Get The Gist Of It

I woke up this morning to a funny email from my best girl, Courtney. It made me giggle so I have decided to reprint it here, heavily edited for my own amusement, and without her consent.

Hi Kitty,

In the spirit of the “let’s tell each other if we make grammatical errors on our blogs” conversation we had when you were here in January, I have to tell you that phenomena is the plural of phenomenon. Starving Hobo Syndrome is a phenomenon while starving hobo syndrome coupled with Free Alcohol
Frenzy are phenomena.


I hope you don’t hate me. I understand the desire to use the word phenomena. It’s a much prettier word

Be well.

Love,
Smoke

Thank you Courtney!

Seriously though, thank you.

I think I might be grammatically challenged. While I believe I have reasonably decent grammatical instincts, I have zero conscious knowledge of commas or sentence structure. I’m making this shit up as I go along, people. I just toss in a few commas when the sentence gets too confusing for even me to understand, and I call it a day. Oh sure, I know my there/they’re/their rules, but come on, that’s child’s play. I know you are not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition, but hell if I know what a preposition even is. (I just did it, right? Ended that sentence in a preposition? Meh, hand me a fudgesicle.)

The punctuation mark that strikes the most fear in my heart, is the dreaded semi-colon. I am certain that proper understanding of the semi-colon could dramatically improve the quality of my life. Sometimes my sentences just drone on and on, and I keep adding millions of commas, and no matter what I do I can’t figure out how to end the sentence, but I also can’t figure how to connect it’s (its…stupid Kate, stupid) many meandering parts, so I add comma, after comma, after, comma, and I pray to Baby Jesus that somehow the reader will find a way to understand my cryptic meaning, and then I shake my fist at the sky and say, “Damn you semi-colon and your illusive (elusive, you bratsche-wielding barbarian) power, DAMN YOU.”

To make matters worse, I don’t really care all that much about proper grammar. In reading and writing, I am a get-the-gist-of-it kind of gal. I get the gist, and then I get out of there. I don’t tend to linger lovingly on each word and comma. The problem with my get-the-gist-of-it system, (BAD COMMA, you are seperating my subject and my verb. GAWD.) is that many of my readers don’t share my free-spirited approach to grammar and punctuation. Although I don’t care about the semi-colon enough to actually investigate its proper usage, it makes me cringe to imagine someone reading my blog and thinking, “What an effing idiot. Just use a semi-colon for Christ’s sake”. It is a terrible curse, being both lazy and proud.

So now, we finally arrive at the gist of this post. I am issuing an open invitation to all of my readers to correct my grammar and punctuation. Really let me have it guys. I may be a semi-literate asshole, but I have pretty thick skin when it comes to this sort of thing. My one saving grace is that I don’t take myself too seriously and I genuinely want to improve my writing. (I just don’t want to have to work to improve my writing. I want to write, and then let you guys (my minions) correct my mistakes.) One caveat: I reserve the right to use any of your criticisms in a future blog post. So, if you get too prissy with this game, you can expect a poorly written, but sharply worded response.
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25 Responses to “Get The Gist Of It”


  1. 1 the colonel June 4, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Great, post: Kate!

  2. 2 Courtney June 4, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    I, too, am stumped by the semi-colon; I just don’t get it. I guess my expensive prep school education wasn’t as valuable as I thought; or maybe it’s just me;.

  3. 3 Sam June 4, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    Well done, well done. But, um, at the risk of awakening the rumbling grammar beast within: you meant the semi-colon’s “elusive” power, right? Or possibly “illusory”? Or is there a word “illusive” that I’m unaware of?

    Also, I’m pretty sure that I understand how to use semi-colons, but my editor over at ArtsJournal says I don’t. But he also thinks that “theatre” and “theater” are two different things, possibly due to his being Canadian. And stubborn.

  4. 4 alan_cadwallader_is_just_kidding June 4, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Did you mean to use ILLUSIVE, or did you mean ELUSIVE, you stupid Bratche-wielding barbarian.

    And work on your god-damn four-part voiceleading while you’re at it, moron.

  5. 5 Kate June 4, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Illusive: Of, relating to, or in the nature of an illusion; lacking reality

    It’s totally a word, but totally not the one I meant.

    Thanks, Sammy!

  6. 6 Kate June 4, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    As for you Mr. Cadwallader, you may be hot, but I will not accept this type of abuse! Plus, your first sentence needs a question mark you sexy, stern divorcee. Pull yourself together!

  7. 7 Sam June 4, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    Ugh. All of you class of ’97 people need to get over the Cadwallader obsession. The man may be many things; hot is not one of them. (And his name is Allen, not Alan.)

    Don’t believe me? Go here and then tell me that “hot” is anywhere in the top 50 adjectives you think of when looking at that picture.

    http://www.oberlin.edu/con/faculty/cadwallader_allen.html

  8. 8 Sam June 4, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    And why doesn’t your dumb blog allow HTML tags in the comments? Forget semi-colons; we need proper coding!

  9. 9 Christina June 4, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    Kate & Courney, I recommend that you open your mind to embrace the semi-colon. I use it with great frequency and it adds joy to my life. I had a teacher in high school that described the semi-colon as “a soft period,” and it just made perfect sense to me. Maybe that will help.

    Otherwise, Kate I’m with you. We do this in our spare time people; you get the gist with or without the comma, I’m sure.

  10. 10 Courtney June 4, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    I think that picture of Allen is totally hot.

  11. 11 Kate June 4, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! That picture of The Cad is PRICELESS! Sam, you have bolstered my love for The Cad. I love him all the more!

    I have no idea why typepad doesn’t allow HTML tags in the comments. I feel your pain. Without the use of italics I never feel I am getting my point across.

  12. 12 Sam June 4, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    Ew. Soft period. Just… ew.

  13. 13 Kate June 4, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    That’s exactly what I said, Sammy!

  14. 14 Cousin Mary June 4, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    I’m so glad you asked.
    1. The possessive form for the word “it” has no apostrophe. Kate, we’ve talked about this before, but it is counter-intuitive, and you’re in crowded company. The word “it’s” is short for “it is.”
    2. Semi-colons: I don’t see the problem. I never think you’re using too many commas, nor is there real difficulty following your witty, meandering train of thought.
    3. “The problem with my get-the-gist-of-it system, is that many of my readers don’t share my free-spirited approach to grammar and punctuation.” Here you have inserted a comma between the subject and the verb. The subject is ‘problem’ and the verb is ‘is’ and the twain should not be separated by a comma. The exception is when two commas set off another phrase. Example: “The problem, as my readers may have noted, is…”
    I’ll stop now; the scary thing is that I could go on for awhile. Seldom does anyone ask for grammar advice and apparently I’ve been starving for such a request. I love your blog!

  15. 15 alan_delicious_cadwallader June 5, 2007 at 12:43 am

    I’m in love with your Cousin Mary, Kate. Now see, commas ARE important, because otherwise you might think I was in love with your cousin Mary-Kate. I’ve already seen Ashley posting.

    And don’t worry, I let all my MOST favorite students call me Alan OR Allen. Or, when I’m wearing certain unmentionables, you may call me your Sexy Palestrina. Or BBB, or, if I have to spell it out, Biiig Baaad Buuuuuuxtehude. But when you click on that link and spend a stray hour looking at my pic, you must, must imagine Jan Hammer’s “Theme from Miami Vice” in the background.

  16. 16 Shalini June 5, 2007 at 1:06 am

    Cheese and Rice, what did they feed you people at Oberlin? That guy is not HOT, unless he’s a freaking genius and then maybe I could see it.

    And thank you Cousin Mary, the it’s/its question has plagued me since childhood. Now, I may find some peace.

  17. 17 miriam June 5, 2007 at 1:54 am

    The post: so Great! (I myself Love random capitalization for Emphasis when italics are forbidden.)

    But the *comments* are superfunny!

    If your “cousin” is still reading, I wanna know the difference between further and farther. I have an inkling, but it just doesn’t quite get me all the way there, y’know?

  18. 18 Christina June 5, 2007 at 11:30 am

    You Oberlin people have sick minds! :)

  19. 19 Kate June 5, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    These are some excellent comments, ladies and gentlemen.

    Mary, I knew this grammar post would draw you out! You are the darling of the comment section today. Everyone loves you. Now, on to my defense….
    1. Thanks to your teachings I now know that “it’s” ALWAYS means “it is”, but at a young age I somehow got it into my head that the one exception to the rule was when you used an apostrophe to indicate possession, as in “the sentence confuses me with it’s many meandering parts.” After years of screwing this up, it’s proving to be a hard habit to break.
    2. So, basically what you are telling me is that I don’t really NEED the semi-colon; it’s just really handy to have around. Like tivo. Did I use that semi-colon correctly?
    3. This is exactly the sort of grammar problem that plagues my writing. I don’t think I was ever taught about subjects and verbs. My public school education failed me in this regard. Of course, now that you mention it, the errant comma looks absurd and I can’t even imagine why I ever put it there in the first place.

    ….so what’s the difference between father and further?

    Shalini, it is my new mission to exclaim, “cheese and rice!, whenever humanly possible. As for The Cad being hot, well, you just have to trust us. He has a certain quality of hotness that cannot be denied……except by Sam.

  20. 20 Liz June 5, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    Is it okay if I refrain from correcting your grammar? Mine is much worse. (have to edit posts usually 5+ times)

    Though I think that “theater” and “theatre” are the same. I’ve seen both in Canada. But I’m a little confused about (aboot in CDN accent) the difference between “premiere” and “premier”…..

  21. 21 Sam June 5, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    Or rather: Sam, and everyone else who has ever seen the man up close, but managed not to be sucked into the cult of his obviously mind-blowing music theory classes.

  22. 22 Courtney June 6, 2007 at 11:21 am

    I am quite certain that since the McDonalds Posse graduated in ’97, the Cad’s life has never been the same. Those were good years for him.

  23. 23 Cousin Mary June 6, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    First, regarding my bona fides as “cousin,” I am Kate’s Mom’s cousin. Good enough, don’t want to get into the whole second cousin, removed issue.
    Kate, your point #2 illustrates the perfect use of the semi-colon.
    Miriam, I did not fully understand the difference between further and farther until we saw the movie Finding Forrester. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181536/
    The young hero corrects the evil antagonist as to the proper use of these words by saying something like, “Further refers to a matter of degree, and farther refers to actual physical distance.” That solved the problem for me. To take it a step *further*, I would say movies are educational. Grammar is everywhere.
    One more thing (this is not to correct anything Kate wrote; I’m just on a soapbox now). No apostrophe is wanted for a simple pluralization. Too often one sees this done: “Bring your ID’s,” rather than “Bring your IDs.”

  24. 24 tkasmlch slor July 12, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    fmarbhg hdyqzk ducg uogrmnc odelsmbj mudcqel tjkqru

  25. 25 Emily October 2, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    Hey,
    Just wanted to point out that it IS okay to end your sentences with a preposition. Your opinion is a commonly held misconception.

    Here’s a reference and explanation and there’s many more references in it:
    http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/GrammarGirl/ending-prepositions.aspx


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