Joys of English

At the beginning of the year, I took the plunge and am back in school. Need I say that I’m loving it? I’m in school, I’m getting graded, AND I am learning really cool stuff … grammar!

Drive Slowly
Thank you, the_munificent_sasquatch, for this photo. Click on the picture to see more of his work.

Grammar Lab is the first class in a copyediting certificate program. It is awesome!

Isn’t it odd how I never had a dedicated grammar lesson in English going through school? French, yes; English, no. Fortunately, I have developed a good ear for knowing what was right. I’m learning, though, that that ear is far from perfect.

We abuse our language day. The Wire taught me that buildings are evacuated, not people. Well, people can be evacuated, but that is a very different activity!

Fabulous Patrick over at Patrick’s Place has taught me the difference between lectern and podium as well as nauseous and nauseated.

This class has done what I thought was impossible: I now have the lay/lie difference down pat! Okay, I guess I could have looked it up, but without having to use it with a grade on the line, I don’t know that it would have stuck. I do know that I consistently butchered those poor innocent verbs. Before this class, I never would have said, “I have lain in bed all day”, and I would have sworn up and down that that was wrong!

Also now down pat in my head: who versus whom. I knew that “who” was a subject and “whom” an object, but I couldn’t always tell how it was being used in the sentence to figure out which one was needed. Now as I look at words on the page, my brain tells me what their purpose is within the sentence. This amazes me because when I first started the class, it hurt my brain that the same word could be so many different parts of speech. Context matters. I wanted firmer rules than that. I did some tough love with myself over that. Much as I did about my French class, I told myself to either quit or get my head in the game and actually learn. And learn I have!

All of this newly found language knowledge has had some unexpected side effects. I correct poor grammar that I hear on television. How can so many basic verb errors make it to the small screen?!?!? Note: I do not correct DH2U. It has never even crossed my mind. Even my weird brain can see how annoying that would be.

I know most people probably think I’m pretty sick and twisted to be this excited about learning my own language. The best part is that I really don’t care, because this is so much fun for me. I’ve jumped in with both feet and have signed up for the next class in the series. Look at all the fun books I’ll be using for my first course in copyediting:

Copyediting Books

What are you passionate about that makes people shake their heads? or Have you ever used the participle “lain” in a sentence?

9 thoughts on “Joys of English”

  1. Thanks so much for mentioning me. I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts.

    Language is an amazing thing, isn’t it? And it’s definitely fun to know how to use it more correctly and effectively. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Patrick. Your post today was an eye opener as well: “towing” the line makes so much more sense than “toeing” it. Then again, I guess common sense isn’t always involved in English.

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    1. The class is online, but it is not self-paced, which is what makes it work for me. Without strict deadlines, I’m a lazy slug. It is so much fun learning all of this.

      I think “lain” looks wrong, but then again I think that is mainly because I doubt I’d ever heard it before this class.

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  2. No, no, no – no crazies about it at all! This coming,of course, from a high school English teacher. When I used to help my youngest son with his spelling, and he had a hard time with it, he’d ask, “Why do you know these things?” Not how. Why.
    That used to crack me up. (look at that – I ended a sentence with a preposition – so bad) he-he-he.

    Good for you. I’m always silently correcting people’s grammar. Silently, because I’ve learned the hard way it’s obnoxious to do it out loud (certainly no way to win friends and influence people).

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    1. What a rebel you are, Barbara, ending a sentence with a preposition in a response to a grammar post! I love that your son asked “why” instead of “how” regarding your knowledge. How is his spelling now? Did it stick?

      One thing I’m learning in my class is there are different rules depending upon one’s target audience. Some technically correct things look glaringly wrong, and people would instinctively perceive them as an error even when they are “book” right.

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  3. I think it’s great you’re learning English like this. I’ve read “The Elements of Style” twice just so I could understand the nuances of the written language. It’s actually a short read, but has a lot of useful information in it.

    A few years ago, I subscribed to a word of the day email from a website. I used to concentrate on the words so I’d remember them and be able to use them. Although I don’t pay as much attention to it now. I know most of the best words and others aren’t useful if the other person doesn’t understand them. That can even get in the way of getting information across to other people.

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    1. You are so right that words are only useful if the other person understands what they mean. I thought I was good at figuring out words in context, but it turns out I stink at it! Only recently have I started looking things up, and it is amazing how off I can be. Also, common usage is often wrong! It’s amazing we are able to convey ideas at all!

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