Monday, March 17, 2008

in which i am put in my place

For the last several months, I was the acting Faculty Advisor for my college's newspaper. The professor normally in charge was on sabbatical last semester and asked me to take over while he was away. No big deal - I had basically run the paper when I was a student, so I was expecting it to be cake.

The whole semester went off without a hitch - except for one major one right at the end - but that's another post in itself... definitely not something I want to recall today, my most favorite holiday. Anyway, one of my favorite moments from my time working with the newspaper students this year was during an unofficial meeting with a couple of the editors. We were up in the office geeking out - and by that, I mean having a heated discussion about the rules of grammar. Infinitives, possessive clauses, subjunctives - the works. Basically porn for an English geek like me.

Anyway, after arguing the merits of the serial comma, one of the editors said, "Becky, why aren't there more people like you." I smiled - and I think I even gave him a hug, so happy was I to find a kindred grammar spirit - and the other editor present said, "Yeah - all of C's [the regular Advisor] comments on our pages are bogus. He has no idea what he's talking about when it comes to proofreading - it's nice to be working with someone who does."

And that comment just about validated my entire existence. Sad, I know - but true. Very, very true.

Whatever - I like grammar. And by "like," I pretty much mean "live for." I want to be a writer... and that scares me. But I think I find comfort in the fact that I'm not just proverbially flailing my arms all willy-nilly - I like knowing that if I get lost, there are certain rules I can turn to, things that are constant (except when i before e comes after c), things that will help me in some small way to fine tune my craft. And I'm not even embarrassed to admit it. I used to diagram sentences during the commericial breaks of whatever bad TV we watched in college - BECAUSE I LIKE DOING IT. I don't see anything wrong with being proud of the fact that I was one of the few students my old Grammar & Expression professor dubbed a Grammarian.

But I suppose there comes a time when the proud are bound to fall from the pedestal on which they teeter.

Minding my own business this afternoon, I got a call from one of my old English professors - the same one that the newspaper editors accused of knowing beans about grammar. After some brief niceties, he hastily pointed out an error in a news article I'd recently written and posted to our Web site. I found the error in the story, laughed with him about it, and corrected it. When I thanked him for pointing it out, he said:

"Well, I've always said that if there's one thing I'm good at, it's proofreading and grammar."

As we hung up, I couldn't help but worry... is that how I'll be when I grow up? When C was in his early twenties, was he just a proud, borderline-conceited Grammarian who - somewhere along the line - morphed into a grammar hack cliche? Will I lose all my sweet skillz and be livin' in 82 for the rest of my life? Moreover, will I start saying things like "If there's one thing I'm good at..." and then proceed to list two things?


Becky said...

Nah. I doubt it.

If it makes you feel better, I don't have two things I can easily list that I'm good at.

becky said...

Becky - nonsense! 1. writing, and 2. making people laugh.

Easy. And I don't even know you.

KC said...

Ha! Last sentence was classic.