The basic problem with people’s learning English, even those born in an erstwhile English-speaking country such as the United States, is that they no longer learn their grammar and spelling through reading great works of literature and doing rigorous classroom exercises but through media and fast food exposure.
Maybe I’ll call my book Fast Food English instead of Grammar Sucks, a title which someone has already purloined. How about just Fast English? Does that convey my meaning? Nah, it sounds like a promise to learn English quickly.
Anyway, as I was grading more university-level papers today, I was shocked at how many people with otherwise sound mental capacities cannot spell through and indeed don’t even know the word exists.
No doubt the cop-out idiots at the Oxford English Dictionary will soon–if they haven’t already done so–recognize thru as a proper English word.
In one of my classes the other night, I sat through about 15 PowerPoint presentations, and not one person ever spelled their correctly when using it as a possessive pronoun. Everyone spelled it there, even those with erstwhile well-developed critical thinking skills.
Now, I can understand how easy it is to type there when you mean their–occasionally–but some of these people used it several times in their slide shows (oops–there slide shows) and never once bothered to proofread or correct it.
Then the scary thought came to me–they simply don’t know how to spell or use their correctly.
My favorite haunt at lunch is a place called Panera Bread in Fullerton, Calif., where I usually eat at a table that’s fairly isolated. I mean, I can hear people talk if I crane my neck but otherwise enjoy solitude.
This past Friday, however, since I had my laptop with me and wanted to plug it in to the wall socket, I took one of the tables lined up against the wall.
Nouns seem like a basic concept in English, but like everything else in English grammar, they seem to confuse the heck out of most people.
I broach this topic after watching a segment of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? (sadly, few adults are), which featured a question asking the contestant to name the three proper nouns in a sample sentence.
Ms. Contestant, a college graduate with a 3.5 GPA, stumbled all over the place before finally agreeing with a fifth grader and getting it right. (She was ready to pronounce two of the proper nouns to be pronouns; the fifth grader knew better and was smarter.)
I read recently that three-quarters of U.S. small businesses don’t have any employees or offices because they are one-person operations run from a desktop computer, or more recently, from a laptop on the go.
A term has been coiled for these laptop businesspeople: Bedouins.
Now, traditionally a Bedouin is a nomad in the desert, so does that image fit?
As sort of a business Bedouin myself, I must say that the analogy is apt. I often feel as if I’m lost in a desert.
Sometimes having a bad boss to yell at you is more reassuring of your existence than sitting in front of your laptop and doing what you want to do.
I forget whose credit card ad advises “don’t leave home without it,” but when it comes to Wikipedia, my advice is to leave everywhere without it. It’s just highly unreliable as a source of information.
Since Wikipedia can be edited by anyone who registers with the site, its pages are constantly being “updated” by those with a stake in the information, whether a person or a business, and many of these edits are far from objective or even truthful.
Case in point: A company called FAST recently suffered a huge share drop, but when Wikipedia reported this, someone (guess who?) kept deleting the information.
Now an editor at Wikipedia has posted a notice on the page for the party responsible to cease deleting the information.
Read the whole page. It’s fascinating, and it will show you why I say, “Never trust Wikipedia.”