A Winters tale: Grammar woes

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Rebecca Fridae, ever the teacher, loves to point out that the sign for the Winters development, Stones Throw, is missing an apostrophe. It drives her nuts.  Me, too. I think that Stones Throw is missing a lot of other things, too, like style and character, but that’s another story.  In this column, I will address some of the sloppiness which has crept into the English language.  I was always good at grammar. I thank the nuns at Most Holy Trinity school in Phoenix, where I spent my childhood.  I endured my fair share of ruler whacks on the back of the hand courtesy of Sister Margaret Cecilia. But she knew her stuff.Thanks to her, whenever I watched those Star Trek re-runs, I knew that “to boldly go” was wrong. It is a split infinitive.  To have been grammatically correct, Captain Kirk should have said: “to go boldly.”  This rule of grammar has been ignored for years. And only recently did the New Oxford Dictionary decree that it is now acceptable to completely split your verbs.  I would never have gotten away with that in 8th grade. Back then we diagrammed sentences, which I doubt is done in school anymore. Nouns and verbs on a level line. Adjectives and adverbs on diagonals below.  To this day, I visualize sentences like that. It is like a virus that remains dormant in your body for a lifetime.  As a result, I see language abuse and dumb mistakes everywhere.  In my neighborhood, there’s an intersection with two street signs. One reads “Venado Dr.” The other “Venada Dr.”. Does the street name end with an “a” or an “o”?  No one here seems to know. Or much care. On Highway 128, coming in from Lake Berryessa, there is a sign thanking The Edger Family, ending in -er. In the opposite direction, the name is spelled Edgar, ending in -ar.  Seems to me if you pay all that money to adopt a stretch of highway, they should at least spell your name correctly.  There are also a lot of changes in the way we speak today. I heard a word recently which genuinely puzzled me: Woke.  To me woke has always been the past tense of wake, as in: “I woke up late today because I had too many beers at Green River last night.”  Or: “Someone woke me up at Tuesday’s City Council meeting because I started to snore.”  But today, the new definition of woke is “to be aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues, especially issues of social justice.”  Which is another pet peeve of mine. I don’t use the term social justice. To me, justice is justice.  The other day, I overheard someone use the word gaslighting. To my mind, it implied igniting the pilot on my water heater. Boy, was I wrong.  Gaslighting, it turns out, is to switch facts around, then deny knowing about it, and tell someone who catches you that they must be imagining things.  This sounds a little like our City Manager’s recounting of his recent dealings with that big developer.  I’ve always loved words, but there are a lot of them we routinely use today that didn’t exist a few years ago.  Butt-dial. Apparently, I’m a real pro at this. Binge-watch. I know this term from that weekend I never left the house. Thank you, Game of Thrones.  I like this next one. Whenever I come up with some crazy technical solution, my wife congratulates me on “MacGuyver-ing” it.  Manspreading. Is this so common a practice today that we need a special word for it?  And then there is this: Mx. This is how we are supposed to address someone who is neither a Miss, a Mrs., or a Mr. Its pronounced Mix or Mux. Please, someone, save us!  I did see something the other day which gave me hope. At the Nugget in Vacaville, the sign at the fast check stand read: “Fifteen Items or Fewer.”  Usually, those signs say: “Fifteen Items or Less. Remember, if something is countable, like those fifteen frozen pizzas, it is fewer, not less. Good job Nugget.  I realize all of this may sound like the ravings of an old coot, and I readily acknowledge I am heading in that direction. Eventually, I hope to evolve from coot to codger, and finally, to geezer. Change is inevitable.  Still, when it comes to updating my beloved English language, I’d like us to carefully proceed.  Or better yet, to proceed carefully. ]]>

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