Conjugational visits

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Look. I never wanted to be a grammar snob. It’s not like I specially asked for it at the dweeb store. If I’d had any say in it, I would have chosen something that didn’t make me seem fussy and petty and mean. My grammar snobbiness happened without any deliberate effort, leaving me saddled with a niche skillset of practically no real value. Sometimes I read grammar books for fun, like The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, but even without extracurricular studying, I’m just naturally prone to grammar snobbiness.

Every day at my temp job is a little slice of hell. Because communication at my workplace depends on a high volume of email, I see a lot of comma splices and misspellings and run-on-sentences and subject/verb disagreements and paragraphs of dubious coherence and words that are completely imaginary. Each time it happens, a little bit of my soul gets erased from the fabric of existence.

And then there is the matter of conjugation. Several times daily — I am not exaggerating the frequency — I hear such constructions as “I had went to the cafeteria” or “The report has been ran” or “She had came back from vacation.” Syntax likes this makes baby pandas die.

Again: I recognize that my grammar predilections make people want to stuff me in a locker between classes. I’m the sort of person who uses the subjunctive properly and who appreciates the stylistic economy of semicolons, a condition that does not foster meaningful friendships or personal fulfillment.

There is a persistent myth, repeated and reinforced from elementary school through graduate studies, that it is important to be academically successful. People who do well in school will succeed in life, the thinking goes, whereas those who don’t will end up selling used cars or serving time in prison. I would like to use my experience, anecdotal though it may be, to refute the myth. Apart from the dead baby pandas, it’s completely okay to have weak language skills. I am a published author with a master’s degree, and this year I will earn less than twenty thousand dollars, whereas the People I work with Who Capitalize words According To rules I don’t Understand have Health Insurance and good Salaries.

I realize this is a theme I visit a lot on this blog. Faithful readers are surely sick of hearing my complaints about unemployment, underemployment, and job dissatisfaction. I’m sick of job dissatisfaction, too, to the point where I actually considered joining the military. This period of consideration lasted perhaps four seconds, after which I dismissed the idea and instead sang the lyrics to the Ben Folds song “Army.” I also considered joining the Peace Corps, which I dismissed for very similar reasons, believe it or not.

I can’t imagine that I’ll be any less frustrated or discouraged next time I write, but at least I can change the topic. Up next: politics — because my personal opinion matters to you and should influence how you vote.

6 responses »

  1. I LOLed at the conjugations you hear every day. Not that they’re funny, but I did nevertheless.

  2. Had this “Post” been commanded by any but you Jess, the world would certainly been the poorer:) Fear not that you bore with the commentary, your observations address concerns that ought oft’ner be thought of at Foggy Bottom. Stay the course in Temp-ville ..Your notes will someday be appreciated for the cultural-anthropological treasures that they are. Napoleon spoke Corsican; Among the defenders of the Alamo was a Congressman from Tennessee… We your loyal readers salute you..

  3. As always, you nailed it. My fervent hope is that one day soon you will find a job that takes advantage of your very considerable skills and intelligence. Bitterness can produce great comedy, which I’m sure you know.

  4. Hi. I found this when I was trying to find myself, quite literally. Your post and the name of my free-lance editing business share the same name. You’re an entertaining writer, but I assume you know this already. I also know that you don’t plan on writing much here, but you should: because, as you’ve pointed it out, it’s free, but also because you are fantastic.

    Write on.

  5. Thank you both! I’ve been in a writing slump for a long time now, and a reading slump too. It sucks.
    For January 1st, I can promise to do my annual review of the paltry few books I’ve read this year. But if and when I get my writing mojo back, I’ll be putting my creative energies into fiction writing, rather than this blog.


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