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October 22, 2007


This week's teeth-gritting Style section

Grammar Bytes

A few articles from yesterday's Times Fashion & Style section that seem to provide some meta-commentary on the world we live in.

First there's a piece on socialite Tinsley Mortimer's husband. His name is Topper, he's an investment advisor and a fan of Caddyshack, and he offered many spectacularly clumsy quotes that I am very grateful to the Times for choosing not to clean up at all:

"It’s worked out well for Tinsley," Mr. Mortimer said. "She’s built a great business for herself, she’s heading in the direction that she’d like to see herself."

But, he continued, "I don’t know that the route to how she got there is what I’d tell my 5-year-old girl to follow if I had one... I just never liked that whole thing with everybody trying to gain status from being involved in these charity events."

As awkward as his criticism is, Topper is clearly unhappy about his wife's pointless fame. Sure, he could have married someone who wasn't such a calculating publicity-hog, but he didn't know he would end up connected to the empty, self-serving elite social scene. He later compares Tinsley unfavorably to LeAnn Rimes, who also attended an event, because at least LeAnn "didn’t make her bones going to charity parties. She did something else." Preach it, Topper!

Next we've got a "What's Next for Lance Bass?" piece about his memoir, Out of Sync (a title I bet celebrity biographers have been dying to use for most of the last decade.) He says "it was very, I don’t know, like, therapeutic" to write the book, but as much as he hopes his former bandmates will read it (especially JT, who he slams for going solo) he's not sure they will. "It’ll take them a while because none of them like to read," he said.

It must have been hard for the Times to publish so many gems in one section, but later they indulge their editorial superiority with "Your Modifier Is Dangling", a tribute to hopeless cause supporters who rage against grammatical abuse. These people have started Facebook clubs like I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar and Grammar Freaks United in which they can vent their outrage at the world.

OK, I hate it when shampoo ads say their product "structurizes" your hair as much as the next girl, but check out this advice from business writing consultant Lynne Agress about what to do when somebody you're talking to makes a grammatical error:

Don’t point out the mistake. Instead, repeat what was just said, but with correct usage this time, and in your own sentence. Then keep talking.

"So if someone tells me that everyone has their issues," she said, "I reply, 'Yes, everyone has his issues, but that doesn’t mean we have to worry about them.'"

Yuck! Gee, I think they might pick up on your totally unsubtle correction, there. I know, "their" is wrong. But many people who have a robust appreciation of grammar use "their" as a replacement for the clunkier "his or her" when speaking, knowing it's incorrect, to avoid using sexist language. The fact is, there is no polite or non-prickish way to correct someone's grammar unless you are a teacher, or unless someone specifically asks you to edit their writing. You're just going to have to bitch to your grammar vigilante Facebook group.

categories: Books, Celebrities, Culture, Media, Music
posted by amy at 10:48 AM | #

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