Monday, March 21, 2011

An A to Z of Editorial Peeves, Interrupted by the Technology Gods and June Casagrande

The gods are not being kind to me.

It is unfortunate that I am forced to put my alphabetical list of editorial pet peeves on hold, but it's not my fault. I swear! I was sitting at my computer on a Thursday night, reading tweets and watching porn playing games when, without warning, the blasted thing just shut down and wouldn't be revived.

A Friday-afternoon trip to the computer nerd store* revealed that my computer was suffering from a known issue. Luckily, a fixable known issue. But, unluckily, an issue that is fixable for about $300. I won't say I'm destitute — I do have two pennies to rub together, but, alas, no genie appears when I do so. But I dare not spend those two pennies; I've a feeling the IRS is going to come looking for them soon. At any rate, I'm about $300 short of having enough money to fix the laptop right now.

So my nice, comfortable laptop is out of commission. I spent the weekend rearranging my living room so I could get my old XP desktop computer — which for the last two years has been used only for the occasional round of Civilization III — close enough to my router to plug in so I can access the Internet.

Now, 85 Windows updates later (I'm not kidding), here I am.

Unfortunately, the next 24 installments of this series are trapped on my nonworking laptop. It'll take me a little time to reconstruct my list of peeves and get to writing and rewriting, but I hope to get back to it soon.

Since I can't grace you with some of my peeves, let me point you toward someone else's, specifically, a great little book I picked up from the library Saturday morning: June Casagrande's Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies. I'm only six chapters into this book, but it already tops my list as one of the best-written, most entertaining, and most accessible books about grammar bugaboos I've ever read. And I've read a few. If you at all enjoy the drivel I write on this blog, you'll enjoy this book as well.

June Casagrande writes a weekly column called "A Word, Please" that is published in some of the bigger, cooler states (not mine). She also posts all sorts of wonderful things at her Conjugate Visits blog and at I offer this both to illustrate her writing chops and to encourage you to read her stuff online.

In Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies, Ms. Casagrande goes after those high-horse-riding, holier-than-thou nitpickers who insist on strict grammatical correctness (based on their rules about what constitutes "correct") and pounce upon anyone who would deign to misspeak. The people she goes after are in contrast to genial word nerds and grammar geeks, among which I hope I number. She makes the distinction better than I do:

For someone who's been victimized by a grammar snob, it's easy to lump all word aficionados into the same category. But we should be careful here. We must be fair. Grammar snobs are a distinct breed from their gentle cousins: word nerds and grammar geeks. The difference is bloodlust. (p. xvii)

The book is a collection of short** articles with wonderful titles like "Semicolonoscopy," "Your Boss Is Not Jesus," and "Hyphens: Life-Sucking, Mom-and-Apple-Pie-Hating, Mime-Loving, Nerd-Fight-Inciting Daggers of the Damned." Each one tackles a different grammar or usage principle, focusing especially on those non-rules that grammar snobs like to pounce on in order to feel superior by humiliating the target of their linguistic wrath. You know the ones: split infinitives, who vs. whom, lie vs. lay, and their ilk.

If you know a high school senior who plans to start an English major in the fall, this book is a great graduation gift. And because it comprises a series of relatively short essays, it’s also a great bathroom book for word nerds. When I finally get around to writing about the best bathroom books for logophiles (I've started the list . . . I hope it isn't on my laptop), this one will be at the top.

So go check it out. Better yet, buy it.

* I mean this in the kindest way. I never shop at any store that can't be accurately described as some kind of "nerd store."
** Blog-length, actually. And I don't think that's an accident.