Minding Our P’s and Q’s

Out with the old and in with the new, that’s what they tell us each year. So what Old Thing will YOU choose to leave behind as the days carry us toward 2012?

I know I can name a couple of customs I’d like to see go out with the trash:

I would like very much to see people especially in commercial settings stop saying “No Problem” when thanked for their services. I mean, are we so fixed on problems in this society that the word is ever on our lips? Did the donors of this giant turkey say “No problem” when President Bush said “oh hey thanks for this!”?

Certainly other cultures have more graceful ways of acknowledging thanks

The French say “pas du tout” or “not at all.”

  • Those speaking Spanish say “de nada” which means “It is nothing for me to help you in this way.”
  • And the Germans use the single word “bitte” that appears to mean, by turns, “please,” “thank you,” “your table is this way” and “I’m sorry to say we are out of bratwurst but let me bring you another half-gallon tankard of beer.”
  • All these phrases are nicer than “No Problem.”

So that’s my first gripe. My second gripe concerns the bad grammar you hear on electronic media of every kind.

I would like to see every reporter, news anchor, talk show host and meteorologist go back to school to learn a little more about proper English usage.

Oh maybe they know that a noun is the name of a person place or thing. The family dog probably understands that much. But who understands pronouns, those handy ‘his-her-and-their-type words that save us from having to say “Johnny crashed Johnny’s car when Johnny tried to text Johnny’s buddy while making a too-wide turn at the stoplight”?

Very few.

Pronouns have to agree with the nouns they’re standing in for: that’s the rule. And here is a helpful little refresher:

You know you’re dealing with the NOMINATIVE CASE when you’re looking at the subject of a sentence, like the word “Joe” in the sentence “Joe patted the dog.”

You know you’re dealing with the POSSESSIVE CASE when a noun comes with an apostrophe-s tacked on to it, as in the sentence “That dog is not Joe’s.”

And you’re working with the OBJECTIVE CASE when a noun receives the action of the verb as in “the Dog bit Joe.”

Again, a pronoun has to match its noun in case. Thus, if you say “Mom told Beth and I we could go to the mall” you are making a huge error as you will see if you take out the word “Beth.”

“Mom told I?” You wouldn’t say that!

You wouldn’t say, “the waiter set the plate down before my date and I” either because “before” is a preposition and prepositions take the objective case. You know the above is wrong the minute you take that date of yours away (though it is admittedly stressful to have your dates taken away in restaurants, especially if you’re hoping they’ll foot the bill.)

And now here we are back where we started, in restaurants with patrons offering thanks to the wait-staff for serving them and the wait-staff in one way or another saying they were happy to do it.

I guess that’s the most important thing: that we acknowledge one another’s efforts in keeping that social fabric nicely knit together.


As for thanking ME for this grouchy little harangue, I know you might not feel like doing that. But if you do I’ll probably just say “You’re welcome” because, in case it isn’t hugely obvious, for some of us OLDER folks the breezy approximations of modern speech just plain make us crazy!

Dear Diary

My job for these last days of 2011: write 21 days’ worth of diary entries. I have to write all these now because I stopped writing altogether on December 12th when a sudden piece of illness popped up in the family and, looking back, I think I just didn’t want to make it any ‘realer’ by writing about it.

The details were just that scary, even for an old Premature Burial fan like me. For those of you too young to remember, Premature Burial was a horror movie about these poor people who everyone THOUGHT were dead  – until exhumation revealed that (a) they were alive alive-o the whole time and (b) they had scratched the daylights out of the inside of their coffin lids.)

Then I didn’t want to write the next day since the details were even scarier,  or the day after that either.

Finally I figured I’d wait until all was resolved and I could set down this scary event alongside other, sunnier events, like the day’s harvest of eavesdropping or the funny insults Old Dave and I had traded during the last car ride.

Anyway, the illness did resolve thank the lord but then it was Christmas and you know how that whole thing is.

You’d think for a daily blogger a 21-day journaling marathon would be easy – and it should be. 

But then I remember what I have learned from reading my mother’s diaries, begun in 1916, and my grandfather’s, begun in 1888. (I know huh? Hard to believe a babe like me can have close kin born so very long ago. In my mind my mom was like 60 when I was born. (In reality she was 41.)

She was irreverent, and funny, and yelled “Gad!” in exasperation six times a day. Pretty colorful in other words. Yet most of her 40 or more diaries aren’t good reading at all.  An entry reading “Went to Mass” just doesn’t cut it, any more than my grandfather’s characteristic entry, “Went to town. Retired at 9:00”  does.

Their most interesting entries? The ones where they’re describing unattractive behaviors in family members. But really even these aren’t so good because in both cases they’re mad as they’re writing them. Or aggrieved. Or fizzing with self-pity. And in all those cases they’re the ones exhibiting unattractive behaviors and I sure don’t want to do that.

I’ll have to get back to you once I get rolling on this. In the meantime maybe you have some ideas. 21 days’ worth of overheard dialogue? The latest knock-knock jokes. Lists of current TV shows? I am OPEN to suggestion here!

My Diary This Year (not really, ha ha)