Grammar Hell

crimes against languageI am standing in a small park on Penn Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, trying to read. However, I am surrounded by people shouting into mobile phones.

Shouting into a mobile is OK if you are relating CPR instructions, demeaning Michael Bay or telling someone about a great steak, but none of that is happening today. It seems that the people in downtown Pittsburgh have surrounded me to have some of the most ridiculous conversations someone can have. As I grimace into my book, the conversations get louder and more vulgar, as if they can tell that my discomfort is increasing and mean to push the envelope.

“Don’t you not go nowhere near that car you fucking jagoff. I’s telling you to stay the fuck away from my car or I’s gettin’ the bus and I’s gonna shoot your ass.” Gomer’s left eye is staring to the west and his right eye is staring to the east. His head scar has almost healed. I am mildly comforted by the fact that he is too drunk to negotiate either a handgun or a bus ticket properly. A woman screaming her own conversation decides that he is being too loud for her and, putting her hand over her mobile, shouts, “Shut you fuckin’ mouth, retard.” It marks the only face to face interaction that I witness in that park. Gomer does not hear any of it.

I seclude to an area of the park that seems to be idiot free, but alas I am followed, which leads me to believe that I have a 4G hotspot hidden in my rectum somewhere (again). Jethro nears me, I can hear his conversation partner on the line from five feet away. When he speaks, he removes the phone from his ear and shouts into the receiver to better transfer his grating voice across the city.

“Damn, I didn’t see that ho since last night,” says Jethro, whose heavy smoking habit has the added aesthetic of causing great amounts of spit to pour from his mouth. We both listen to the person on the other line, and then he says, “She doed it again, I knows.”

As my brain begins to shut down in an attempt to protect itself from such stupidity, I retreat into a happy place. When Tina Fey and Heather Graham are unable to sponge bathe me into happiness, I realize that I am done.

I can deal with embarrassing chats at high volumes; I have had embarrassing chats at high volumes. And though I am figuring out how to best bludgeon four people to death with a copy of Fool (irony), I can deal with being squeezed into a corner of the park. The real insult to injury here is that the people speak-shouting into phones are mangling English grammar. And this is done to such a degree that it seems almost purposeful. You simply have to try to be this stupid. All of these things together basically creates my personal version of Hell. All I need is my grandmother talking dirty to me while all of my ex-girlfriends tell me how I lack as a man. Also Michael Bay films with Bjork soundtracks.

While I am sure that scenario awaits me sometime in the future, at the moment it’s just bad mobile manners and bad grammar.

Curmudgeonly attitude aside, bad grammar in the U.S. upsets me so much because I spend a majority of my life working with students who put real effort into improving their English. In terms of universal communication, English is the most used language on Earth. Being a native speaker is an advantage that most people don’t consider, and others envy. Much of the world would give their left ear to speak fluent English, since it would mean better chances at a good job, better money and better prospects. Most of my students and other non-native English speakers think native speakers are incredibly lucky. I don’t know about that, but they’ve definitely got a point. Listening to people almost go out of their way to speak poor English is truly devastating. It’s as though we take this language for granted.

As I philosophize on the looming demise of the English language and, after Gomer’s chat, the end of rational mankind, my friend pulls up in her car and honks. She is a writer and editor, and I look forward to spouting my inane ramblings about demolished linguistics and frog-eyed nitwits. I jog to her car.

As we pull away, I see Gomer get on the bus.

I’s crossing my fingers.

There are no typos in this post.

What is your pet peeve grammar mistake?

  1. #1 by Amanda Dickinson on August 23, 2012 - 6:55 am

    I make MANY grammar mistakes but I still do have pet-peeves in this category. Irregardless is not a word! Also, I see the incorrect use of advice/advise in emails very frequently. Your story was quite funny. Now, go critique this comment…

  2. #2 by Jeremy Nicholson on August 23, 2012 - 7:23 am

    I know you’re a Philly guy but it’s beyond true that you really can’t go home again…I did a minor bar thing back in ’09 with George, trying to revisit old haunts. Uncle Jimmie was dead, Bootleggers was under new management, all that I knew of Sophf Oklnand was gone. I ended up just dealing with it at Gene’s Place, a few PBRs and a lot of bourbon.

    • #3 by Damien Galeone on August 23, 2012 - 3:44 pm

      It’s a sad world for old men like us, Jer.
      Amanda, I have been critiquing your comment since this morning. Expect an email post haste!

  3. #4 by Sean M. on August 23, 2012 - 4:49 pm

    1) Using the article “an” to modify a word that begins with a non-silent “h.”–“An historic.”

    2) Using “to grow” as a transitive verb in business and politics.–“Growing one’s business.”

    3) Split infinitives.

    4) Allegedly non-sexist pronoun construction.

    All of which are fully digressed upon by yours truly here:

  4. #5 by Amber Lite on August 28, 2012 - 3:32 am

    This is awesome….now stop posting to your blog and start working on a new book! 😉

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