(HUNT COLUMN) Grammar police: to correct and serve

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, March 16, 2022

By Cathy Hunt
Chair, Troup County School Board

I often write about the importance of reading, but the truth is that my field of Language Arts comprises composition, grammar, speaking and listening as well. English teachers are frequently viewed as tough, fearsome grammarians. But I do not take pleasure in calling out my friends and family when it comes to grammatical missteps. I mean, nobody’s perfect. Heck, I’ve been known to say “I ain’t gonna” or even employ a sentence fragment. For emphasis.

I couldn’t care less if you end a sentence with a preposition, and I’ve learned to live with the crazy shortcuts in texting. However, I do think it’s good to know the rules and use them when the circumstances require, such as in formal writing and speaking or if you want to put your best foot forward in a professional setting.

Therefore, I do maintain that it is essential to teach grammar, spelling, punctuation and pronunciation. During my teaching career, I offered extra credit to students who could find mistakes in published materials. We had a “Grammar Police” bulletin board full of them. Some were quite funny, such as the advertisement that said “poopcorn” would be served. Some were cringeworthy, such as the envelope that came to the school from the Department of Education addressed to the “principle.”

While I try not to be an ogre, I do have pet peeves and am always happy to explain what’s proper and why. So I am claiming a point of privilege in my small role as a newspaper columnist and shall from time to time seek to correct and serve.

What is driving me crazy right now? It would have to be that too many people seem to have forgotten that the past tense of “see” is “saw.” Please do not say “I seen” or “we seen.” I saw something yesterday. I have seen that thing before. “Seen” needs a helping verb, such as have, had, or has. This is not just a Southern problem. On TV you can hear people from all parts of the country say “I seen.”

Sometimes I chafe when people mess up because they think they’re sounding extremely proper but are actually making a mistake. For instance, they will say miss-CHEEV- ee-us when they should say MISS-chiv-us. There is no i after the v in mischievous, so why this has become a thing I’m not sure. People also will say “between you and I” when it is actually correct to say

“between you and me.”

If you are a close reader, you may have wondered if I used “comprises” correctly in the first sentence. I did. But I won’t lecture on that right now. If you say “comprised of” I will forgive and forget. And when I used “I couldn’t care less,” maybe you wondered if “I could care less” is okay. Well, not really. It’s kind of the opposite of what you’re trying to say.

That’s all for this time. Be careful out there.