Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jews for Christmas

**Grammar errors in this post are intentional. You'll see what I mean.**

“On Yentl and Moishe and Yaakov and Hymie. On Lazer on Tzeitel on Velvel and Chayim,” a Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof look-a-like wearing a furry blue and silver suit hollers to his team of oxen. One hand on his head making sure he doesn’t loose his yamulcuh in the decent and the other hand gripping a bag full of toys, every Hanukkah good ole Hershel Stein (as jolly as can be expected in today’s day and age) visits the homes of all the Jewish children. In exchange for the Manischewitz and rugelach awaiting him, Hershel brings every Jewish child eight toys (provided they weren’t on the meshugeners list). The children try to wait up to catch a glimpse of old Hershel, but always fall asleep to their favorite holiday cartoon, The Schmuck Who Borrowed Hanukkah. Only after Hershel shoots back up the chimney and finally gets comfortable in his cart (the ascension triggering his chronic lower back pain), the sleeping children are gently stirred from visions of matzo balls dancing the Hora as he bellows, “Happy Hanukkah to all and to all a gute nakht!”

That’s my fantasy Hanukkah. I know it looks a lot like Christmas, but growing up as a Jew in the U.S., all I wanted was to be able too celebrate Christmas. Christmas came with dozens of delightful carols; Hanukkah had one twenty-one word dreidel song that was to be repeated ad nauseam. Christmas cartoons were the best; Hanukkah cartoons were non-existent. Christmas had Santa and reindeer and Frosty and trees and ornaments; Hanukkah was rumored to have a bush. While all the other kids in my first grade class were cutting out there construction paper Christmas trees, I was the only kid cutting out a menorah (which, by the way, is a lot more intricate then a Christmas tree).

I know what your going to say: Christmas only has one night of gifts while Hanukkah has eight. Technically, Hanukkah has eight, but at least in my family, it really only had one good one. On the first night, my siblings and I did get some good gifts, but by night two the gift quality quickly downgraded to socks and underwear. And it was a rare Hanukkah that we even remembered to light the candles on night three.

But I’ll stop kvetching. I’m an adult now, and I’ve left my Christmas envy in the passed. In fact, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah. To celebrate the eight nights of Hanukkah, I have included eight grammatical errors in this post. Their not tricky ones, like commas or semicolons; they’re all commonly confused word errors (i.e., there/they’re/their). List the errors in the comments section, and you will get one point per correct answer. I’ll do a drawing, and the winner will win a fabulous pair of socks!

(If you find more than eight errors, remember that the Christmas season is a very sensitive time for me.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Where Have All the Cusacks Gone?

Bill Maher said, “Any teacher that says, 'I learn as much from my students as they learn from me' is a shitty teacher and must be fired.”

If he’s right, then I am an extra shitty teacher: I don’t learn as much from my students as they learn from me; I learn more.

Judging from the research essays I’m in the midst of grading, my students haven’t learned anything from me at all. They’re not citing their sources correctly, they're sticking apostrophes in non-possessive plurals, they’re comma splicing like WE DIDN’T GO OVER IT A MILLION TIMES.

I did, however, learn something fascinating from them yesterday. One of my male students bragged to the class that he scored a date with a girl because she was impressed that he asked her out in person rather than by text.

I learned that a young man asking a young woman out in person these days is as rare as a student starting an essay earlier than five minutes before it’s due. Apparently, the preferred methods are text messages and Facebook.

Not only are texting and Facebook ruining this generation’s grammar; they are depriving them of life-changing, potentially wonderful, definitely awkward interactions. And you know what that means: the screenwriters from this generation are going to write terrible romantic movies.

Imagine: In their version of The Notebook, Noah and Allie would Facebook each other. Jerry Maguire would simply text Dorothy, “You complete me.” And in Say Anything, Lloyd Dobler would tweet Diane Court a link to “In Your Eyes,” (which would be a Justin Bieber remake).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How to Maintain an Erect Part(iciple)

Honk! Honk! Beep! Beep! HOOOONK!

Don’t you love that sound? It’s the sweet sound of burgeoning grammar awareness.

As many of you know, I converted my car into a grammarmobile, and this is the front right bumper:

Therefore, I can only assume that my fellow drivers have been honking their horns at me because they are participle danglers. Since admitting there’s a problem is said to be the first step on the road to recovery, I’m quite optimistic that we’re heading in the right direction. And it’s pretty cool that so many people, especially those driving behind me in the fast lane, know what a dangling participle is.

However, it was brought to my attention the other day that not everyone knows what it means to dangle one’s participle, so allow me to explain.

Let’s start with a non-dangling participle. Let’s call it, I don’t know, what’s the opposite of dangling? How about an erect participle? We want our participles to be erect, like this one:

Driving through the streets, I am trying to spread grammar awareness.

Driving through the streets is my participial phrase. A participial phrase is (and I am oversimplifying here, but it will work for our purposes) a phrase at the beginning of a sentence that starts with an ing word.

When a sentence opens with a participial phrase, the participial phrase should modify the subject of the sentence. And in the aforementioned sentence it does. I am the one driving through the streets.

On the other hand, here is an example of a dangling participle:

Honking their horns, I am delighted by the grammar enthusiasm of my fellow drivers.

The participle is dangling because honking their horns is not modifying the subject of the sentence, which is I; it is actually modifying my fellow drivers. Here’s one way to revise it:

Honking their horns, my fellow drivers express their grammar enthusiasm.

And now that I have clarified the definition of a dangling modifier, I have a question for you about another phenomenon I frequently experience on the road. What is the grammatical significance of sticking one’s hand out the driver’s side window and dangling the pinky, ring finger, pointer finger and thumb whilst maintaining an erect middle finger?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Spotless Minds

I am not a perfectionist. There is definitely a point when I am more than happy to give up even if I haven’t achieved my desired outcome:

If the pasta recipe requires capers but unscrewing the jar causes me to shvitz, screw the capers.

I’m content if I do most of the dishes.

I am fine with a lumpily-made bed.

Unfortunately, I want to be perfect. Or at least I want everyone else to think I’m perfect. I cringe at the thought of others witnessing my mistakes. That’s why it’s so painful to look at photos of myself from the 80s when I was into heavy blue eyeliner and acid washed jeans.

Consequently, every time I discover that I have made an error, I want to pull an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind procedure on anyone who has witnessed it so we can all start over with an unblemished image of me.

That means that I would like to erase all of your memories right now.

I just learned that it’s incorrect to write or say with regards to and in regards to—with the s. The correct form is singular: with regard to and in regard to.

I am sure my past blog posts repeatedly contain this error. And since I write a, you know, grammar blog, it’s extra embarrassing that I have repeatedly committed a grammar error. But since I am not a perfectionist, I am too lazy to go back and correct it.

So if these guys show up at your door

you'll know why.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I'm Not a Monster

When we were little, my mom took my sister Maggie and me to a bakery. She purchased one cookie, and I guess since I was the oldest, she gave me the responsibility of splitting it in half so my sister and I could share it.

The one cookie belonged to both my sister and me, so we would express this as:

Maggie and Jenny’s cookie

(When both parties possess the same item, we only add ’s to the possessor closest to the item.)

Since my mom entrusted me with the sacred duty of splitting the cookie, I broke the cookie in half and placed the cookie halves back-to-back to carefully measure them. Then, I gave my little sister the smaller portion.

Since my little sis and I now possessed our own individual cookie portions, we would express that as:

Maggie’s and Jenny’s cookie portions

My mom apparently witnessed the entire transaction and punished me for my selfishness by taking away my piece of cookie.

Before you judge me and applaud my mother, you have to understand the dietary environment in which I was raised. You see, my mom was an aerobics instructor and fitness guru. Richard Simmons actually held me when I was an infant so my mom could procure greens from the salad bar in his restaurant. I was raised on Grape Nuts and Shredded Wheat (not the frosted kind). I was allowed only one piece of Halloween candy. Imagine: the most important decision of my childhood was whether my one piece of candy for the year would be a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or a mini Snickers bar. So, excuse me, if I wanted the big half of the cookie.

Did I mention it was a frickin’ OATMEAL cookie?

See for yourself. Here's a link to my mom's nutrition blog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

They Say Tomato; We Say Tomato

On my drive to work this morning, I found myself thinking about the movie Love Actually. I can’t quite pinpoint how my stream of consciousness led me to a movie I haven’t seen in eight years. Perhaps it was Colin Firth withdrawals or the impending holiday season, but for whatever reason, I spent my morning commute thinking about all of the movie’s storylines. I eventually made my way to the Billy Bob Thornton as the misogynistic U.S. president part, and from there, I do remember my stream of consciousness. Come along for the ride:

Love Actually really painted the U.S. president as a big bully. I can see why; America definitely has that reputation. It especially did during the Bush years. Isn’t it ironic that Britain considers America a bully when originally we considered Britain to be a bully? It’s pretty interesting to think about the differences that have emerged between U.S. culture and British culture since the U.S. won its independence. Like why do Brits prefer tea and we prefer coffee? Why are Brits celebrated for their dry wit while we are more known for slapstick comedy? Why are they more civilized than we are? You know what? Maybe these differences don’t really exist. I mean, I like tea. Fawlty Towers is full of slapstick. Civilized is the last word that comes to mind when I think of Russell Brand. When it comes down to it, we’re all just people. John Lennon was right. We should all just live as one. This asshole in front of me should learn how to drive.

But even if the cultural differences are just stereotypes, there are definitely some linguistic disparities that have developed between Britain and the U.S.

For example, we deal differently with collective nouns.

A collective noun is a word used to describe a group of objects. In fact, the word group is a collective noun because in order to have a group of something, it must be made up of more than one. Other collective nouns include committee, troop, herd, and society.

In the United States, we tend to treat the collective noun as a singular noun, so we use a singular verb.

Congress has decided to consider collective nouns singular.

In Britain, they tend to treat the collective noun as plural, so they use the plural verb.

Parliament have decided to consider collective nouns plural.

I have always been interested to find out how and why American English is different from its British origin—not interested enough to actually do the research, but interested enough to form my own unfounded theories.

My theory regarding the difference between the ways the U.S. and Britain deal with collective nouns is that the U.S. decided to consider a group as one singular entity to stress the fact that we are united, as suggested by the name of our country.

My theory about why Americans use the term french fries instead of chips is because we believe that if it’s French it can’t make us fat.

And my theory about why Americans use the word line instead of queue is because, let’s face it, we have enough issues with spelling.

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's All Greek for Me

Believe it or not, grammar was not my first love. John Stamos from Full House was my first love.

Well, John and books. As I mentioned before, the only trophy I ever won was for a third grade read-a-thon.

So, today, instead of honoring grammar, I would like to take a moment to honor books. Actually, one book in particular: fellow blogger Jessica Bell's String Bridge.

Like John Stamos, whose original last name was Stamotopoulos, String Bridge is of Greek origin. Well, it takes place in Greece. Close enough.

And it sounds awesome:

"Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage—and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits, and she realizes she's been seeking fulfillment in the wrong place."

And the reviews are fantastic!

I can't wait to read it. I hope you read it too!

Today is THE day to help Jessica Bell's debut, STRING BRIDGE, hit the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrack, Melody Hill: On the Other Side, written and performed by the author herself, for free!

All you have to do is purchase the book today (paperback, or eBook), November 11th, and then email the receipt to:

will then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!

To purchase the paperback:

To purchase the eBook:

To listen to samples of the soundtrack, visit iTunes.

If you are not familiar with String Bridge, check out the book trailer:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Keanu Forever

What I am about to tell you will most likely cause you to lose respect for me.

I harbor an unconditional love for Keanu Reeves. He could make one hundred
Sweet Novembers and Lake Houses or a Matrix Regurgitated, and my allegiance wouldn’t wane.

This love affair started in 1988 when I saw a little movie called Permanent Record on cable. At some point in the movie, the camera zoomed in on this punim:

And that was it for me.

Then, three years later, I experienced this scene from Point Break:

To my teenage self, this was the epitome of romance: lying on the bare chest of a gorgeous, pensive man who has great biceps.

So here’s the part where if you haven’t lost respect for me already you might now. The other day, I was lying on the chest of my husband (who happens to be quite gorgeous and have nice biceps), and I thought to myself, “Wow. I’m totally living my Point Break fantasy.”

After that, I have pretty much been letting myself go. I quit my job. I stopped writing. I stopped showering. I mean, I pretty much peaked, right?

Point Break is obviously very special to me, so I am not thrilled about the fact that they are planning on remaking it. Nor am I terribly thrilled about the recent Footloose remake or the proposed Dirty Dancing remake.

Is nothing sacred? Who else besides Keanu Reeves can deliver lines like "You crossed the line. People trusted you and they died. You gotta' go down" or "You gonna jump or jerk off?"

Surely there are plenty of talented screenwriters out there who can write NEW movies.

And along the same lines, why have we chosen to remake words when there are so many new ones out there?

Why must we have two other words that sound exactly like there ? Why must the present and past form of read be the same? The word set has 464 definitions. Don’t you think we could have come up with some new words to bear some of set’s burden?

And I know there are new words out there because I see them every time I am required to use the word verification option. We should just steal the word verification letter combinations and use them to make the English language less confusing.

For example, people commonly confuse the words weather and whether. I say we keep whether and change weather to the word verification letter combination I recently encountered, reanthor. It almost contains the word rain and it does contain the word thor. Perfect!

Any other pressing problems you need me to solve? The high unemployment rate? I mean that the unemployment rate is high, or am I referring to the unemployment rate of those who are stoned? Good question. In this case, I am referring to the latter. Let me just reach into my bag of word verification letter combos to find a word to take high's place.

How about flikst?