What are some of the first lessons we insist on throwing at all little kids? Always say “please” and “thank you.” Don’t talk with your mouth full. And one of my personal favorites: Remember to compromise.
If little Billy wants to play with the Legos I have been monopolizing for the past half hour, then maybe we could start taking turns. That would be effective compromise. But realistically, as a little kid, I probably wouldn’t let Billy anywhere near my precious Legos.
Admittedly, I was a stubborn child. If I didn’t want to do something, I would argue and argue my way out of it. If I disagreed with you, then you could be sure I would thick-headedly deny that I could ever be wrong.
Apparently, when I was about 5 years old, my dad asked me to tidy up my room — an innocent-enough request. But I was not having any of that nonsense. What did I ever do to him to deserve such cruel punishment? So, as family legend goes, I yelled, “Who do you think I am? Cinderella?” and refused to clean. Strong-willed or stubborn? You decide.
The same obstinate attitude applied to my approach to grammar. As far as I was concerned, I was the queen of anything and everything related to the English language. Sometimes, however, I didn’t exactly have my facts straight.
You see, I was a huge fan of Buzz Lightyear as kid and even dressed up as him for Halloween. But unfortunately, my understanding of his catchphrase wasn’t entirely accurate. As I’m sure everyone knows, Buzz Lightyear often exclaims, “To infinity and beyond!” I, on the other hand, would insist on saying, “To ‘infimbidy’ and beyond!” Clearly it’s not a word, but I wouldn’t concede even an inch.
Today, though, my attitude toward grammar has changed. English is littered with inconsistencies and differing opinions on correct usage and pronunciation — “toe-may-toe” vs. “toe-mah-toe,” the Oxford comma, “con-truh-ver-shal” vs. “con-truh-ver-see-uhl,” ending sentences with prepositions, “ant vs. “ahnt,” gender-neutral pronouns, punctuation placement in quotations and “root” vs. “rout” are just a few of the examples of language controversies that plague our population.
But hopefully we can just all agree that regardless of whether I say “poe-tay-toe” or “poe-tah-toe,” you’ll understand that I’m talking about a potato — you know, the vegetable.
People need to get off their high horse and agree to disagree. As long as our differences don’t provide a barrier to actually understanding one another, I think it should be fine to hear a little bit of variation in pronunciation and grammar. Maybe not to the extent of accepting “infimbidy” as a word — sometimes there’s a definitive line between right and wrong, and “infimbidy” can’t even touch that line with a 39-and-a-half-foot pole — but some leeway is definitely warranted.
Kayla Kettmann is an assistant night editor. Contact her at [email protected].