“un-” is for undoing


Grammar may an ancient artifact, such as might be found in a dusty attic, or on a bookshelf just out of sight.   Today it is more common to use adverbs like nouns, pronouns revised to statutorily conform to  “politically correct” use,  or blatantly misuse plural forms of uncommon nouns.    For instance,  I learned grammar in the 1960s to 1970s, so “he” ,  “-man”, for serviceman, postman,  or foreman was not a threatening gender form.  Today,  I use,  “-person” “she” or “he (she)” in my email, correspondence and blogs to eliminate the potential for bias.

I am probably psychologically damaged.   I know I do not obsess over my own proper usage of grammar all the time but I like to think so.     You see,  when I was a child, I had to write birthday and Christmas “thankyou” notes for my maternal grandmother, aunts and great-aunts.   My mother would spell-check and review them for grammar.  I was six or seven years old when this began.  This was in the days when we wrote, on paper,  in cursive.  (Yes.  I am an ancient artifact.)   It was not enough to be considerate,  I had to be grammatically correct.   I learned foreign languages in high school, and in college which  helped me understand grammar for my mother tongue.   But I learned fairly quickly after mastering conversational Spanish, that spoken foreign language is just as subject to dialect and slang as is spoken English.

When I entered the military all hell broke loose.  “Un-install” or “de-install” became the accepted terms for “remove” equipment.   “Seen”-ers and “done”-ers, and use of “F***” as a noun, a verb, an adverb or an adjective were routinely accepted.  Naval terminology is full of acronyms, and often we used them with “-ed” or ”-d” to indicate performance. For example,  “PMS” is the acronym for the Preventative Maintenance System.  So performance of a maintenance routine instruction was reported as ” I PM’d it yesterday”.  And all written instructions and handbooks were written to an elementary school comprehension.

Like my mother before me,  I still tend to bristle when editors fail to correct improper spelling or usage in articles posted on major news websites or in the local paper.    Local radio advertising for a particular automobile, the Lexus, gets my dander up.  The plural form for “LEXUS” is not adding an “-es” as in “Lexus-es” which one time was amusing, but not in repetitive use!   I want to find that advertising agency and send them a critique:  Like nexus**, a connection or link (Merriam-Webster),  the plural form is the same.    But today,  I’ve been out of school longer twice as long as I was ever sat in a classroom.  When I write work procedures and policies, or when I am blogging about grammar,  I  am fortunate to have handbooks and online references to help me.   If I only used them.


* *  1. connection, link the nexus between teachers and students; also :a causal link the nexus between poverty and crime
2 :a connected group or series a nexus of theories a nexus of relationships
3 :center, focus
The bookstore has become something of a nexus for the downtown neighborhood. —Jane Smiley



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