Ink Paper Words' Profile

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Pacific Northwest, United States
In elementary school, I desperately wanted my mother to order books for me from those flyers Scholastic hands out to kids. She refused, citing the "perfectly good library down the street." I exacted revenge by becoming a card-carrying ALA accredited reference librarian. Ha! Take that!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lexicographer's Dilemma

Quoth the Salon reviewer:

"Memo to grammar cops: Back off!
A new book on the history of "proper" English says you're just stuck up"

So the hell what? Everyone is stuck up about something. Language (and by inference, its correct use) is mine.

Believe it or not, language matters. It is the mode in which anyone communicates with the world. The fact of the matter is that people who can't be bothered to learn to speak or write at least halfway correct will be forever misunderstood. I understand that not everyone's brain is wired for words the way mine is and don't fault them for it -- that is, until accusations like this start flying around. I mention the brain issue because for my of my childhood I was made to feel like an idiot due to my innumeracy. My math teach in seventh grade, one Wayne Kamp, openly mocked me when I had difficulty dividing fractions. One night while struggling with my math homework, I found another way to do it. Excited, I rushed into math class the next day and showed him what I had stumbled upon. He refused to allow me to use that method. Way to inspire and encourage your students, Mr. Kamp!

I ditched math the second I could...although I did make an argument in high school that I should be able to get a math credit for taking music theory. I flaunted my vocabulary because it was one way to compensate. Maybe I wasn't a genius but I wasn't a total dunce, either.

As one might easily imagine, my trouble with numbers and complete lack of algebra caused considerable havoc with my college science classes. My boyfriend, an Iranian grad student in computer science disapproved. Finally, in my last semester I decided to enroll in a beginning algebra class. When I told him, thinking he'd be proud of me, he asked which section I had signed up for. When I replied he said I'd have to change because that was the section he taught. Anyway, I did. It didn't go well and I knew the teaching assistants I got did not understand me and could not communicate with me on any meaningful level. So when I had questions I would take them to Ahmad during his office hours. One day as I was waiting in the hallway, my TA's happened by and asked why I was there. I said I questions and I q\was going to ask Ahmad. They were stunned. "You. Know...Ahmad?" LOL Not only did I know him, our son is now 28 years old.

Despite my best intentions of taking that damned algebra class, I still got a D. When my son was just a baby I enrolled in another algebra class at a community college. This is where I learned that in many situations, a competent teacher can make all the difference. He explained concepts in a way I could understand. He motivated me. Even though I was a single parent and took my baby to class with me (at least, until the day he soaked his diaper, my leg and the floor) I worked through the book at home but still went to class for tests. The result with this effort was very different and I ended up with an A. The single most vivid memory of the class, other my son peeing on my leg and the floor, was the explanation that an equation was just like a sentence. The variable are words. The function signs are verbs. I had an epiphany that day. Now I just wish I could remember his name.

The bottom line is that everyone struggles with something. If people spoke in equations I'd be SOL.

BTW, I have since overcome my innumeracy difficulty. I came to be able to calculate discounts per yard and for total purchase in seconds when fabric stores were having sales.

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