, that’s romantic! ha ha

  13. Deena says:

    LOL!! I was an English major in college, and I’m always correcting my family…my husband ASKS for correction!!
    We were at Bible study and it was getting intense…then a graphic flashed on the screen…
    With a HUGELY mispelled word…immediately, I lost my train of thought, leaned over to my husband and whispered, “Do you see that?”
    He chuckled and said, “Only you, Deena. Only you.”

  14. Rosie says:

    My mother-in-law tells the story of her first love interest. He was from a neighboring town and wrote a long letter professing his love. She, in a sincere effort to be helpful and kind, corrected all his grammatical and spelling errors and mailed the letter back. Needless to say, she never heard from him again.

  15. Lady S says:

    I am the grammar queen in my circle (although, my spelling leaves something to be desired) and am forever correcting people (usually my family and friends). This isn’t so bad with my second graders, but most adults don’t appretiate (see, can’t spell) my corrections.

  16. Polly says:

    My first boyfriend in college attended a college about 3 hours away. We both lived in the same hometown. He would write letters to me in between visits home. After the 3rd horrible letter from him I could not take it any longer. His cuteness did not make up for his poor grammer and spelling. We just had to part company.
    Fast forward 10 years. My husband’s spelling is perfect. Thanks to spell check. And his grammer is usually right on. So, I can appreciate and enjoy his emails and letters to me.

  17. Tammi K says:

    Overheard the little ones the other day:
    Kiddo 1: Do you think Mom will let us be done?
    Kiddo 2: She will if you’re the Christmas turkey. Remember food is done…we’re finished!

  18. Nic says:

    It was eye-opening to come to Southern Indiana and feel like I was the one with the best English grammar there. I was lucky enough to learn English from books and univerity-educated teachers. Remarks like “Go get you them books from the library” just cracked me up.

  19. TaunaLen says:

    I loved this post the first time I read it, and the comments are fun as well. We recently had a new car stereo installation business open not far from our house. When we drive by, my kids love to point out that the sign outside says “If it’s too loud, your too old.” Makes me wanna bust a button or two! Yes, do read “Eats, Shoots and Leaves.” It’s priceless. Then pick up “Talk to the Hand” by the same author. I’m such a grammar and manners geek, I laughed and cried through both of them!

  20. Shauna says:

    I had a boss who used semicolons instead of colons, and he really didn’t have a clue how to use them properly. It was almost as annoying as when people put apostrophes in a word to make it plural. Once a copy editor, always a copy editor. On more than one occasion, I have edited whiteboard or chalkboard menus listing the daily specials in restaurants.

  21. Kacey says:

    Dear Shannon, I’m not surprised that your Mom is an English teacher, but am surprised that you came from rural Arkansas. The public schools in Arkansas must have been sticklers for English grammar. My Father was also an English teacher from Jonesboro, but his way was very difficult. If you get a chance, check out my post of Sept.24, 2006 titled “A Boy in Trees”. It is the story of my Dad and how he made it out of the Arkansas lumber camps and into a Doctorate of Jurisprudence. His presence in my life has given me the heeby-jeebies when I listen to present day newscasters.

  22. Valerie says:

    My mom taught me well. We love pointing out spelling and grammar mistakes to each other. What’s even better is that my husband has taught me a lot about graphic design. While I can’t design anything well, I can point out bad design like nobody’s business. So imagine the fun I had last Sunday when the very horrible speaker at a missions conference had the phrase “Missions exists because WORSHIP DOSEN’T!” in bright orange WordArt on his purple PowerPoint presentation. Yes. “Dosen’t.” I about died. Fortunately my mom was there as well, and we commiserated together.
    (Also, I spell-checked this approximately six times before posting)

  23. Jane says:

    To my shame, I am not great at grammar. However, the other night a Miss USA pagent hopeful said, “Me and my friends…” in response to one of the questions and I wanted to gag! Give me a break! Also, this year the Oscar winning screenwriter used the word, “funnest” in his acceptance speach! This man is an award winning writer! I guess I can chalk it up to nerves. It sure got on my nerves!

  24. Jenn B. says:

    As a daughter of an English major and teacher, I’m sure we could compare stories! When asking how to spell a word, did your mom ever tell you to look it up in the dictionary?!
    I vowed not to major in English, but my mom and her antics must have rubbed off on me too. I became a journalism/communications major!

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