Luisa Zissman, a finalist on the British Apprentice TV show, “horrified” her Twitter followers “after appealing for advice on whether the name of her new cupcake business required punctuation,” the Telegraph reported.
“Can you all help me out as I’m crap at grammar,” Zissman wrote. “Is it bakers toolkit or baker’s toolkit with an apostrophe?! X”
Once you digest what she’s trying to ask, you have every right to be “horrified.” Zissman doesn’t know what an apostrophe does, or when to use one. What did she think all those apostrophes she’s been seeing in her 24 years of living meant?
Now I know nothing about Zissman, and though her liberal use of run-on Tweets riddled with other grammatical errors leads me to the belief that grammar is not her strong suit or a priority, I don’t really blame her. She’s a millennial, which means she was schooled in a time long after sentence diagrams and the principles of grammar became passé.
I had the advantage of three years of strict, old-fashioned grammar instruction. The sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at my tiny private school meant daily drilling on the use and disuse of nouns, verbs, tenses, pronouns, participles, prepositions, the predicate, and all parts of speech.
I am happy to have been ingrained with what so many of my peers, unfortunately, have been deprived of. (Ending the sentence in a preposition here was basically unavoidable. Sorry!) It’s a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I feel as though I am a mutant whose special, hidden trait makes me capable of tremendous good, but which also makes it a trial to live in a world that just doesn’t understand. (I’m dramatic.) I actually get momentarily enraged when a message to me includes a grammatical error. I can’t really understand what you’re trying to say to me if it’s not in proper English. I cringe when I see a solecism in a public place. I wince. It gnaws at me. I must look away.
My irked feelings are amplified in a digital world where grammar rules have all but gone out the [computer] window. (Have you ever tried to read a comment on YouTube?) People say they exercise “everyday” when they mean “every day.” They split infinitives like it’s going out of style (and it may well be). They have no respect for the Oxford Comma, ignored in most circles. They write things like, “Due to the amount of people coming…” Wrong. “People” are individual items. It is due to the number of people coming. Please and thank you.
The best grammatical faux pas happens when people put quotation marks around words or phrases they want to emphasize. “Wet pain!” Store “closed” on “Tuesdays.” Are they quoting the person who told them to make the sign and just leaving it anonymous?
The evolution of language is fascinating and a part of life, but shouldn’t the development of the spoken and written word involve improvement and sophistication, and not degradation for sloth’s sake? How do works of literature published today compare to literary genius from a hundred years ago?
A radio host tweeted (see! I am open to new verb forms! Now should it be capitalized or not…?) Ms. Zissman that he was going to be talking about her grammar controversy on his program. She said she couldn’t believe how many people are talking about it, and he said, “Whenever I talk about grammar I get LOADS of calls. People are so passionate about it.” I’m glad I’m not the only one. Learning proper grammar is like learning etiquette. It’s a life tool, and can be a very powerful one.
The decline of culture begins with language. I wrote in college of my fear that the rule of not splitting an infinitive would “fade into nothing more than a mysterious relic and with it, all order and propriety.” People were amused. Now they should be alarmed.