Wasting Away in GrammarNannyVille

I suppose it's bound to happen. Whatever your passion or trade, you get sucked into it like a nameless horror movie extra into a giant squid. Eventually, the monster of your making has digested you so thoroughly, you don't know what's you anymore and what's the squid.

It's that way for me with copy editing.

All on its own and often against my will, my brain dissects every TV commercial, all product packaging, every sign, and web ad, and spam email like my salary depends on it.

This doesn't mean I myself am Grammar Goddess in my own work-- typo and flaw-free. Oh, no! Would that it were so!...

I can mis-homonym with the best of 'em!..

My prepositions cling to the end of sentences like nobody's business!...

And my infinitives are totally split, baby!

It just means I will look at an ad like the one for Ritz Crackerfuls I saw recently. Its tagline read:

Real Cheese. Real Whole Grain. Real Satisfying.

And my stupid copyediting brain automatically chimed in:

'"'Really.' It's 'Really Satisfying. The recent informal adverb use of 'real' still isn't commonly accepted as a substitute for 'really' and--"

That's when I considered hitting myself on the nose with a rolled up newspaper. Perhaps negative reinforcement might do me some good.

In other cracker issues, there was my box of Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuits. Now, as far as my personal tastebuds go, Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuits are Nature's (or Nabisco's) Most Perfect Food.

I mean, if I were the witch in Hansel and Gretel, I would have totally forsaken the carbs and sugar rush and gone for a stylish cottage of fragrant, savory woven snack crackers.

But Triscuit's marketing copy on that beautiful yellow box made my petty, picayune brain complain.
"We like to think of Soft White Winter Wheat as a cashmere of wheat because of its soft texture and delicious taste."

Now, I don't know about you, but while I love the softness of cashmere almost as much as I love Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuits... I personally haven't tasted it.

I do appreciate you, Triscuit People, I truly do-- but your metaphor? It applies to moths

Then this week I noticed my One-A-Day VitaCraves-- basically Gummi bear vitamins for adult people-- are serving size... two.

The marketing contraditions of taking two One-A-Days daily required another newspapery whack to the nose just to bring me back from GrammarNannyVille.

And last-- because you all already can see the sick life a compulsive copy editor leads...

You know the ads for the Capital One Venture Card with the band of medieval ruffians getting into trouble on the slopes?

Well, in one scene, these Vikings-on-holiday purchase tickets for themselves and beloved livestock for the ski lift.

"Two adults and one goat, please?" Olaf the Impulsive asks.
And every time I hear this, the annoying Brainy Smurf in my head pipes up:

"You know, it would have been so much funnier if they'd said 'kid' instead of 'goat'.

"Like two adults and one child... only it's a baby goat which is also called a 'kid'?

"It's a pun, you see, and so..."

And that's when my inner Brainy Smurf gets tossed on his head. No one likes a Grammar Nanny.

Tell me- is there anything you go compulsive on whether you like it or not?


Unknown said...

Hi Jenn, my first visit after a month off-line. Glad I am not the only one who despairs at crappy copy - have done for about 50 years. Perhaps I will share my new project with you, having made progress during enforced disconnection. If, that is, you have not excommunicated poor Dr Awsom for neglecting his friends. Take care, Bob

Jaffer said...

ooooh a kute little blue Smoirf !

Unknown said...

The flip side of this is when people compliment you on something you've been specifically trained to do -- for instance when I'm at a conference and someone says "You're really comfortable as a public speaker..." and I think "After 20+ years of teaching I had _better_ be!"

Frank Lee MeiDere said...

Oh yes. It started for me as a child ("It's not 'more better,' it's just better!") and after decades working as an editor it's become completely entrenched.

What makes matters worse is the declining standards of editing in publications.

Unknown said...

Bob- Welcome back to the online world. "Enforced disconnection" sounds grim! I think my hands would start shaking from a lack of typing after a while. :)

Jaffer- Brainy was never my favorite, though. Handy seemed more like a decent guy.

Lil- Heh, I think that's more a reflection on them not thinking it through rather than any question about your abilities. :)

Frank- I'm sure you've probably seen some interesting submissions before editing, as well. The more texting style creeps its way into the written language, the more I think we'll be seeing some... interesting... content.

Surfie said...

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one this happens to. I also hate when I find mistakes in a book I'm reading. After all that editing, they missed that? One of my bigger pet peaves is when people misuse the word "less". There are not "less" cars on the road, there are "fewer" cars on the road! You can say "less" traffic, but not "less" cars. I don't even know if this is a true grammatical issue, but when people use the word "less" like that it drives me crackers.

MA Fat Woman said...

It drives me bonkers when someone tries to use a "BIG" word and they don't even know what it means.

ReformingGeek said...

My pet peeve is when I get frustrated reading all the typos and grammar issues on Facebook posts and then my next post has a mistake.



Unknown said...

Surfie- I'm trying to think of who it was I read recently saying how they, too, hated the misuse of "less" instead of "fewer." At least you can know, you do not peeve along on that one. :)

MAFatWoman- I hate it when I've gone ahead and completely misused a word, not because I don't know the right one, but because the wrong one leapt in immediately and said, "hey, use me!" Then later, I think-- "UGGHHH. I used the wrong word the WHOLE TIME... I wonder if anyone noticed."

Reforming Geek- Oh, I know. And sometimes no amount of proofing will help you catch that error before you post.

Melanie said...

I have no problem with Grammar Nanny. I think we need a few more Grammar Nannies in the the world. Perhaps it would be a good idea to have a Grammar Police Squad as well! What irritates me is people on the radio who either can't pronounce words, or use horrible grammar.

Shieldmaiden96 said...

I used to work with a woman who would explain to customers seeking a guaranteed price that she 'Binded' the estimate. "Oh, yeah, I binded it, so it won't be any more than that." So many times I imagined the graceful arc my stapler would inscribe through the air just before striking the back of her head.

Unknown said...

Melanie- That's how we know they're One Of The People. They wouldn't want anyone thinking they were actually making tons of dough off their commentary. :)

Shieldmaiden- Oh dear! Though I admit, I once -- fully knowing better- blanked on the word "drove" and said I drived somewhere. That "drived" came out and sat there looking at me, blinking. We both knew it was wrong but couldn't figure out why.

I don't recall, but I probably needed coffee.

Sweet Violet said...

I cringe at the TV so often, I have actually reduced my TV viewing! Down here in South Africa, TV presenters pronounce the French word "chic" as "chick" rather than the correct "sheek." After seven years of listening to this slaughter, I now scream at the TV "SHEEK, you moron! SHEEK!!! S H E E E K!!!"

We get a lot of British TV down here, thanks to the satellites, and I can remember the good old days when British narrators spoke in cultured, plummy tones that just dripped correctness. Today I am forced to endure unintelligible regional accents coupled with egregious mispronunciations--I'm sorry, but if you are going to narrate a piece about a place you have never been, might it not be a good idea to find out how it is correctly pronounced before you record your ignorance for posterity? It may be spelled "Mary Land" but it is not pronounced that way!

Excuse me, I need a towel--the foam is starting to drip off my chin...

Unknown said...

Violet- Oh, that "chick" thing would drive me nuts, too.

Here's a virtual towel, Violet. It is clean and "sheek." :)

Deray said...

I have been working on my English pronunciation so hard since I moved to the US that now, every time I hear my also-Mexican friend mispronounce something, I just want to smack her in the back of her head!

Also, when news-people try to pronounce anything in Spanish, especially my last name, you can hear me yell at them: It's not Jernandez! the H is silent idiot!!!

Robert Crane said...

as a humor writer of sorts, i only wish my "going compulsive" would be related to the craft somehow. unfortunately it's not. it's highly focused on drivers who do not follow the rules of the merge. this outlier fascination may explain why i remain a writer of sorts and not one of oprah interviews. (well that, spelling, word selection, grammar and capitalist letters i suppose)

Unknown said...

I like the Smurf. I know what you mean about grammar. I get a bit annoyed when I see anything that tells me to "shop local", as it should be "locally". I am even worried this comment might have grammatical errors in it.

Unknown said...

Deray- I wanted to remember to tell you-- I saw someone else last week in a comments section online write "Jajajaja" in response to something they found funny-- and I absolutely thought of you.

Bob- Well, if you find out any insights into the whole merge issue, I'd be pleased to know them-- even if not grammatically related. My commutes in during the mornings tell me turn signals are optional, and must be used sparingly lest they burn out prematurely.

Jewel- Oh, no-- the "shop local" had slipped my Grammar Nanny Radar... until now. :) Now I don't think I will be able to unsee it.

Dennis Hodgson said...

As an ex-copy editor and proofreader [I edited academic textbooks for Longman and Routledge for 15 years], I shout at the TV whenever I hear English being mangled, which is a frequent occurrence.

It's not so much the misuse of individual words as a general vagueness in meaning. I'm left wondering if the speaker actually understands what they've just said, and whether that is what they really meant.

Mind Your Language discusses this in greater detail, while Relatively Incorrect deals with the one thing that annoys me the most: the misuse of relative clauses.