Grammar Is Your Friend

We all have our pet peeves, don’t we?

In an irritating society there are plenty of irritating habits that make your skin crawl and your patience disappear. People chewing with their mouth open, snorting, sniffing, coughing, talking, squeaking…I can go on and on. It just depends upon your tolerance level.

But there is something lately that grinds me even more than all those body noises.

Bad Grammar.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer/proofreader/editor it grinds me a bit more than you.  But I can’t help but wonder what ever happened to teaching correct grammar — spelling and speaking.

With auto-correct and word anticipation on every computer on the planet, you would think the correct words would just appear. But even auto-correct can’t help with the wrong choice of words. Auto-correct can’t help those who guess at the wrong word or the wrong version of a word.

Grammar isn’t rocket science.  It’s common sense. Something that many people lack.

It’s one thing if you type the wrong word. In my haste to get something written, at work and at home, I have picked the wrong form/spelling/tense. Almost always I catch my mistakes in proofreading. But I’ve come across some people — professional people — who consistently misspell, misrepresent, and actually mangle the English language. And often these are higher-ups — vice presidents, executives — people who should know better.

Today a “sponsored” post on my FB account called Grammarly said, “Sick of making grammatical and spelling mistakes? Perfect writing is a click away!” So now there’s another automatic corrector out to help make sense of your nonsense.

I know I sound like an old lady, but at least I am a grammatically correct old lady. They aren’t teaching cursive in schools these days — but have they given up on grammar too? I hear a lot of lazy English these days — hip language, slurred consonants, half words. I suppose most of that is on purpose. Whether that will get the speaker far in today’s working world only time will tell.

But lazy writing will be the death knell.

I know English is one of the most confusing languages around. I mean, how many ways can you spell where? Wear? Ware? But in today’s world that’s not an excuse. When I see a professional letter start out “Goof Morning,” I have issues. It’s one thing to text “you are my breast friend” instead of “you are my best friend,” but not in an letter to the president.

Not everybody is a writing scholar. I know I’m not. But I’ve practiced. I’ve learned. You owe it to yourself to take your time and reread what you write.

After all, not everyone is Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy. Not everyone is cute and furry and can get away with saying, “Well he don’t know talkin’ good like me and you, so his vocabulistics is limited to ‘I’ and ‘am’ and ‘Groot,’ exclusively in that order.”

 

Flowery Language is Okay — Repetition Is Not

il_570xN.152936819All writers are pillars of perfection. Aren’t we?

We love what we write, we hate what we write. We perfect what we write. We skip over what we don’t like. It’s the nature of the beast, then, to notice certain eccentricities in other writers, yet rarely our own.

When you write, you also read. And when you work with words, you have a habit of finding misspelled or inappropriate words. Or just junky words.

So with our cards out on the table, fellow creative sprites, are there writing faux paxs that you often make? What bothers you the most about other unpolished writers?

My own stumbles are uncomfortable. When in my writing furry, I tend to find colorful language, but more of the descriptive kind, not the direct quote kind. So I tend to use the words like “as if” to explain the unexplainable.

It seemed as if my psychic ability…

It did seem as if I were a victim…

Other times deep and drawn out, as if they were coming up from the bottom of the well…

As if it were yesterday…

As if it were the most natural gesture in the world…

And that was only the first 7 pages.

I honestly didn’t realize I was over-using that phrase until sometime later. Once I caught onto my fav “as ifs”, I ran the find across my document and found that I used that phrase ad nausum. So I cleansed my soul — and my manuscript — of almost all repetitive phrases.

Then came catch number 2. My second favorite overdone phrase. Or rather word.

Like.

One doesn’t think one uses that word nearly as much as they do. But if you use your handy “find” button, you will be amazed at how many times that monochromatic word pops up.

Like something from Lord of the Rings…

As much as I would like to say I have had a life just like everyone else….

I suppose it is like asking why you fell in love…

The likes of which…

It was like trying to tune in a far away radio station…

And that was only by page 5.

The creative flow got in the way of grammar.  In my own defense, the character who utters these words has her own take on the English language. Her vocabulary is a bit more flowery and eccentric than others. So it was easy to take her style to the limit. I needed to sprinkle those words throughout the manuscript, not shovel them in.

I have cleaned everything up, and I love the way the story flows. But the scary thing is that it would have been a repetitive nightmare if I hadn’t caught my mistakes.

That’s why good writers make mistakes — and fix them. It’s good to have someone else read your writing. Or read it out loud. Or run spell check. Or search for words that are easy to repeat.

I used to be naïve enough to think that the first draft is the final draft. But having recently read A Moveable Feast by Hemmingway, seeing his hand-written manuscripts in the middle of the book, and how long it took him to hone each sentence, I can see why you never go with your first.

It’s like love. At first it’s all butterflies and sparklers, and it’s the most alive you will ever feel. As it matures, it mellows, deepens, and refines and redefines iself. And in order to keep it going, you have to polish, hone, and clip out the dead stuff.

And the likes. And the as ifs….

 

 

 

8 (more) Granny Rules

CAM00835 (2)I want to start this off by saying how lucky — and I mean lucky — I am to have my oldest son, his pregnant wife, and my 4-year-old grandbaby living with us for a few months. I will never have this opportunity again, so I don’t want to blow it.

Having said that, I have found that when family stays with you (even if it’s for a week or two), the rules as a Granny change. I find I’m not as freebird-ish as I want to be. I have learned that, much to MY chagrin, you have to be respectful of the parents’ wishes, thoughts, and actions.

So for you other present or future grannies and grandpas, here are some rules you should think about.

1.  Bed Time is Bed Time.

Oh, you may be able to squeeze an extra hour out on the weekends, but during the week, there is no watching TV in bed with Granny while eating an ice cream bar or jumping on the bed with the dogs. They need to calm down before sleep time. (So do you!)

2. Bed Time Snacks Are Different.

No more chips and soda before bed; no more cheese sticks and slices of salami, no more Hi-C or Hawaiian Punch cocktails. Pull that apple out from the back of the frig shelf, or pour a bowl of cereal. Act responsible. (Leave the ice cream bars for before YOU go to bed..)

3.  Ask your Mom/Dad

My grandson used to come over and get just about anything he wanted any time he wanted. Now that he’s under closer supervision, I can’t sneak him string cheese or pretzels and peanut butter  instead of dinner. I find myself saying, “Ask your Mother.” I feel like I’m shirking my Granny duties, but it’s better if the stomach aches come from them, not me.

4.  Kids and Pets

I tend to yell at my 3 stupid dogs a lot. I now have to clean up my language and not sound like a truck driver every time the dog pees or poops inside or wraps the leash around my ankle. My grandbaby adds to the furor by picking up my cats around the neck and parading around with them. When the cats have finally had enough, he takes it personally and starts to antagonize them. My language AND my reprimands are a little stronger now days. Not the Granny Way.

5.  Play Age-Approriate Games

Teaching a grandbaby how to use an axe to cut the string on firewood or mowing the lawn with a riding tractor (although grandpa rode on the tractor too) is not what a mother wants to hear. I am always honest with her — much to HER chagrin. While riding down the little hill on a Big Wheels looks as scary as a runaway train, a vigilant grandparent will be there every step of the way. Trust me — past times like coloring and playing with cars don’t hold a candle to a big squirt gun fight.

6.  Give your kids and grandkids space.

It’s fairly easy to trip over each other in one household. Fortunately my husband is gone in the evening and I’m gone during the day, so our 25 minutes of shared daylight doesn’t get in anyone’s way. But once grandpa is gone and I’m home alone with everybody, I tend to start feeling like a sticky note. I believe that evening times are Dad and Mom times, with a little Granny sprinkled in now and then for color. I usually wind up going into my room and writing/watch TV/fold laundry anyway, giving them plenty of time to cuddle as a threesome and talk about me if they want.

7.  No Hands.

And who better to teach a 4-year-old no hands on the roller coaster? Momma and I get sick just looking at them; then there’s Grandpa. And Dad. But Grandpa is the Instigator who looks fear in the eye and laughs at it. (He has a great laugh). If trying something off-center, try and pull one of the parents into it. It’s easier in the long run.

8.  Be honest.

Grannies are always honest…it just doesn’t always seem like it. Most times we are relegated to seeing our grandkids every other weekend, or, sadly, every month or every year. We have to make the most of our time together; after all, we don’t want our grandkids to forget about us once we’re gone. That’s why I tell my grandbaby (and my kids, but to a lesser degree), how much I love them, how much I miss them when they’re gone, how much I can’t wait to see them the next time. We plan things that might not come to fruition, but it’s the fun and love in planning that makes the difference.  I wear my love on my sleeve. And don’t regret the shredded mess at all.

 

We’re going to have another addition to our family in a few months. I have found as a mother myself that it’s easier to let go (to grandparents) by the time the second one comes along. Parents realize that their parents aren’t one step from the looney bin, they’re not Charles Manson followers, and the craziness that occurs is more in the mind than in reality.

Soon we will have TWO kids to spoil. My kids won’t be living with us by then.

Momma — watch out. Granny’s coming —

 

When is a Cherry not a Cherry?

cherryLike an artist loving colors, like a potter loving texture, I love words. I love the written word, the spoken word. I love the English language in all its curly q’s and static punctuation marks. I love reading, I love creative conversations, and, as you know, I love writing.

I’m also such a child when it comes to words.

Take today. I’m entering catalog copy onto the website, and the product is hoes. I chuckle as I type. I wouldn’t have chuckled 15 years ago, but the world of English has changed since I was a young tart. One of my favorite movies is Fred Astaire in The Gay Divorcee. More giggles. Pussy used to mean cat. Cock was a male rooster. Chuckle chuckle. A shaft was a vertical opening or passage through the floors of a building. Jugs held moonshine or water. Laughing with me yet? Now I find myself avoiding those words just because of today’s connotations.

The same is true with reading and writing sex scenes. Now, I’m not a puritan. Through the years I’ve had my share of “love on the picnic bench” or “kitchen table bumps.”  But as I get older the words just don’t stimulate like they used to. There are lots of books out today where women are ravished and men are studding and the language is as red as bing cherries. I mean, how many erotic positions and sounds can there be? I’m not a prude either. Healthy libidos are what keep us young. So how do you balance sex and love and lust in your blockbuster novel without being embarrassed about every other word?

One way is to write sex scenes that explode without saying one dirty word.

Ever try saying something without saying something? Now, that’s a challenge! Funny thing is, I enjoyed the challenge. Try out this passage from my latest creation:

His sensuality devoured me, sparking a hunger I never knew I had. I was not a virgin, but I might as well have been, as I surrendered to his caresses and his demands. Falling on the feathered bed, his hands found every curve, every fullness of my body, sending electrical currents through me. Currents I almost could not stand. His mouth followed his hands, and I found myself following his lead, my needs exploding into sounds and screams of pure pleasure. When he took me it was if a monster roared above me. Guttural, wild, transcending this plane to another and another. I matched his transcendence, spiraling out of control, the heat from our stones exploding inside of us, inside of each other.

Not one male chicken, not one kitty cat.  Not one moonshine container or vertical passage in a  building. Normal “words” like hands and mouths and explosions, but nothing is ever really said. Just implied.

I suppose for most it’s a pretty boring passage. The point of using variations of cats and roosters is to get that extra blush that words like kisses and hugs can’t bring. It’s like using swear words when you’re a little kid. You’re not supposed to say them, but every time you do you get that little thrill of being naughty. And that’s the power of words. One word can launch a thousand dreams, a thousand nightmares. That — is power.

I must admit I do miss some of the old-fashioned words, though. I personally miss — and use — the cat’s meow, groovy, the cat’s pajamas, jive, holy mackerel. I’m not going to stop watching The Gay Divorcee or Leave it to Beaver just because slang has twisted the words around.

But that’s not going to stop me from giggling every time I type the color buff or cherry.

On Base of Bony Orbit

When not being busy as a Goddess Gypsy Irish/Polish Writing Queen (I’m not really sure what that is…), I also spend 40 hours a week working on catalogs. I enter data, order images and copy, and proofread everything from the original description to the final glossy prepress page. One of my catalogs is dedicated to health care. Besides pages being filled with replicas of every body part (inside or outside) you can imagine, I also come across some extraordinary vocabulary.

This catalog is not one of those over-the-top linguistic nightmares, but a publication that is sophisticated enough to be grammatically specific and accurate when needed. At first the vernacular was a tsunami blowing around me. A lot of the images made me blush (scarlet, no less), and the descriptions were mostly gibble to me.  But now that I’m a seasoned veteran (sort of), I look at the catalog with a skewered sense of humor. Take the title of this blog, for instance. On Base of Bony Orbit is a description of an eye model; an orbit is the cavity in the skull that contains the eye; the eye socket. So, pulling myself away from the labrynth of product numbers, misspelled words and overlapping graphics, here are a few chuckles and chasms I found along the way.

Romantic Pairings (don’t these sound like lovey-dovey couples from the past?)

                         Cephalic and Basilic                         Systolic and Diostolic

                        Lavage and Gavage                           Bradycardia and Tachycardia

                        Larynx and Pharnyx                         Holodiastolic and Holosystolic

                       Maximus and Medius                       Tibula and Fibula

Linguistics

Another alien world in this catalog is the world of words. Oh sure, dictionaries and technical manuals are full of words only Einstein can decipher.  But, hey! I am merely an enlightened female on the road to who-knows-where! And these words are in my catalog:

                    Sphygomanometer                        Periocardiocentesus

                    Hepatobilliary                                Cricothyrotomy

                    Pneumothorax                               Sternocledidomastoid

                   Bulbospongiosus                            Intraosseous

                   Illococcygenus                                Supraspinatus

                  Meniscofemoral                              Oropharyngeal

Who Else is Here?

Did you know that there are a lot of people hanging around inside of you, too? Is there no such thing as total privacy?

             Ludwig’s Plate

            Loops of Heale

            Adam’s Apple

            Henle’s Loop

            Papillary Duct of Bellini

            Bowman’s Capsule

            Angle of Louis

 Junkyard

There seems to be a lot of junk and space inside of you, too. Just take a look at what’s really inside of you:

             caverns                               stems                        radicals                tubes   

             arches                                 trees                         hammers              valves         

             anvils                                 roofs                         cords                      roots

            discs                                    nails                         vaults                     canals 

           branches                            cavities                     bulbs                      plates   

           pyramids

Stumble Through Ancient Rome

 The body is filled with Latin terminology.  Sometimes I feel I should say, “ciao, baby!” Thank you Italy…

             Vastus lateralis                                Palmaris ulnaris

            Flexor carpi radialis                        Levator anguli oris

            Palmar aponeurosis                        Prominentia larngea

            Lateral decubitus                            Scala tympani

            Orbicularis acculi                           Peroneus brevis

            Patent ductus arteriosus 

 What is That?

             Shorter words that still make no sense to me:

            caecum                       pylorus                concha                       ischium

            vomer                        obdurator             pons                            taenia

            otic                              choroid                bolus                          calyces

            necrotic                      maxilla                occiput                       ulnar

 I’m sure there are plenty of other additions I (or you, for a matter of fact),  could add to these lists. But this one has already given me a headache. But all in all, you’d have to say I have quite an interesting proofreading life.

I hope I opened your eyes to the reality of your body.  You know – the ones on bony orbits. They say your body is a temple, but I think it’s nothing more than an over-articulate, voyeuristic catch basin.

Now – didn’t you find that humerus?