… Grammar in the New Age

In this second installment of my new blog, the second day of tribute to Mrs. Sewell, I want to discuss the influence she had over me academically. Mostly, that falls in the grammar and the English language categories. When I see kids today (and by kids, I mean middle school to college age), and I see their pitiful attempts at writing, it makes me a little sad inside, but also a little angry. I’ll see something like “i luv how wen ppl go 2 skool and try to learn stuff its funny and stuff” and it kills me inside. Literally, a small part of me dies when I read something like that. Mrs. Sewell would have been appalled. I remember at least once a day we would diagram sentences. And I hated it. But in retrospect, I am so grateful she foisted that on us. Throughout middle school, throughout high school, and throughout college, this basic understanding of grammar and the construction of sentences served to shove me to the head of my English classes. Especially in college, where I still encountered people who couldn’t form a simple sentence correctly, much less a complex one with an “and” or something. Sometimes, I wouldn’t remember what a dangling participle was, but by golly, I knew it was wrong! I know that cakes are done, and people are finished. I know my helping verbs front-ways and back. I know to STOP! when a word ends in a single consonant, preceded by a single vowel  you double the consonant, add “ed,” “ing,” whatever you want it to be. I know that prepositions are absolutely not to be used at the end of a sentence, and I know what a preposition is. I know about antecedents and pronouns; that adjectives describe nouns; and that adverbs are adjectives for verbs. She taught me all these things and more, and all in fifth grade. I know some of my peers didn’t learn about antecedents until English 1o1 in college. I mean, evidently, thanks to this woman, I learned advance English eight years ahead of the curve. That’s just amazing to me. I’ve turned into a grammar Nazi among my friends, and I would absolutely love to be a copy editor for a major magazine or newspaper. When I see poor grammar in high school, I consider it a travesty of the highest degree. I frequently remind people who have poor grammar skills (and who seem not to care) that it is their language, and they should understand it. This understanding and commitment is all thanks to Mrs. Sewell, and I frequently give her all due credit. When she was still teaching at Berkeley Lake, I would visit her, mostly on her birthday. During those times, I would tell her that she was the best teacher I ever had, and she would be all modest, but I still don’t feel like I told her enough how much she meant to me. I’m only sad that I can’t hire her as a mentor for my own kids (should I ever decide I want any), and that she can’t continue to be one of the last bastions of higher education in a world where public school funding is like a literal crap shoot (of the toilet variety, not the gambling metaphor).

Thus, I say adieu, in as Southern an accent as I can manage – because let’s face it: although the language is pretty, nobody likes a Frenchy.



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