My Semi-Pornographic Love Affair With Grammar

sentence diagram, judgment, Jane Goodwin

Sentence diagramming is really helpful. It’s also fun.

Mamacita says:  I love a good turn of phrase. I can be swept off my feet by it. I can be swayed and influenced and converted and my vote can be purchased and my virginity can be compromised. . . .um, pretend you didn’t read that part. . . .

Language is power, and a pen is more powerful than any Ollivander wand. I love wit and whimsy and sarcasm. I love a quotation that knocks my socks off. I love WORDS. I love their meanings and their origins.  I love how a word and a person both have histories. I love all the things that can be done with words. I love making them into adjectives and adverbs and nouns. I love the “kick” of a strategically placed interjection. I love how the grammar, snob, English grammarchoice of a tiny preposition can change the focus of an entire book. I love how a comma can turn a legal contract into the opposite of what a careless reader believes it to be. I love dictionaries. I love to play with a thesaurus. I love the preciseness of grammar, and I love how that very preciseness gives us the ability to be witty, and whimsical, and how it not only lets our imagination soar, but also allows us to share what we discover as we soar.  Figurative language depends on grammar for accuracy;  metaphor, simile, hyperbole, alliteration, personification, etc., are awesome only if they’re done well.

Did I mention how much I love a clever turn of phrase?  Literally and figuratively; I love words.  You do understand the difference between literally and figuratively, don’t you?  Of course you do.  I’m going to assume that you do.  Please don’t prove me wrong; it would be quite disillusioning.  I’m counting on your refined inferential skills here.

Even more, I love how someone who KNOWS HOW can take that preciseness and twist it, toss it, and tie it into a knot.  Good writers are a lot like good athletes; once they know the rules well, those rules can be twisted and turned into even more.

grammar, English, language, writing, Jane GoodwinMore what?  More of everything.  There’s nothing in the rule book about Michael Jordan flying through the air like a veritable Peter Pan, but it wasn’t AGAINST the rules, either.  Ditto a good writer.

Occasionally, too, a rule needs to be broken in order to make a point.  This is true in business, as well, and also in our schools.  A leader who doesn’t know when to break a rule is useless, and a writer who doesn’t know when (or how) to break a rule will not be as good a communicator as a writer who understands the language more thoroughly.

I love reading articles about people who are upset because their lack of grammar skills resulted in a lost court case, contract dispute, etc.  Item:  I am not on the side of the person who has chosen to become an adult without any honed grammar skills.  I LOVE it when grammar-ignorant people lose.

One can almost always tell whether a piece of writing is written by someone who knows his/her grammar rules well and has chosen to twist them, or if a piece of writing is written by someone who is just plain ignorant.

Um, I teach writing.  I love my job.

What I mean to say is, I LOVE MY JOB.Jane Goodwin, Mamacita, Scheiss Weekly, grammar

I hope you can tell.

P.S.  Speaking of my vote. . . . I will generally vote for the candidate with the best grammar, my assumption being that the candidate with the best grammar probably studied everything else in more detail and depth, too.  People with good grammar have paid attention.  That’s been my experience, anyway.

P.P. S.  If there are only two candidates, I’ll vote for the one with the better grammar.  It’s that three degrees of comparison rule. . . . A political candidate who can’t put a simple sentence together probably won’t be any good at any other part of the job, either.

P.P.P.S.  “Grammar” is spelled with an “-AR,” not an “-ER.”  The word is “grammar,” not “grammer.”  Unless we are speaking about your grandmother, in which case you should call her whatever she wants you to call her, and spell it however she dictates.

Or unless you are referring to Kelsey Grammer, but we are not discussing adultery in this post.

Fact vs. Opinion

Both statements here are fact.

Both statements here are fact.

Mamacita says:  Fact vs. opinion is one of the units I look forward to, difficult though it can be for my students.  Helping my students understand the difference between a fact and an opinion is one of the most difficult parts of my curriculum. We all want to think that what we personally believe is fact, and everything else is opinion. Until we learn discernment, we stand by “it” because “it” is what/how we were brought up and taught by our elders, and all-too-often, because it’s just how we want “it” to be and the thought that “it” might not is more than our level of discernment can bear.

We are raised in homes with certain values and while those values may be wonderful, and promote honesty and decency and learning, they are still opinions.  Ditto the homes with values that promote lies and adultery and criminal behavior.  Belief in both is opinion.  I know which set of values I personally believe in, but that is my opinion.  And yours.

A fact is a statement that is true and can be verified objectively, or proven. In other words, a fact is true and correct no matter what.

A fact is a statement that is true and can be verified objectively, or proven. In other words, a fact is true and correct no matter what.

But no matter how firm we are in our beliefs, facts and opinions are not the same thing. There is a huge difference.

An opinion is a statement that holds an element of belief; it tells how someone feels. An opinion is not always true and cannot be proven.

An opinion is a statement that holds an element of belief; it tells how someone feels. An opinion is not always true and cannot be proven.

“The garden has two rows of red tulips” is a fact. “All those tulips make the garden really lovely” is an opinion.

“Everyone should make a list before going to the grocery store” is an opinion. “Many people make a list before going to the grocery store” is a fact.

Pick and choose your words carefully; adjectives and adverbs can turn a fact into an opinion.

“My new boyfriend has gorgeous red hair” is an opinion “My new boyfriend has red hair” is a fact.   One word can transform a fact into an opinion.

If a thing cannot be objectively proven, no matter how badly you might want to believe it’s a fact, it’s an opinion.  Nobody controls facts.  Nobody dictates truth.  Not your mom, not your grandfather, not your minister, not your rabbi, not your priest, not your best friend, and not your president.  Facts are.  Truth is.  Opinion varies.

Opinions are how you feel about it.  Feelings are not facts.

Generalizations are not facts, either.  If the statement uses words like “everybody,” or “nobody,” or “never,” or “always,” it’s an opinion.

“But Mom, everybody’s going to the party!” is an opinion. “But Mom, Mike and Sue are going to the party!” is a fact.

"Facts are the enemy of truth!"

“Facts are the enemy of truth!”

In spite of Cervantes, facts are truth. (I will always love Cervantes’ quotation, though. Allegory fascinates me, and the Man of La Mancha is one of my favorite pieces of literature.) (And an awesome musical.)  (Not the movie version; you have to see it live.) (My opinion.)

Facts and opinions clash all the time, and most of those clashes are nothing. (Big Macs are better than Whoppers – opinion.  Big Macs don’t have tomato but Whoppers do – fact.)  (Trivial fact that affects nothing important.)  However, if religion or politics are involved, people tend to lose perspective and forget to be discerning. Or even how to count.

“The Baptist church is the only way to salvation” is opinion. “The Baptist church has the largest pipe organ in this city” is a fact, which can be proven with a tape measure. A really big one.

“Full immersion baptism is the only way to enter the Kingdom” is an opinion.  “Many people believe that infant baptism is necessary for salvation” is a fact.  Why?  Because of the adjectives and adverbs.  If an issue is important to you, analyze it carefully.  Make sure it actually represents what you think it represents.  Make sure it represents what you actually believe.  For this, you need discernment.

Discernment is a learned skill that helps us understand the different between truth and lies, between fact and opinion.

Discernment is a learned skill that helps us understand the different between truth and lies, between fact and opinion.

Wishful thinking will not change an opinion into a fact.  Word to the White House. There is no such thing as an alternative fact.  Another word to the White House.

I know that much of life concerns the shades of gray that often lie between fact and opinion, but even so, an intelligent nation MUST know how to discern that.

Issues of any kind are clashes between fact and opinion. Please understand the difference. Not everybody loved Raymond. Don’t be afraid to challenge your belief system. If questions and banter and debate threaten to topple your belief system, maybe you need a new one. If you belong to any kind of organization that frowns on questions, run, don’t walk, away.  They’re hiding something.  They’re afraid of toppling.

Facts don’t topple. And nobody can say “because I said so” except your Mom, and that phase should be gone by the time you’re eight.

Not a good defense for anyone over the age of 8.

Not a good defense for anyone over the age of 8.

People with no discernment skills are easy to persuade, easy to boss around.  They believe what they want to believe and they’ll follow anyone who advocates their same beliefs.  They tend to be very literal. They are sheep, and sheep are stupid.  Large mobs of sheep are dangerous.  They want and even need to be led.  They find leaders who are seeking these people.  They want a leader who is persuasive and they’ll do almost anything asked of them.  Remember Jim Jones? Beware.

Drinks for the undiscerning!

 DON’T DRINK IT!

People who know how to discern can be difficult in an environment that values obedience and kow-towing and instant belief.  They know how to read between the lines.  They comprehend inferentially as well as literally. They are thinkers and self-starters.  They are creative and artistic and literate.  They are the hope of the universe.

So, what’s the best way for a person to be?  That would, sadly, be a matter of opinion.  I hope mine shines through.  I have no control over yours.

On the bright side, you have no control over mine, either.  I know how to discern.  Sometimes, after some thought, I change my mind.  But never over a fact, my friends.  20 items means 20 items.  If you have 21 items, you don’t belong in the short line.  And that is a fact.

Discernment teaches us inferential skills, and context clues, because the same word in one context is a completely different word in another context.  Super literal people have trouble understanding this.  Lack of this skill is dangerous.

In common use almost every word has many shades of meaning, and therefore needs to be interpreted by the context.  — Alfred Marshall

Remember third grade, learning how to use a dictionary, and how even tiny little simple words could have two pages of meanings, no two alike, depending on the context?  And how you had to understand the context so you could understand what that little word meant this time when it meant something else last time?

Context is king.

Context is king.

That.

 

 

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther KingMamacita says:  Why is this day a holiday in most communities? (This community has only just recently started acknowledging MLK Day as a holiday; for years, none of our schools closed.) (They still don’t close for Veteran’s Day.)  (The colleges, businesses, and guv’ment offices are closed – the public schools here are open.)

However, intelligent, sensitive, educated people understand that today deserves respect because a man who dedicated his entire life to peaceful means of acquiring freedom for all people fully deserves to be recognized, and there are still, shamefully, communities that do not consider this of any importance. Making it a holiday forces people to look at his name on their calendar, if nothing else.

If he had advocated violence, it would have been different. Violence does not deserve recognition. If he had advocated “something for nothing,” it would have been different. Bums do not deserve recognition.

But Dr. Martin Luther King advocated equal rights for all people, not just for whites and not just for blacks and not just for whites & blacks. He dedicated his life to gaining equal rights for EVERYONE.

And I can’t help but listen to a speaker with such beautiful grammar. His grammar enhances his message.

May we all have this same dream.

Careful, grammatically-correct language and an almost poetic speaking style will always get my attention.  It’s an assumption on my part, of course, but I associate good grammar with people who actually know what they’re talking about.  In fact, I am convinced that this is so.

Martin Luther King, Jr. definitely knew what he was talking about, and he knew HOW to present it.

====Martin Luther King, Jr., hate, let no man

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Opinionated Rant and a Question

Just don't pick your nose. Don't do it.

Rant.  Opinionated rant.

Mamacita says:  Let’s start the New Year with some opinionated rants and a question.  Here’s the question first:  Who are the A-list bloggers/social media people?  I know who’s not on that list.

Me.

I’m not on the cool kid list.  I’ve never been on a list for cool people.  Ever.

But I don’t care.  Really, I don’t.  I have my own interpretation of what that list would mean and the kind of people who would be on it.

ARE on it, I mean.

The kind of people who are on the cool kids list – a list of actually, genuinely cool people, that is.

Nice people.  Kind people.  Honest people.  Funny people.  Snarky people.  People with a wicked sense of humor.  People who are trustworthy, and reliable, and  don’t cut in line.  The kind of people who let others sit by them, or with them, or near them, no matter who or what they are.

Maybe even, people who don’t mind if I sit by them.

I am not an A-list blogger/social network updater.  I am an old-school blogger.  I joined Twitter and Facebook that first year they existed.  I’ve been here a while.  On my own blog, if I mention a place or product or service, it’s because I own it or like it or have been there, and it’s not for money.  I don’t make money as myself.  I write about myself, and things I like or just want to write about. Elsewhere, I do a lot of writing for clients, but that is quite a separate thing.

I’ve always been more than just a little bit quirky and nerdy, and I still am. I don’t care. I’ve never been cool. Not then, not now. I don’t care. (much)

In my Reader/friend list/etc. are people whose writing I read regularly. Are they A-listers? I don’t know. I don’t care, either. They are people I like, and even love, with blogs/updates/etc. I find interesting.  Their Twitter threads are interesting.  Their Facebook updates tell me about their lives, and their interests, and their opinions.  None of those has to be exactly like mine.  How boring would THAT be?  It is our differences that make life interesting.  We don’t have to agree on everything to be friends, real friends.

Would I delete any of them, and replace them with A-list people, so there would be nothing but the cool kids in my Reader/Facebook/Twitter/etc.? No. Why would I do that? I don’t write to be cool. (good thing, huh.) I write because “it’s” in me and “it” wants to get out. I love keeping up with people on Twitter.  I love learning about people’s lives on Facebook.  I wish more people still blogged, but I understand that decision, too.  I still blog, along with all those other platforms, but that is MY decision.  My blog is like a friend. It’s THERE for me. And since I went all WordPress years ago, it really IS always there for me. I also blog for businesses.  I go all watchdog on their comments, too, but I only delete the spams, robots, and obvious sales pitches.

The people I follow are friends.  They listen. I listen. They help. I help. We laugh and we cry and we are THERE for each other.   I include all my business blogs and clients – you might be surprised at the connections to be made that way.

What, she mixes business and pleasure?  She does indeed.  Much of the time, too.

She considers her clients to be friends?  She does that, too.  She’s crazy about ’em, in fact.

The internet is full of friends, seen and unseen, business and pleasure.  Both kinds are real. I consider them all to be real life friends.  People who don’t believe internet friends are real, true friends are hanging out at the wrong table.

Nosepicking is just nasty.

Nosepicking is just nasty.

Sometimes we pick our friends and sometimes they pick us. (insert crack about picking nose here) This holds true wherever we go. The internet is a place to go. There are lovely people there. There are also some awful people here.  You know, just like in real life.  That’s because the internet – the parts where we interact in each other’s lives – IS real life.

Delete an active blog from my list of regular reads?  Remove someone from my Twitter or Facebook account?   Delete someone who comments sincerely?  Delete a real person, someone who isn’t a robot, and who updates/comments in real time?  Why would I do that?  Why would I pare down a list for my personal convenience at the expense of possibly hurting someone’s feelings?

Nobody can ever have too many friends. And I’m still discovering treasures out there. Why would I stop mining for gold just because I found some already? In fact, if anyone is reading this and you know I don’t know you yet, tell me. I’m happy to meet you, and of COURSE you can sit with us.

Sometimes I read about someone going through his/her Reader/Twitter/Facebook/etc. and weeding out anyone who isn’t considered ‘popular’ by other bloggers, or who isn’t, apparently, useful enough. Some bloggers only want to hang out with the A-group. I can only assume they were like that in high school, too, and haven’t grown out of it yet, still, in real life. And I find this attitude sad, and even. . . . sick.  Okay, the word I’m actually thinking of is “pompous.”

The A table!

The A table!

I am not an A-list blogger. I’m often one of the first to be cut. That’s fine. Populate your feeds with well-known A-table people and see how many comments you get – that aren’t strictly business – from them. See how much advice and support you get. See how they will get to know you personally, and want to hang out with you. And when you comment on some of those A-list blogs. . . . oh, but wait a minute. Some of those blogs don’t ALLOW comments.

Don’t you get it? REAL bloggers welcome comments, and not just from people they know. Not from spammers or morons, but from real people who take notice and care. Many of those A-list blogs aren’t even real blogs any more; they’re just webpages with articles and self-promotion and speaking engagements and product endorsements and money-spinners.

Preaching to the choir is fine if you really don’t want to learn anything new from someone who isn’t already IN the choir.

But that’s okay. You’ve a right to please yourself; we all do. So delete everybody who isn’t ‘somebody.’ And yes, I know, that would be me. Go ahead.

That’s not how I do this, but we are all different. Sometimes, discovering just HOW different, in certain ways, is more than just a little bit disillusioning.

Sometimes it’s a LOT of disillusioning.

Losers.

Losers.

Do we EVER get to leave high school, I mean completely? Why is this nonsense still going on, and why is it still bothering me?

But it is. And it does. I wish I could say it didn’t, but it does. It even, kinda, you know, hurts.

But that’s okay. I understand. I’ll just take my bag lunch and go sit at another table.

You sit there and wait for the cheerleaders and the jocks and the student council president and the homecoming queen and people who can do something for you, and while you’re waiting for them, the rest of us will be sitting over HERE. And we will be having way more fun than you.

What do I know. I’m not cool.

But I know what the “social” in “social media” means.  And it doesn’t mean excluding people.  Well, unless they’re proven sociopaths, axe murderers, compulsive liars, dirty rotten scoundrels (although some of those guys are kinda fun), simpering morons, people who get in the “20 items or fewer” with a mounded cartful, Trump supporters, litterbugs, vandals, line cutters, or sissy sparkly vampires.  (brooding vampires welcome.)

Spades. I'll go alone.

Spades. I’ll go alone.

Move over, B-table friends.  It’s my deal.  Double-bid, no-trump, high-low euchre, coming right up.  Pass the SweeTarts.  And yes, we’re all really listening.

Holidays Should Be About Love

Mamacita says: Holidays should be about love, not resentment.  Holidays should be about charity, the original, true meaning of charity, which is that same love.  Love – charity – should not be limited by yours or anyone else’s belief system.  Love is love.  Put limitations on it and it’s no longer pure, and if it’s not pure, it’s not love. All seasons are about love, and no season of love is ever over.  Whether or not you celebrate Christmas has nothing whatsoever to do with being Santa Claus for someone. Call it whatever you wish: just call it something, and go forth and do it. Letting your soul curl up into a ball of resentment because YOUR religion, or lack of such, doesn’t “do” Christmas is a waste of time, a waste of emotion, a waste of heart, a waste of zeal, and a waste of YOU.

Charity means love.

Charity means love.

“Charity” doesn’t mean “giving to the poor and needy;” it means LOVE, and love covers all bases. Using a belief system to rationalize your own personal whatevers is a cop-out, plain and simple. There are people out there who need you, and to walk on by because they said or did something that “offended” you is . . . okay, I’ll say it: it’s evil. Selfish and evil.

What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other? — George Eliot

The three stages of man:

1. He believes in Santa Claus

2. He doesn’t believe in Santa Claus

3. He IS Santa Claus.

Good parents ARE Santa Claus

Good parents ARE Santa Claus

That struck me as being funny, and true. And also, even, a little bit sad, and I’m not sure why. Poignancy is always a combination of emotions, and knowing something wonderful is temporary makes us sad, even while we revel in it.

I am Santa Claus. And I do NOT want to ever let the people I love down, at Christmas or any other time. But I also realize that the people we love most have the most potential for hurting. And for being hurt. Any people who are emotionally involved have tremendous power over each other. I hope we all try to use that power only for good.

You know, like Superman. Superman used his powers for good. Unless he was under the influence of kryptonite, in which case he became a flying armageddon. I’ve met many human kryptonite chunks, working tirelessly to promote only their own beliefs and working just as tirelessly to tear down everybody else’s. They work so hard at destroying that they’ve no time left for building up.

Let us never allow the influence of ‘something else’ to turn us into anything other than good.

“Something else” being possibly another person, or just, something else. “Under the influence” is “under the influence,” whatever outside ‘something else’ is influencing us.

You are Santa Claus for someone. Do not let them down. The people you know, the people you love, the people you know AND love, and people you don’t even know, need you to be Santa Claus. Nameless, faceless children need you. They need you badly. If you’ve got a biscuit, please give someone half.

No belief system in the universe is a reason NOT to be Santa for someone.

And if you are a person who does not believe in this mysterious spirit of generosity we call Santa Claus, then, um, uh, hmmm. . . . . okay, I’ll say it. You are stupid. Grow up and become Santa Claus. Somewhere out there is a child who desperately needs your powers. It might be your own child, or it might be a stranger’s. What difference does it make what child it is? Get out there and make someone happy. Or, at least, happier. Make a difference. Ho ho ho.  You don’t have to call it Santa Claus.  You don’t have to call it Christmas.  Call it what you want.  Just do it.  Be it.

I’ll go even farther: If you are the kind of person who gets all huffy and offended and indignant because someone dared to wish you well in a language not suited to your personal belief system, shame on you. You’re angry because someone DARED wish you well? How dare YOU!!!!! How dare you throw someone’s sincere good wishes back into his/her face!!!!!

Now, get out there and make someone happy. If you have no children, go borrow some.

Life is so fleeting; why waste any of it in offended huffiness? We should all be trying our best to add to life, not suck the wonder out of it.

Don't waste your life being offended.

Don’t waste your life being offended.

Oh, and fair warning: if you don’t like the tone of this post, suck it up. The holiday season isn’t over yet, and easily offended people are one of my favorite targets.

They’re the whiny kid on the playground who is good for a show every time he/she doesn’t get his/her own way.

Is that you? I hope not. Such reactions are ugly in a child, but even uglier in an adult. But if it is, I’ll say it again: shame on you.

Santa is a symbol, a representation of a person who lives to help others. He’s a role model for us all.

Bring it on.

Eve and Morn: Had You Noticed?

“What Child Is This,” by Caroline Cooney

Mamacita says: Oh, my dears, it’s so close now, so very, very close.

There are a lot of old, boring, easily offended, humorless  people out there who don’t care much for the excitement, the wonder, the sparkles and reflections and tinsel and candles and suspense and giggles and hand-clapping and jammied children and ribbons and pretty paper and surprises, and this makes me sad for them. However, I also figure they were pretty much the same when they were young younger.

I think the ability or tendency to glow and laugh and clap and appreciate things is there in all of us, and whether we let the light of these things shine through us – or not – is a choice we make. Scrooge was Scrooge because he chose to be Scrooge. Yes, certain childhood happenings helped mold him, but ultimately, he chose his life. Free will choice. All of our lives are that way. We can’t always control the circumstances, and sometimes Karma really hits us below the belt, but we can always control the way we deal with it. Most of us go up and down, back and forth, hot and cold with our reactions; even-keeled people are rare and actually rather boring. But whether we reel from the blows and get back up, or stay down and cover our heads and wait for more, is up to us. We’ve all been there.

Me, I love Christmas. What, you didn’t know? 🙂

Christmas magic!

Christmas magic!

Christmas Eve is such a magical time. It’s all ahead of us, you see. To paraphrase Katie, age 8, in my all-time favorite Christmas novel  What Child Is This, by Caroline Cooney, the night before Christmas isn’t called a ‘night,’ it’s called ‘eve,’ and Christmas morning isn’t called ‘morning,’ it’s ‘morn.’ Eve and morn: two special words to highlight two special times.  All the other times of the year have mornings and evenings, and New Year’s has “eve,”  but only Christmas has both eve and morn.

Eve and morn are special.

How special are they? They are special already, in their own right, but how you make them special for yourself and for your children is entirely up to you. I hope you give them memories they will cherish all their lives, so much so that they will pass the glory along to their own children.

Roots and wings

Roots and wings

Children flourish with roots, but they soar with wings.

May your Eve be full of anticipation and warmth, and may your Morn be all you hoped it would be.