Grammar, I choose you

When I was a kid, I, like many other unfortunate youths in America, lost my soul to Pokemon. I spent countless hours playing my Game Boy Advance, swindled my friends out of their holographic Pokemon cards and meticulously read guide books for whatever game I was playing at the time.

To this day, even though I could have spent all that time reading books (my second favorite hobby back then), I regret nothing. During a hardcore gaming session, my neighbor and I used to joke that playing Pokemon was “educational.” Although this explanation was only used at the time to bullshit our parents into letting us play, I realized many years later that there was actually a sliver of truth in our fib.

Pokemon is actually jam-packed with valuable life lessons. From the TV episode “Bye-Bye Butterfree,” where Ash lets go of his dear Pokemon Butterfree (which, coincidentally, was the first time I bawled while watching a TV show), I learned that if you love something, you should let it go. There were other meaningful life lessons, but let’s get to what we really care about — grammar.

For those who are unfamiliar with Pokemon, each creature has a type (e.g., Fire, Water, Psychic), and certain types have advantages over other types. When battling another Pokemon trainer, the goal is to try to use moves whose types have an advantage over the opponent’s Pokemon type. For example, if the opponent were using a Water type, I would use my Pikachu and have it Thundershock the opponent because water conducts electricity (another valuable life lesson, even if it’s not technically correct). Then, a nice little message would pop up on my gaming console: “It’s super effective!” This would cause me to feel like a badass as I watched the opponent’s Pokemon’s HP decrease exponentially.

Some types of moves, however, don’t affect certain Pokemon types at all. For example, if a Diglett tried to use Earthquake, a Ground-type move, on my Pidgey, a Flying type, I would be presented with a lovely message saying, “It doesn’t affect Pidgey.” This would also cause me to feel like a badass as I watched my Pidgey survive the attack unscathed.

Why am I telling you this? Well, later on in life, when I learned the difference between “effect” and “affect,” Pokemon proved to be extremely useful in helping me remember this distinction. You see, “effect” is generally used as a noun meaning “a result or consequence,” while “affect” is usually a verb meaning “to produce an effect.” Seems pretty simple, but a lot of people struggle to remember this rule.

Luckily for me, because of my Pokemon training, I had no problem with “affect” vs. “effect” questions on the SAT. Every time I thought about “affect,” the phrase “It doesn’t affect Pidgey” would sound in my head like a siren song, and I would realize that “affect” was a verb. And when “effect” popped up, I would think of the phrase “It’s super effective” and know that “effect” was not a verb.

This just goes to show that there is knowledge to be gained from everything in life: school, books, professors, friends and even games. You never know where you might pick up your latest gem of wisdom: Perhaps you’ve even gained some knowledge from reading this humble blog post.

And if you’re lucky enough, it might even end up haunting you for the rest of your life like those beautiful Pokemon phrases did mine.

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