a link to an article in The Economist (strange as that may seem) about "The Dreaded Comma Splice." I know that my readers are educated people who, of their own free wills, read things like this blog that won't get them anywhere, and that many probably know what a comma splice is. The great thing, as is so often the case, is not just the article - though I liked it and read it of my own free will - but the comments. Scan them. You will see that there are more than enough grammarians in this world, and apparently none of them work at The Economist.
Most delicious is the comment that asks whether there are any proofreaders at the magazine. Now, a proofreader's job is to make sure that the galley faithfully renders the manuscript - it's copyreaders who, before the manuscript goes to print, correct grammar and format, mechanical things like that. This is an example of how it is always dangerous to start correcting other people, especially online.
This little tempest caught my fancy because earlier today I had begun an idle thing that I didn't think would amount to a post titled -
What Not to Do (to Me)
Wouldn't that be a great list? Things not to do, as opposed to these obnoxious to-do lists that have become a feature of the busy American life. I am inspired to think of this subject by an unpleasant incident at a recent social occasion. I was talking, just social chatter, not a big monologue, when Someone in the group interrupted to correct my grammar. (Notice that there is no obscenity in that sentence.) I'd said something like this "He told my friend and I . . . " What I was going on to say is lost forever when Someone said, "Me. It should be 'my friend and me,' because you are the object, not the subject." And he wasn't even an English major.
If you want to have some kind of aggressive social tool for refined special occasions, this is a good way to take the wind out of someone's sails. Although I have multiple degrees in English and writing credits, I was dead in the water, not because I used "bad grammar," because I was startled. Later I spent some time speculating on Someone's aggression toward me. My father's voice echoed from a long-ago day when I told him a kid was bullying me. He snorted and said, "What'd you do to deserve it?" I reminded him he is dead.
But there is always cause. I thought I must have inadvertently sounded smart, something like that, and my acquaintance might have had the kind of problem some older men have when women step out of their place. It is worth noting that this little incident put a drop of ink in the water surrounding that relationship. There you are. I'm not the only person who has trouble with right speech.