English Grammar in Ruins

 

The great statesman had no idea what he had started.

It’s that rascal Winston Churchill’s fault. When he was criticized for ending a sentence in a preposition, he called it nonsense “up with which I will not put.”  He had a point. The rule against putting a preposition at the end of a sentence was silly. But sometimes traditions should be kept, because once they’re relaxed all hell can break loose.

Which is what has happened. Crimes of grammar nowadays are everywhere. My husband thinks I’m obsessive about it and maybe he’s right. I do have a lot of idiosyncrasies he puts up with. I mean, I have a lot of idiosyncrasies up with which he puts.

I keep having to correct his grocery list entries. I write notes. “Honey, ketchup is standard spelling; catsup is no longer commonly used except in a few specified regions (which don’t include ours). And Quaker Oats is capitalized because it is a brand name. Generic “oatmeal” is lower case. Also, mayonnaise has two n’s.” And so on. I put my lists next to his Quaker Oats* at the breakfast table. (*Note initial caps.)

I can’t help myself. I have a degree in journalism with a minor in English. Frank should be glad I wasn’t an English major, it would be even worse. I have no peace. Our language is constantly being abused and misused. For example, I see “it’s” as a possessive all the time. No no no! “It’s” is a contraction of “it is.” The possessive form has no apostrophe. “It’s well known that a cat likes to lick its fur,” is a purrfect example of correct usage. (I hope someone noticed the misspelling of perfect.) No one gets “it’s” and “its” right anymore, except for women in their seventies who studied English. Who knows, maybe someday “it’s” will be changed to “its” and vice versa. God forbid.

And all because of Churchill. He saved the free world, but with one little quip he set in motion the collapse of English grammar.

P.S. Note that “no one” is two words.  

Getting right with myself

Ice cream is one of the things I really love. And soft rain. And movies. But what I really really love is Likes. WordPress Likes, to be specific. If I publish a post that doesn’t get many likes, I’m down in the dumps. If I publish a post that gets lots of likes, I’m on top of the world. I live for them. Hmmm…that sounds like an addiction. I guess it is. Yikes, I’m addicted to Likes.

Obviously I have some inner work to do on this issue. I’m depending on others to create my happiness. I’m basing my self-esteem on conditions outside of myself. I see that now, and I’m starting to realize that the person who really has to like my posts is ME. If I’m happy with them, if I know they’re quality posts and they’re my very best work, that should satisfy me.

I’m getting there. I repeat to myself throughout the day, “I am whole within myself. I don’t need outside approval.”

I just have to be right with myself. When I get to that point I’ll be on top of the world. Blogging has brought many issues to my awareness and dealing with them has prodded me into personal, even spiritual, growth.

Thanks for sharing my blogging journey with me.

P.S. I’m hoping you will Like this post. Come on, all you have to do is click on a little itty bitty button. Please? Pretty please?

 

The downside of blogging


I love blogging, but I wish there was a more pleasant-sounding word for it. Blog rhymes with bog, smog, slog, sog and other unappetizing things. It also rhymes with fog, which is lovely, but the unsavory words that rhyme with blog far outnumber the beautiful.

Take bog, a swamp-like morass, a place where you might encounter an alligator or a huge poisonous snake or the Creature From the Black Lagoon. Or you can get bogged down, in paperwork or odious chores. And how about smog, the scourge of modern civilization, hanging over the land in ugly yellow-brown tones and ruining lungs. And there’s clog, as in to cause to be backed up: a clogged toilet, yuk. People slog, as in plodding or struggling, perhaps to get across a bog. Which gets us to sogged. You would probably get sogged crossing a bog. And there might be a hog in the bog. You never know. Hogs are worthy animals, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not terribly attractive. 

Oops, I almost forgot flog. I’ll leave you to decide whether to spin the punishment or pleasure connotation of that word. Some people enjoy being flogged, but it’s not my cup of tea.

We have to take the good with the bad. I enjoy blogging immensely so I’ll just put up with the way it sounds. I’ll simply keep on slogging through my blog, enjoying every minute, and reminding myself that it also rhymes with dog, one of my most beloved things in life, and with eggnog, a joy of the holidays.

CHEERS!


“Blog” is derived from “weblog,” coined in 1997. It developed into the first digital diary allowing readers to add comments to others’ blogs.

Blogging is good for your health.

Maybe you think the above title is a mistake, that I meant to say jogging. Nope. I mean blogging. You’re getting healthier if you laugh while you blog. 

Everyone knows jogging is good for your health. It strengthens muscles, improves cardiovascular fitness, helps maintain weight…yadda yadda yadda. As long as you don’t ruin your knees.

But how in the world can blogging be good for your health? The answer is endorphins. When you laugh you increase the number of these “feel-good” hormones in your system. The trick is you need to write humor. I write a lot of it. At least my friends tell me my stuff is funny. My blog posts make me laugh, which is the important part. Writing humor increases your health only if you laugh at your own jokes like I do.

Two young bloggers ramp up their endorphin counts.

When I’m at my PC blogging, sometimes I laugh so much that my husband thinks someone is in my office with me. It’s very therapeutic for me because I’ve suffered from depression nearly all of my life. I won’t go into the details, which I’ve been boring my friends with for years, but some very dark things lurk in my family background: suicide, heroin addiction, crime, hellacious accidents, alcoholism, permanent estrangement…the list goes on, but as a public service I’ll stop here.

So when I write about campaigning for a tooth fairy who comes to seniors, or becoming a Victoria’s Secret reject because my bra band size is larger than their max 38 inches,  or trying to meditate at home with Judge Judy’s obnoxious voice blaring from the TV, I’m manufacturing endorphins. These happy brain chemicals also relieve pain.

In a scientific test conducted at Oxford, participants’ arms were wrapped tightly in a blood-pressure cuff and tightness was increased gradually. Some participants watched 15 minutes of comedy, and they were able to withstand 10 percent more pain than participants who didn’t watch comedy. There’s also a bonding effect in an endorphin rush that is important in our social lives, believed to be like grooming for certain highly social animals such as monkeys. Endorphins also reduce stress and create a positive feeling in the body.

So next time someone tells you laughter is good for your health, don’t laugh. It’s true. And it doesn’t ruin your knees.

Running Away from Home

I love my husband but I need to get away from him now and then. I do short getaways, like staying in Monterey with a friend or two for a couple days of eating, shopping, and walking on the beach, followed by more eating and shopping. Or I’ll go overnight with friends to experience the fog and the culture in San Francisco. There’s a wealth of things to do close to our home in Silicon Valley.

The getaways are good for me and our marriage. We appreciate each other more when I get back. The passion gets fanned a bit, the flame reignites. It’s a kind of marriage makeover.

I’m always the one who has to run away from home. Frank is exceptionally stable. He worked for the city for 30 years, and bought the house we live in nearly 40 years ago, 20 years before we even met. His 1970 Camaro is older than his house. And he’s a diehard homebody. He never travels except when we go together. He’s stable to a fault.

Once in a while I muse about what it would be like if Frank took a trip and I stayed home. Home alone! Wow, what would it feel like? The whole house would be my oyster. The first thing that comes to mind is the excitement of having control of the remote. That’s been a lifelong—or marriage-long—dream of mine. I could change channels, turn the volume up or down, turn the TV off and back on at will. I’d be drunk with the feeling of power it would give me.

I could have my girlfriends over for wine and Chinese takeout. And more wine. We’d laugh loudly and watch chick flicks and tell off-color jokes. Maybe even get really wild and watch Forty Shades of Grey. Or is it Fifty? I haven’t seen it. And ice cream for dessert, Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked. Yum, gooey cookie dough chunks. I’d get a lot so when the girls leave I can finish whatever’s left. Ice cream is a no-no when Frank’s home. He’s a healthy eater and watches my weight for me.

I could indulge openly in my secret addiction and buy a bunch of lottery scratch cards. Then I’d scratch them off right out in the open, at the kitchen table. I can’t do that either when Frank’s home. He disapproves of gambling almost more than ice cream.

I have a long list of more home-alone pleasures. My at-home getaway sounds great, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Frank’s not showing any signs of restlessness or wanderlust. He’s happy just driving to a movie or to senior drop-in doubles at the city tennis courts. So I’ll just keep my sense of adventure and my suitcase at the ready. It’s for a good cause.   

Equal Opportunity Tooth Fairy

Why can’t the Tooth Fairy come for seniors? Why does she just come for kids? Older people lose teeth too.

The other day I got to wondering, is it really true she won’t come for us golden-agers? Maybe she would, if we put our fallen teeth under our pillows like we used to. But I know she wouldn’t come. And I know why. It’s because I AM the Tooth Fairy. Or I was, when my daughter was small.

Thirty years ago, when Michele was five and I was forty, she lost a tooth and when I tucked her in bed that night she told me she didn’t believe in the Tooth Fairy anymore. She said it was just another grownup lie.

But I snuck extra change under her pillow that night, three times the usual amount. In the morning she came tearing like wild horses into my bedroom screaming, “Mommy! Mommy! Look what the Tooth Fairy brought!!” I’d sure like to have faith like that again. The faith of a child. I’ve become cynical, not just about the Tooth Fairy but about everything from chances for world peace to the odds that the 49ers will ever win the Super Bowl again.

Millions of us seniors were reliable, generous Tooth Fairies when our kids were small and I wish our children would give back and be our Tooth Fairies. But I don’t think my daughter would go for that. She doesn’t have kids so she’s not on Tooth Fairy duty already, but she has a very busy life.

My husband, Frank, could do it. I’ve had three teeth pulled since I turned 60 and I’ve kept them all. I’m going to put them under my pillow one at a time and drop him very obvious hints about it. 

I take cash, credit and Amazon gift cards. 

 

Doctor With a Heart

 


When my daughter was ten, doctors discovered a growth behind her middle ear. The intricate operation to remove it called for a surgeon with exceptional compassion as well as consummate skill.

There wasn’t much time to lose. The growth was a cholesteatoma, which often starts from a cyst that sheds old skin. The skin builds up, and can grow and destroy surrounding delicate middle-ear bones and cause other serious problems.  

Dr. Alan Nissen, a widely respected ear surgeon, was to perform Michele’s operation.  In one of several conversations we had about the procedure, he told me that a known risk of the operation is severance of the facial nerve that controls the mouth muscles. The nerve was very close to where surgeons would be cutting. When the facial nerve is cut speech becomes hard to understand, and the face is disfigured because one side of the mouth is noticeably pulled down. The risk was small, Dr. Nissen said, but he was duty-bound to inform me of all downside potential.

A few days before the surgery Dr. Nissen and I had a final conversation. I brought up facial nerve severance, which weighed heavy on my mind. I’d been pushing for an extra surgeon on the team to do one thing during the operation: observe the nearness of the cutting to the nerve and alert the team when they were getting perilously close. Dr. Nissen had told me this observing doctor was the most sure-proof way to prevent nerve severance.  

“To surgeons the risk may be small,” I said. “But for Michele it’s huge. It’s one more thing on top of the other facial differences she has. She’s dealt with a lot of challenges in her young life. Her courage amazes me. But why add another challenge that is so avoidable?”

Among Michele’s other issues were her very small ears. She was also hearing impaired and wore hearing aids. She had a deviated septum—a crooked nose that twisted to the left side. That could be corrected but not until she was older. If the facial nerve was severed, she would likely be unable to form facial expressions on the left side of her face and her speech would be slurred.

As the late-afternoon sun filtered into his office that day, Dr. Nissen gave me the bad news. An observing surgeon would not be added to the team, because the group had determined that risk in Michele’s case was no more than average. He looked at me somberly. “I know where you’re coming from—a lot of love for Michele,” he told me. “But we’ve weighed all the factors and this is the soundest decision when everything is considered.”

“Maybe the risk is statistically small,” I said, “but the effects on Michele are so very large.” He looked genuinely sorry. I knew that in addition to being an extraordinary surgeon, he was a compassionate man.

 “I wish I could say something that would change your mind,” I told him when I left, but I knew at that point there was no changing things and nothing more I could say. The surgery was just three days away.

Disappointed and sad, I walked to my car. I knew the growth had to be removed. I would pray that Michele’s facial nerve would not be touched. That was all I could do. Driving home I told myself the odds of severing the nerve were low. I told myself there were therapy programs to rebuild strength in damaged facial muscles. I told myself God had already brought Michele safely and successfully through four surgeries for other problems. I told myself all that and more…and I worried.

I was exhausted emotionally and physically when I got home to our cozy little apartment. Michele was at a friend’s house. We lived just a few blocks from her “mainstream” school, where she had just transferred from her special education class for hearing-impaired kids that was two towns away, an hour bus ride. It was an exciting change, especially when we walked around the neighborhood and she saw and played with kids she knew from her new school.

I went into the kitchen to start dinner and was peeling potatoes when I noticed from the corner of my eye that the answering machine was blinking. I punched the button to run the message.  And there was Dr. Nissen’s voice. “I wanted you to know right away that my colleagues and I talked this afternoon and we’ve decided to add an observer to the team. We will see you both in a few days. Don’t worry, everything is going to be fine.”

He had called while I was on my way home. It was one of the most beautiful phone messages I’ve ever received. I’ll never forget that day, and I’ll never forget Dr. Nissen and his compassion and skill. 

A huge and heavy burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt suddenly light and free as I got back to fixing dinner. I have never peeled potatoes with such joy and gusto as I did that day.

The operation was four hours long and successful in all ways. It’s been 26 years and Michele’s cholesteatoma has never come back, as they sometimes do.