I find it hilarious that an internet meme could inspire a blog post called “pretentious.”
Recently I saw this bar joke plus grammar joke meme going around.
The best part of this for me is the fact that I understood all of them!
In the past, whenever I didn’t know something, I felt intimidated by those who did; My NPR experience is a perfect example. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that intimidation is not the universal response to that situation.
During my brief employment at “The Job Incident,” part of my job responsibilities was copy editing. I dutifully fixed noun/verb agreements, restructured sentences for clarity, and above all, I repaired punctuation. The manager had a predilection for comma splices. I dutifully would put in a semi-colon and send it back. Each and every time I had to explain the rule again – it’s grammatically incorrect to separate two complete sentences with a comma without a conjunction. (Am I the only one singing “Conjunction Junction” in my head right now? Now you all can join me!)
Ultimately the semicolon was replaced with a period, because semicolons seemed too intellectual. Yup, proper punctuation is pretentious.
Okay, here is where it gets funny: Much like with my “It was a dark and stormy night” post, reality is forcing me to change the direction of this post.
The main lesson that stuck with me from my grammar and punctuation training is to look up all words to make sure there isn’t a situation of “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.” I had always thought of “pretentious” as “the flaunting of knowledge.” Um, not so much.
Pretentious: attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed.
In that manager’s case, using a semi-colon could have been pretentious, because it was demonstrating more punctuation skill than he possessed. It hurts my brain a little that doing something correctly could be seen that way. Not only that, but I was being pretentious by using the word “pretentious!”
Am I the only one who uses semicolons in casual writing? Or What word have you recently discovered that you’ve been using wrong?