Noises bother me. I wish they didn’t but they do. I realize it’s my problem so I generally keep it to myself (except when I’m with my poor husband), but some days my head is pounding from sounds that grate on me. In my last job, I was subjected to a symphony of gum-cracking and pen-clicking noises that made me want to run, screaming, out of the building. In this job, the screechy dissonance I must contend with is bad grammar.
One of my Romanian professors would put her hands over her ears and wince whenever I made a grammatical blunder, which was quite frequently. She promised me that someday I would know the language well enough that mistakes would hurt my ears, too. I don’t think I ever got to the point of pain, but grammatical errors in Romanian did start to simply sound wrong. I wonder why certain things don’t “just sound wrong” to some of the people I encounter now, in my daily life. I’ve kept track of some actual statements I‘ve heard lately, here in the foothills of Appalachia, that are the equivalent of fingernails scraping across a chalkboard to me:
- Me and her had ate it up.
- It don’t matter.
- Him and Carrie had went to . . .
- We was sittin’ . . .
- He don’t know nothin’ about it.
- If it had became on sale . . .
- I was froze.
- Make sure it can be drove.
- That song was sang.
- She’s fixin’ to get her hair did
The words I’ve just typed look like a Christmas tree. The grammatical errors are underlined in squiggly green lines and the spelling errors in red. The only excuse for typos is color-blindness. If only we could see those squiggly lines when we speak.
A friend of mine here cringes every time a local person is interviewed on the TV news. In fact, North Carolina is crawling with colleges and universities, and there are many very intelligent people who make their home in the Tarheel state. Somehow, the ones who get interviewed seldom have good teeth (sometimes no teeth at all) and never use proper grammar. It doesn’t help the stereotype. Another friend used to complain that whenever a Southerner is depicted in television or film, they are cast as the dumb one, even in cartoons like the Smurfs. Just because Southerners’ words are slowed down with a big dose of kindness, it doesn’t mean their brains are slow.
That said, I don’t remember grammar being as large an issue in other places I’ve lived. I’m jes’ saying’. . .