I had a not-too-surprising revelation over the weekend: I am a grammar snob.
I’ve had a pretty good idea I fit into that category for years. Of course, it sort of goes with the territory when you work as a newspaper editor.
But I’d always considered my pet peeves about grammar errors to be merely a professional idiosyncrasy, nothing more.
I likened it to my wife’s frustration when she spots a bad accounting mistake — and she’s a bookkeeper by profession, so it stands to reason that it bothers her.
But over the weekend, I realized my attention to grammar detail goes past professional and straight on over to nitpicky.
My wife and I were shopping in one of our favorite Salado shops when I stopped by a shelf with a bunch of coffee mugs and desk signs designed for people who work in an office.
One cup said, “OK, so I guess I’m not an afternoon person either.” I could identify with that.
Another said, “I want things a little less stressy.” Cute, but true.
Then I saw a little purple sign that made me laugh out loud. It read, “I’m silently correcting your grammar.”
I knew I had to have it for my desk at work. Still, I was worried what kind of message it would send to people who read it.
I shouldn’t have been concerned.
The first two reporters who saw it laughed out loud. Two of our summer journalism interns actually took a photo of it with their phones and sent it to their friends.
Maybe this is just a newspaper thing, I thought. But then I remembered that even the store clerk who rang me up liked the sign, commenting that nobody seems to care about proper grammar anymore — and she was a lot younger than I am.
So maybe there is a cultural slide in our grammar standards. I’ve been troubled by some language trends lately, but I figured it’s because I’m getting to that “You kids get off my lawn” stage in life.
And to be honest, you do have to cut people some slack in everyday conversation. Hearing an occasional “ain’t” no longer sets my ears on edge. This is Texas, after all.
That said, there are a few grammatical blunders I just can’t abide.
For example, the use of the word “me” to start a sentence, such as: “Me and my sister went to the mall” or “Me and my friend split the bill.”
If you take the two subjects and say them separately in a sentence, you can see how obvious the mistake is: “Me went to the mall?” or “Me split the bill?” Yikes.
Another grammar glitch that sets me off is the bad verb conjugation of “have went.”
I often hear someone saying, “I should have went to the game” or “I wish I could have went to that movie.”
You wouldn’t say “I have went,” so why would you say “I should have went?”
A lot of this stuff isn’t complicated; it’s just simple reasoning — which is why it is so frustrating to this old journalist.
Of course, sometimes I can be too picky for my own good.
Whenever I see a sign that says “Welcome Back Soldiers!” I always want to scream that it needs a comma after the word “back,” because without it, it’s an order to anyone reading the sign. To me, it comes across as saying You MUST welcome back soldiers!
Not that it’s a bad recommendation. But the sign is supposed to be directed at our returning service members, and it just doesn’t read that way.
Anyway, my wife doesn’t share my level of angst over much of this, and that’s probably just as well — especially for her sanity’s sake.
So I guess I’ll just hang out at my desk and grin at my little purple sign.
But be advised, if you drop by to chat, I may be making my little mental adjustments here and there.
It’s just what I do.
Dave Miller is deputy managing editor / opinion for the Killeen Daily Herald and editor of the Harker Heights Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7543.