R-H-O, D-O, D-E-N, D-R-O-N.
That was my favorite thing to say as a seven-year-old. I had a book about flowers, and rhododendron seemed like such a challenge to spell. I therefore made it my mission to not only spell the word correctly, but to repeat it to anyone who would listen.
That was the first time that I truly found my love for the English language.
“Want to spell rhododendron?”
“Wrong. R-H-O, D-O, D-E-N, D-R-O-N. You can’t spell it because you’re stupid.”
I was eight then. That was the first time I took an active stand against the incorrect spelling and grammar errors that pollute America.
In hindsight, that probably wasn’t the best way to do so. How many eight-year-olds do you know who can spell “rhododendron” on the first try?
It didn’t end well. The “stupid” girl ran crying to her mother (we were on the playground before school began that morning), who had a conversation with my third grade teacher. I don’t remember the details of what happened when Mrs. Fusco pulled me aside for a lecture, but I do remember having a blemished report card at the end of the term. The “social evaluation” column, which was usually nothing but 1 after 1 after 1 (the highest mark you can receive), was branded with a big, angry 2 under the heading “Is considerate of others.”
That was how it began.
I read a lot as a child. My mother once wrote in my baby book, “She always has her nose in a book. I tell her to go outside, and she takes a book with her.” My love for language grew out of my love of books (particularly Baby-Sitters Club books from the ages of 6-11). I read Great Expectations as a fourth-grader (when everyone else did in the eighth grade), and Jane Eyre at 13 (when the honors students did at 16). I also wrote, picturing every scene in my life as how it would appear on paper to a reader.
I’m now twenty-two years old and hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Fairfield University. My love of the English language took many forms and grew and evolved into college study so extensive that, at the end of four years, I had enough credits to both major AND minor in English, if I had desired to do so! (Not an easy task at Fairfield University, which has one of the most extensive core curriculums I’ve seen.)
English college coursework was a revelation. High school had been so stressful for me, having to write extensive papers about literature that I disliked more often than not. In my first English class in college, I could write papers about anything I wanted to write about. I wrote a paper about the crazy things my friends have dared me to do — and that I have done.
My professor loved it, and asked to speak to me after class. He told me that if I didn’t become an English major, he would be very disappointed.
Until then, I wanted to major in psychology or French. That moment changed everything.
I can’t tell where my hatred for grammar errors began. I think I can pinpoint it somewhere in middle school or high school, beginning as just a superiority complex. I assumed that I was surrounded by bad student writing, and that it would get better in college.
It did not.
Fairfield University’s student newspaper, The Mirror, is a terrible example of college journalism for grammar and spelling errors alone! I don’t care about the reporting or the quality of the stories — if the grammar and spelling are bad, then I can’t trust the publication as being valid.
I wrote to the paper about this in my senior year, after they messed up a press release I had written, and the managing editor actually wrote a response article to my letter. In either a moment of sly irony or even further idiocy, the first sentence of that response read, “Alright already!”
I nearly keeled over right then and there.
Was it a lost cause? If an excellent university’s top journalism students make such glaring errors, would there be anybody who could get it right?
I got depressed.
Two weeks ago, I noticed an advertisement for Reebok. Reebok’s “Run Easy” campaign has been appearing in all kinds of media. I hadn’t noticed any errors until I noticed the sign in front of South Station reading, “RUN EASY BOSTON.”
“RUN EASY BOSTON.”
Now, without the appropriate punctuation, I could have taken this sentence in many ways.
Run! Boston is a promiscuous city, and if you stay long, you will undoubtedly contract some vile venereal disease!
Mayor Menino has decided to turn the city over to a lucky individual, seeing that the city can, essentially, run itself quite easily.
Do not run too hard. RUN EASY, BOSTON. RUN EASY, FOR GOD’S SAKE, BOSTON.
I took out an adhesive comma, courtesy of the lovely Lynne Truss book Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and affixed it right after the word “EASY.”
From the minute I blogged that at katesadventures.com, my blog took off like crazy. It was posted on buzzfeed, on newsvine. I’ve been contacted by reporters. People have debated and argued over the usage of my commma. People have said to me, “Hey, you’re the grammar girl, right?”
I have loved every minute of it.
I’m on a high. This is my calling! This is what I’m meant to do! And, best of all, I get to document it.
After that wonderful day, my friend Lisa dubbed me the Grammar Vandal. To be, that sounded like a great name for a new blog.
I will now make it my quest to eradicate and ameliorate grammar errors in the city of Boston and beyond! Boston is a great choice, not only because I live there, but also because it’s one of the most highly educated cities in America, and possibly the world. (Someone, find statistics for me on that.) This is the place where there should be no errors, reflecting the educated people.
However, in many instances, education is meaningless. People still make up the rules of grammar as they go.
Not for long, they don’t.
Here I go. I will be documenting grammar errors wherever I see them. I will be taking pictures and possibly video, and I will make it a priority to bring errors to the companies who allow these errors to be printed publicly.
Expect great things.