TITLE: Is It a Writer's Curse?
By Constance Bronson
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Is it a Writer’s “Curse”?
By Constance Bronson
All of my life I have been very observant. I notice so many things that no one else does. I’m always asking people “Did you ever notice….” I notice the gummy smile, the lobeless ears, or the lobes with a crease in them, or the tiny ears on some black men, or the huge ears of older white men. I notice spelling errors on advertisements, or grammar errors at grocery stores. Like the express lane is for 15 items or less. That should be 15 items or fewer, and Meijer is the only store in our area that has it correct. My husband always says to me, “you have to be the only person who notices and the only one who cares.”
I notice other things too, Like how many more people are going into the tobacco store than to the fitness center in the same mall. Or the deflated helium balloon that has fixed itself to the wall of the skylight at the mall. Or little things in TV commercials. I get so involved that I can’t remember what the product was. I once carried out a personal boycott against Kraft Macaroni & Cheese because they used poor grammar to sell their product to children.
And it makes me nuts to hear people who think they are grammatically correct in using the personal pronouns (I, me, myself, he) but are choosing the wrong one. They actually make it worse by being conscious of their grammar. It goes back to the rule I learned in grade school-- use each of the pronouns individually with the verb. The correct choice practically screams at you if you do. One wouldn’t say “me went to the store” so why say “me and Bob went”? And why say “if you have questions, contact Tom or myself” instead of “contact me”?
Similarly, many use the phrase “to my wife and I” rather than “to my wife and me”. If you break it down and say “to my wife” and “to I” it is obvious which is correct. Why do people use too much “me” on one hand and seem hesitant to use “me” correctly?
I don’t know the grammatical rules but I can spot the offense. It is a “curse” to be that much aware of such minute things because when I hear or read an error it stops me from focusing on the meaning of the communication. It is a “curse” because I can’t ignore the error without a conscious effort to get beyond it. I just don’t know why any of it matters to me unless it’s simply part of being a writer.
A couple of years ago, my sister gave me a paperback novel to read while on the airplane. I tried really hard because I have a rule with myself--if I start a book, I must finish it unless it just impossible to grasp. This one was torture for me. The story unfolded as expected, but throughout the book was a grammatical error, the same error repeated in regularity over and over again. It was the use of “could of” where it should read “could’ve”. It drove me nuts! My niece politely asked how I liked the book and I told her of my frustration. Back to “you are the only one who would notice that and probably the only one who cares”
I really have to concentrate when listening to people talking because I can’t help but want to correct them. I hardly ever correct them. I correct my husband who really thinks I’m a pain or a language snob or who knows what. My sons get along fine without being corrected and they don’t correct others, but one of them has inherited the “curse“. When he spots something that bugs him in conversations or TV programs, he only brings it up if I’m there too. It’s as if we are bonding in a way. And we get involved in “why don’t we say a pair of bras, since we say a pair of panties?” Or why is book pronounced like took, but a boot is pronounced like tool? Why are public toilet facilities called “restrooms”? Shouldn’t they be called “relief rooms”?
The same thing happens to me when people use profanity in their everyday conversation.
It amazes me how many extra words people are willing to say when they could just leave out all the bleep- able words and get their point across much faster. It stops me from hearing the meaning of what they are saying, like a blanket gets thrown over me and I’m no longer part of the conversation. It is crazy, I know, but I can’t shake myself from it. That kind of limits the movies I’m able to watch, doesn’t it? I just get lost in the word choices and can’t find my way out. Spoils the fun sometimes, you know. And no matter how crazy it makes me, it is something that sets me apart from others and it makes me strive to write with correct grammar and tight word economy. So the answers for this problem lie with God because He made me. When I weigh this “curse” and all that awaits me in Heaven, I can handle it.! I do not believe in curses because I am a Christian and I trust the Holy Spirit to keep me sound and grounded in the Word of God.
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