Bad Grammar Jesus

Anyone here remember Sister Redempta – the one who’d take a ruler to your knuckles whenever you so much as missed a comma?  Well, I do.  And I’m pretty certain that if she A) had access to your Facebook account and B) caught you grunting this out…

bad grammar jesus

…she would have taken a 2’x4’ to your face.

Yes, the above is from Facebook, and yes, starting a sentence with a period is a uniquely bold grammatical maneuver.  Also – a little English major pro tip here – there is a point where “and” ceases acting as a conjunction and instead changes into an indicator that the author has no idea where his/her sentence is going – or, for that matter, what it might do when it gets there.  Also, the individual who cobbled together the above (read: took a literary number two) seems to have something of a vendetta against apostrophes when used to indicate possession (“In Jesus name”) or a contraction (“Stop what your doing”).

So yes, let’s keep this going.  Specifically, let’s keep it going to the nearest grammatically inclined nun with sufficient upper body strength to take action.  I will air mail the 2’x4’.

And while she’s at it, Facebook has made me aware of a couple other pictorial theological attempts that should, in the words of the Book of Fife, be good and properly nipped.

In the bud.

barney fife

This next one is entitled, “Do you believe in angels?”

bad grammar angels

In my opinion, to get the full effect of the “do you believe in angels” schtick, you need to read it with a Brooklyn accent.  I’m also not entirely convinced that “angels” isn’t some sort of euphemism for the mob:

“Hey!  Hey, you!  Benny ‘n me – we heard ‘bout those problems you’ve been havin’.  An’ we jus’ came by to let you know, we’re gonna take care o’ them.  We gonna take care o’ them real good.  Now, just so we’re clear, we ain’ doin’ this for nothin’.  Someday, and that day may never come , we might be callin’ you to do us a little favor.  Know what I mean?  But for now, you can jus’ fuhgeddaboudit.  …So who we whackin’ again?”

Our last exhibit doesn’t so much fail the grammar test of Facebook spirituality as it does the test of logical thought.

bible cell phones

And here are the answers:

1. We’d have sore arms.

2. We’d be late.

3. We’d be issued a tinfoil hat.

4. We’d turn some heads at the ER.

5. We’d find a way to make it play Angry Birds.

If nothing else, all of this has given me a new understanding of history.  Romulus did not, in fact, slay Remus for jumping over his wall.  He slayed him for posting crap like this on his wall.  Not only was it the first documented homicide, it was, in the court of proper grammar (i.e., the only court that matters), the first documented justifiable homicide.


English: Unabridged Awesomeness

Why is one of the most prevalent languages on Earth native to a tiny population housed on a chilly, soggy, remote island floating somewhere in the nondescript gray seas northwest of continental Europe?  (Well, aside from that embarrassing period of world colonization.)  The (other) answer: unabridged awesomeness, my friend.  Behold the following evidence:

1. Mongrel and proud

While other languages can be neatly classified into distinct points of origin – e.g., Germanic or Romantic – English is the bastard child of approximately fifty-three fathers, seventy-two mothers, and possibly a couple one-eyed sheep.  (Don’t think too hard about the biological mechanics.)  Yet rather than preoccupy itself with an identity crisis that requires decades of counseling to overcome, English has embraced its mongrel origins and flagrantly celebrates them.  “Yeah – the left blue eye came from my Celtic father, Seamus, the right brown eye came from my Roman mama, Francesca, the horned helmet was a gift from my Viking Aunt Brunhilda, and that patch of fur on my back – I got that from my Saxon Uncle Gottfried.  But the ruffly collar?  That was hand-knitted by Shakespeare himself.”

2. Unabashed thievery

If it sounds cool, we’ll wait for you in a dark alley, beat you over the head with our unabridged OED, pinch some nifty adjectives from your syntax, and go merrily on our way.  Don’t expect a billet-doux in acknowledgment.  But lest you accuse us of having carte blanche, of being ungrateful, and expect a mea culpaau contraire. You will get credit for your bon mots, creativity, et cetera in the illustrious Oxford English Dictionary.  Isn’t that thanks enough?  Besides, English is one of the few active preservers of the Latin language and is thus one of the few who will be linguistically prepared for the resurgence of the Roman Empire.  Don’t blame us for planning ahead where you have failed to do so.  The ant and the grasshopper and all that – ad nauseum.

3. Detail oriented

If you can conceive of a thought, English has already conceived of a word to express it.  How many languages have created a single word that means throwing someone out a window?  (If you don’t know the word I’m talking about, you ought to be defenestrated.)

4. Bountiful synonym buffet

If you want to call someone a blithering idiot, English does not bind you to a single mode of expression.  Rather, it invites you feast upon the Synonymous Buffet/Cafeteria/Lunch Wagon/Salad Bar/Snackery/Smorgasbord, the menu of which is a tome dedicated entirely to documenting a nearly infinite number of synonyms for every word of the language.  Thus, rejoice that you find yourself not merely surrounded by blithering idiots but also by blabbering blockheads, driveling dimwits, jibbering jerks, and prattling pinheads.

5. Not for the faint of heart

First case in point: English does not bind itself to the laws that govern sane men.  In fact, it doesn’t even apply the same laws equitably to itself.  Consider, for instance, that the prefix “in-” frequently negates things (e.g., The invariableness of your inattention to that inexpensive gnome is indefensible.), and one might reasonably assume that their “inflammable” suit of armor is “not flammable.”  But then, while standing nonchalantly by a roaring fireplace, they will burst into flames that cause them to simultaneously sing the praises of the incomprehensible richness of the English language – and curse the negligence of their ESL teacher.  Because that’s how we roll.  Logic be damned.  Can’t keep up?  Scurry on back to your German class, fräulein.

Second case in point: Rhyming in Romantic languages is for sissies.  When 99% of words end with a vowel, writing a poem is a matter of closing your eyes, throwing some darts at your Italian dictionary, and seeing where they land:

Here’s some garlic to mangia / It’s goes-a good with your pasta.

But try finding something that rhymes with “orange” – go ahead, I dare you.

6. The hellacious homophone

Thanks to a host of words that are spelled the same as other words – but mean something entirely different – and words that sound like other words – but mean something entirely different, English speakers may claim themselves masters of the most majestic – and deadly – of the linguistic arts – the Pun.  Only in English can you see an eye doctor on an Alaskan island and later discover they’re actually an optical Aleutian.  Only in English do we realize that propaganda is really a gentlemanly goose.  And only in English is such a romantic tale possible: She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.  The solemn elegance of the homophone is perhaps best immortalized by Larry the Cucumber in the following Veggie Tales musical tribute:

7. Darwinian advantage

In the sea of constant linguistic change, English has demonstrated immense adaptability – akin to an evolutionary marvel with the quickness of the cheetah, the breadth of the hippopotamus, the foresight of the giraffe, the cuteness factor of the bunny, and the cynicism of the platypus.  (Because you cannot have the bill of a duck, the body of an otter, the butt of a beaver, and freakin’ poison spurs in your feet without being something of a pessimist.  It just isn’t allowed.)  Over time, English has responded to various invasions and intrusions by nimbly absorbing and internally digesting those foreigners – (cue music) beware of the Blob:

Challenge us to an arm wrestling match, and we’ll digest your arm clean off – slowly, over the course of a few centuries.  Meanwhile, the paranoid French attempt to maintain some semblance of “linguistic purity” by quickly quashing the influence of foreign tongues upon their language.  (Has anyone recently checked their courriel?  Didn’t think so.)  Why engage in fruitless worded warfare (a literal tête-à-tête) when one could instead quietly vanquish said intruders by giving them a big old hug while rifling through their back pockets and relieving them of a noun or six?  Yes, you Frenchies may have made au naturel sound cool, but English stuck a flag in it and added the connotation of naked awesomeness.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a Japanese adverb I’ve been eyeing – if you know what I mean.

Mansfield Park: Keepin’ It in the Family

Now before the stream of Jane Austen fangirl hate mail starts to flood the inbox, let me offer this disclaimer: As a bona fide connoisseur – yes, a degreed aficionado – of English literature, I heartily admire and hold dear the epitome of all that is truly “great” about Great Britain – most notably the laudable Jane Austen.  Alongside the wit of Wilde, her entire library holds a cherished spot of honor upon the family bookshelves.  The fervent professions of Mr. Darcy still send me into a swoon, and the long-awaited outpourings of Edward Ferrars set my heart aflutter.  With that said, allow me to offer this addendum: Mansfield Park is an abomination.

I take no issue with Ms. Austen’s writing prowess.  As one would expect, the mastery of her pen is apparent upon the page.  Admittedly, the alleged heroine is an insipid wallflower who falls somewhere along the pastel side of the character color wheel, who is even forgettable to the other characters of the same tale.  Take, for instance, the observations of Edmund, the object of her affections:

“‘But where is Fanny? Is she gone to bed?’

“‘No, not that I know of,’ replied Mrs. Norris. ‘She was here a moment ago.’

“Her own gentle voice speaking from the other end of the room […] told them that she was on the sofa.”

Yet the passive, blasé wallflower that is Fanny Price is not wherein my primary complaints lie.  Nay, I instead take issue with the novel’s enthusiastic promotion of cousinly love.  One must first take pity upon the unfortunately – though perhaps aptly – named heroine, Fanny Price.  (Fanny Price?  Not sure, but you might want to check with your local butcher.  It is, however, arguably superior to the designation of her doppelganger, Fanny Pack.)  Poor Fanny – who hands down wins the Crappiest Austen Heroine Naming Contest and whose first name unwittingly summarizes the quality of the plans for marital bliss proposed by her own story.

It should probably be noted that Ms. Austen defines in no uncertain terms that the familial fated and mated pair, Edmund and Fanny, are not such distant, extended cousins that modern notions would consider them unrelated.  No, the lineage is quite defined in that they share a full four grandparents since their mothers are sisters – not in the sense of everlasting friendship but in the sense of everlasting blood relations having shared the same womb.  Thus, “cousin” as it is used to describe their relationship is not some euphemism for intimacy that is merely like that of family – because it is in fact that which can only be shared by family.  If the pun can be pardoned, they wear the same genes.  Dear, dear Fanny – with all of your sharpness of mind, bland and beige though it may be, can you not see that you are casting your marital net in your own gene pool, and that perhaps there are better, less grotesque options further downstream…and perhaps in another ancestral ocean altogether?

The mastery of Austen’s literary brushstrokes, like the majority of her novels, sets the stage for a sweeping, romantic tale.  At least it is intended to be romantic, but it is always just gross.  I can never bring myself to enjoy the romanticism because I am too busy scolding Fanny and Edmund.

Edmund says in a letter to Fanny: “You are very much wanted.  I miss you more than I can express.  […] I want you at home, that I may have your opinion about Thornton Lacey [Edmund’s parsonage].  I have little heart for extensive improvements till I know that it will ever have a mistress. […] Yours ever, my dearest Fanny.”

No! That is something one cousin should NEVER say to another cousin.

“Scarcely had [Edmund] done regretting Mary Crawford […] before it began to strike him […] whether Fanny herself were not growing as dear, as important to him in all her smiles, and all her ways […]; and whether it might not be a possible […] to persuade her that her warm and sisterly regard for him would be foundation enough for wedded love.”

NO!  Absolutely not!  “Warm and sisterly regard” should never serve as the “foundation” for “wedded love!”  Never the twain shall meet!  Is the island really so small as to necessitate incest for the perpetuation of the English race?  Must the family trees be made to more closely resemble family shrubs?

“With such a regard for her, indeed, as his had long been, a regard founded on the most endearing claims of innocence and helplessness […], what could be more natural than the change?”

What could be more natural, you ask?  Perhaps doing your metaphorical grocery shopping outside of your own family’s pantry?  My regard for my guinea pigs is based upon “the most endearing claims of innocence and helplessness,” but you won’t see me applying for a marriage license anytime soon.

“Having once set out […] on this road to happiness, there was nothing on the side of prudence to stop him or make his progress slow […]; no need of drawing new hopes of happiness from dissimilarity of temper.”

Yes, I’m certain Edmund noticed a vast sea of similarities – in temper, in appearance, and all manner of other things – which tends to happen when you share the majority of your genome with one another.

“Their own inclinations ascertained, there were no difficulties behind, no drawback of poverty or parent.”

Wait – are we counting shared parentage in the “pros” column now? No, no, no!  Don’t you realize your children will have enough scolioses to cause Quasimodo to recoil?  Not to mention the special flap on their pants to accommodate the second nose sprouting from their knee!

In regards to the heroine’s uncle/father-in-law-to-be, it is said, “Fanny was indeed the daughter that he wanted.”  Because “niece” is an insufficient title to bestow upon such a creature.  But why stop there?  Surely additional connections can be forged.  Why not be the uncle-father-husband-insurance agent to his niece-daughter-wife-landlady?

The book remains on my shelf so that I can continue to claim possession of all of Austen’s works.  However, I have not ruled out gluing the pages shut.  Mansfield Park?  More like Trailer Park.