Auld Lang Syne

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Call to Action

Robert has challenged us to write a blog for today that includes a call to action at the end. So I guess I will hop on my soapbox for a few minutes.

I am struggling with (constantly) the issue of grammar. My longstanding grump is the "where I'm AT" thing. It is not okay in any vestiges of propriety "to end a sentence a preposition with." HA! Do you see how silly that sounds? It is obviously correct to say it this way: "to end a sentence with a preposition." No way, no how is it okay to end a sentence with a preposition. However, I am faced with supposedly educated people IN education doing just that: a couple principals and even one acting superintendent. Grrrr. When I hear it (at least three or four times a week for the past month at PUBLICLY-TELEVISED meetings), I grit my teeth and grimace. I want to shout out and demand better grammar from those who are at the helm(s) of education. I do not do this. I get a headache of epic proportion instead of doing this.

I recall an argument with a student in one of my college English classes who had a (she thought) logical explanation for using "at" in this way. I told her that "where I'm at" is incorrect because of the aforementioned "rule" of grammar and because "where I'm" literally means "where I am," thus no need for the "at." She said that made sense except that adding the "at" made the location more specific. Huh? She went on to say "where I am" could be any location or state of being, but "where I'm at" is a specific location or state of being, focused and definite. This made NO SENSE whatsoever, but several other students said that was how they saw things. Oh my gosh. I thought I was going to start bleeding from the eyes and ears at that point. I continued to require my students to stop using that incorrect grammar and corrected it every time they fell back into it. I furthermore stated to them most emphatically that anyone using "where I'm (she's, he's they're, we're, you're) at" on an essay or in a paper or on a test would fail that instrument of assessment. Grumble grumble grumble from the students.

Here is a funny story that happened after we'd had the discussion about "at" at the end of a sentence determining location. A student, who was looking for another classroom, came to the door and asked "where's the _____ class at?" A sudden look of impending doom came across everyone's faces as they waited to see what I'd do. I said the following:

"Well, the _____ class you are trying to find is on the upper campus, but perhaps since you used incorrect grammar in ending that sentence with a preposition, you might consider staying in this English class." Hoots and howls and other sounds from my students. One said, "Uh, oh, she took him out! He never saw that one coming!"

So what do I do here when an acting superintendent of schools and one school principal commit this grammar crime over and over? Ignore and continue to grit my teeth? Confront privately? Pray that the people watching the broadcast don't catch the error and think we are a bunch of illiterate boobs?

I say it's time to confront poor grammar, issue grammar crimes tickets to all who commit them. TAKE BACK GOOD GRAMMAR! Go ye forth then and correct, complain, demand!

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