Category Archives: Other Writers

David McCullough: AWESOME speech

Historian David McCullough was the commencement speaker at Boston College’s 2008 Graduation.  He gave a truly awesome speech that I think you all, in particular, would appreciate.

I haven’t read any of David McCullough’s books, but I saw him on The Daily Show and thought he sounded awesome.  (I’ve been meaning to read more history and fill in the gaps in my education.  Considering that I now work right by Borders, I will probably buy one.  I’m already averaging buying 1.5 books per week.)

Here is the best quote from his speech:

And please, please, do what you can to cure the verbal virus that seems increasingly rampant among your generation. I’m talking about the relentless, wearisome use of the words, “like,” and “you know,” and “awesome,” and “actually.” Listen to yourselves as you speak.

Just imagine if in his inaugural address John F. Kennedy had said, “Ask not what your country can, you know, do for you, but what you can, like, do for your country actually.”

Word, man.  Word.

Click here to read the rest of his speech.

I knew this was coming.

Well, the Stuff White People Like blog has added its 99th entry: grammar.

It turns out that, in addition to study abroad, Barack Obama, coffee, bicycles, Arrested Development, multilingual children, organic food and David Sedaris, white people like grammar.

Considering that this blog could pretty much be called Stuff Kate Likes, I absolutely knew that this was coming.

When asking someone about their biggest annoyances in life, you might expect responses like “hunger,” “being poor,” or “getting shot.” If you ask a white person, the most common response will likely be “people who use ‘their’ when they mean ‘there.’  Maybe comma splices, I’m not sure but it’s definitely one of the two.”

And what of the people who actually correct grammar?

Another important thing to know is that when white people read magazines and books they are always looking for grammar and spelling mistakes. In fact, one of the greatest joys a white person can experience is to catch a grammar mistake in a major publication. Finding one allows a white person to believe that they are better than the writer and the publication since they would have caught the mistake. The more respected the publication, the greater the thrill. If a white person were to catch a mistake in The New Yorker, it would be a sufficient reason for a large party.

I’m not going to lie — if I found a mistake in The New Yorker, I would experience a huge burst of emotion.  Not of pride, however — of anger.

That is DEFINITELY taking it too far.

The First Year Teacher’s Thoughts on Grammar

One of my best friends, Lisa, is in her first year of teaching both high school and college, with the occasional kindergarten class. She’s started a great blog detailing some of her experiences called First Year Teacher Resources. The other day, she wrote about outdated grammar rules and why she considers them to be that way.

Here’s a selection:

6. “He’s taller than me.” This is something I OVERHEAR all the time, and it’s starting to become a case of the who vs. whom debate. The “grammatically correct” term is “He’s taller than I” or “She’s smarter than I.” However, if someone is on the phone and a person asks, “Who is it?” The correct response would be “It is I”, when it’s really more socially acceptable (and much less haughty) to say, “It’s me.” Another issue of our language evolving, perhaps.

Click here to read the rest of them.

This is one subject on which I’m torn.  I don’t think that people are wrong when they say, “It’s me.”  To put it simply, there just following language as it has evolved.  There is only one time when I think I’ll do so — when I say “This is she” when answering the phone.

How about you?

Guest Entry: Winking and Wanking

The following is a Facebook note written by my dear friend Lisa. We discussed the subject of the note a bit over dinner tonight, and I think it would be of interest to you.

For background, Lisa just got her Master’s degree in a writing-related discipline, and she spent some time studying abroad in England (the Cambridge in the entry is for Cambridge University, not Cambridge, Massachusetts). Also, she has absolutely no idea that I am posting this entry verbatim, lifted directly from Facebook.

In other words, she did not write this for my (often brutal) audience. She wrote this for fun — and I’m reposting it because I like it. (And if she wants me to remove it, it will be removed from the blog IMMEDIATELY!)

Here it is:

If the past tense of “drink” is “drank” and the past tense of “sink” is “sank”, does that mean the past tense of “wink” is “wank?” I would argue, wholeheartedly, 100% YES!

The term itself really came about this summer at Cambridge, when a short, sashay-ing Italian man of the waitstaff would consistently and without hesitation “wink” at females and males too (hey, I don’t judge). “He wank at me” was the common expression uttered over elaborate, multiple course dinners in the lavish dining hall (black or white? soup or salad?). The wanking man even received a lovely nickname from us: Winky.

Although his wanking was initially perceived as sketchy and even disturbing, I am just now thinking more deeply about the message of the wink. Usually, it does have some sort of sexual connotation, but in Winky’s case, was it more one of friendship and fellowship (Ciao!).

Done correctly, the wink CAN BE subtle, sexy, and almost mysterious. However, it’s all about the execution. It must be done with the eye ONLY: NO contortions of the face, eyebrow, or any spastic/ADD motions whatsoever. I know my limits. I’m not a wanker. I just can’t do it; my whole face wants to join in the winking fun and thus ruin the subtlety of the wink itself.

But, I don’t mind being a receiver of the wink, or advocating for bringing it back, similar to the way Justin Timberlake brought sexy back (although, that is debatable). When the wink is done right, it’s a memorable experience, not just an eye action.

For those of you missing dlipkin….

One of my most prolific commentators, dlipkin, hasn’t been on the blog lately, and for the greatest reason possible — he’s spending a few months touring the world with his girlfriend!

He just arrived in Singapore after some time in New Zealand. He just started writing in his blog, which you can check out here. There are some links to pictures, too. I hope he writes more — it’s great so far!

Hope you’re having a blast, Derek — and I hope to follow in your footsteps within a few years!

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

After my interview on NPR, I received a message from Jane Straus, a popular grammar writer and author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. I hadn’t heard of the book before, but I was so glad to learn about it!

The book is excellent. It’s part tutorial and part workbook. The rules are explained really well and the voice is lovely. I’ve got a copy of my own!

Jane has a great grammar Web site, grammarbook.com. She features much content from the book, in addition to grammar quizzes, Youtubes and a blog of her own.

If there’s anything in particular that you should check out on the site, it’s the newsletter. I highly recommend subscribing.

Also, the next edition will feature an endorsement from me on the back cover!

Check it out. I’m so glad that I met Jane. She’s my Californian counterpart, and she knows her stuff!