Tag Archives: Language

Ever Jump Out at Someone and Say ‘Baf’?

The author sent me this new & improved graphic! Oh yes he did.

The author sent me this new & improved graphic! Oh yes he did.

It’s Tingo Tuesday!

The first Tuesday of each month, I share a word from The Meaning of Tingo & Other Extraordinary Words From Around the World by Adam Jacot de Boinod.

The best comment wins a month of love in my sidebar!

Cool, right? So if you’re a blogger, folks can click over and check you out for 30 days! Free!

But don’t worry if you’re not a blogger. You can  still win, so don’t be shy about leaving your best comment!

Today, I’m sharing the Czech word, VYBAFNOUT, which means to jump out and say ‘baf.’

As a kid, I hated my parents’ basement. Unlike the rest of our house, the basement was dark, cold, cluttered and wicked creepy. For a time, an African mask hung over the fireplace; its white eyeballs followed me as I passed to bring my basket of dirty clothes to the laundry room where the washer and dryer lived.

NOTE: I was willing to endure this psychological trauma to ensure my most awesome pair of perfectly faded, very torn, and strategically patched Levi’s were available whenever I wanted them.

I did a good job of freaking myself out in that laundry room.

Mostly because I was certain that while I put my jeans into the wash, that spooky mask had come to life and someone was waiting to get me — in the other part of the basement. To avoid the scary, masked-perv (who was apparently afraid of dirty laundry), I hauled ass when it came time to go back upstairs.

Sprinting across the shadows, I hauled a$$ up the 11 stairs to the landing adjacent to the pantry.

Believe it or not, the scary masked-man perv had an irrational fear of Hostess Ho-Ho’s, so that was the place I knew it was safe to breathe.

One day, the pantry door opened. Two hands reached out toward my neck.

Holy poop on a stick! 

I think I pounded the baf out of my brother that day.

Or he pounded me.

I’m pretty sure we both ended up banished to our rooms for a while.

{Okay, so he didn’t jump out and say baf, but still! He jumped out at me, people. I’m thinking the Czech ‘baf!’ = the American ‘Boo!’}

The main point here is that this is why I hate basements.

I love how other cultures have compact language for the actions and concepts for which we haven’t necessarily got the right word.

Now it’s your turn!

Leave me a comment about a time when you jumped out and scared the ‘baf’ out of someone  — or someone jumped out and scared the kakka out of you and receive a very scary, authentic African mask for free.

Just kidding.

This month’s winner is Christie Tate of Outlaw Mama. Last month we were talking about the Hawaiian word pana po’o, which refers to how some people scratch their heads when they are trying to remember something. Outlaw Mama wrote:

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 11.23.21 AM

Look at Outlaw Mama in my sidebar. Isn’t she cute? Click on her nose to read her amazing stuff. And I mean amazing. You will clutch your face and scream, as if someone jumped out at you and said baf!

tweet me @rasjacobson

You have until June 22, to enter! A new winner will be revealed on the first Tuesday in September. Why am I making you wait until September? I’m using the summer to develop more content. Or work on my tan.

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Je Ne Comprends Pas: A #SoWrong Moment by Margaret Lawrenson

SoWrong

Click on the eyeball to be directed to other writers who are participating in this series in 2013.

About 9 years ago, Margaret Lawrenson and her husband, Malcolm, bought a house in Laroque d’Olmes, France, a faded town whose glory days are long over. About 5 years ago, the British couple started to spend nearly all their time there. Margaret’s blog gives the reader a slice of French life. Her photographs are exquisite and her stories of day-to-day life in a tiny romantic village will make you long to hop across the pond. And yet, there is a longing, too. Despite their largely successful efforts at integration, despite loving much about their life in France, she sometimes misses life in England with friends and family.  Check out Life in Laroque. Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest, too.

• • •

Je Ne Comprends Pas by Margaret Lawrenson

All she wanted to do was to take our order. But we became more and more frustrated, even hysterical, at our inability to explain to the waitress that we’d only given our order (‘café solo e café con leche’ – we could cope with that) about a minute ago to her colleague. Sadly, he wasn’t in view, so we couldn’t point him out. And she couldn’t understand that we were fine thanks, our coffee was on the way, and we didn’t need any more help.

We were in Spain, in Catalonia, visiting our daughter for the weekend, and we couldn’t wait for her to join us in the bar. When she arrived, she smoothly took over, explained the tapas menu to us, and gave our order to el patron. He complimented her on her Spanish, but then spoilt it by wondering if she were Belgian. As if. We’re Anglo-Saxon to the core.

You see? We're fine now. Emily's placed our order and I'm free to take a photo.

You see? We’re fine now. Emily’s placed our order and I’m free to take a photo.

We found it so difficult and frustrating being in Spain with only the most rudimentary language tools. Although all efforts on our part to communicate in Spanish or Catalan were greeted with friendliness and enthusiasm by the locals it was all uphill. We battled to be understood, they battled to understand, but laughter broke down lots of barriers.

That was about 6 months ago. I resolved there and then that I Must Try Harder. I’d learn Spanish; maybe do a course in-line. After all, daughter Emily’s in Spain for the long haul.

Really, I should know myself better. I don’t do learning all on my own. Give me a set of muscle-toning exercises to do in my own time, and I’ll maybe do them once, grudgingly, clock-watching the while. But tell me about a good keep-fit class and I’ll be there every time, one of the group, putting my all into every movement.

And so it was with Spanish. I fiddled about looking for a suitable course on line, found one, and that was as far as I got. I hadn’t been able to find a class to go to locally, though I really looked. Result? I’ve learnt no Spanish. And now I’m paying the price.

Last week, The Orange Man was in town, the place where we live in southern France. Occasionally, he drives up to our patch of France from his patch of Spain with a whole container-load of oranges. His boxes of fruit are so sweet, so juicy, that once he’s set up his stall in the forecourt of a disused petrol station, he sells the lot within a couple of days . Just one snag. He only speaks Spanish.

So I turned up, having painstakingly worked out my order.

“Hola,” I flashed a confident smile. “Una caja de naranjas por favour.”

Big mistake. Despite my accent, he assumed I was fluent. Delighted at last to have the chance of a chat after sessions of mime and sign language, he opened his mouth. Several days’ worth of pent-up chat flowed forth and he didn’t even notice my baffled silence. Beaming, he helped me to the car with my case of fruit. He all but dispensed with the small formality of being paid. And I felt small, and mean. He’d stood there for two long days with nothing to do but wait for customers, and I couldn’t even help him while away five minutes of his time.

There we are:  A container load of oranges.  All I have to do is ask for a box....

There we are: A container load of oranges. All I have to do is ask for a box….

This time, I got away with it, but I’ve got a long way to go before I no longer have to wag my finger at myself – ‘Must Try Harder’

How do people who come to live abroad cope if they don’t try to master the language? We know of English people who’ve been here in France ten years or more and can still barely communicate. If we found it embarrassing telling the waitress we didn’t need her just then or speaking to a vendor of oranges, how much worse would it have been if we’d been trying to contact a plumber, say, or the local town council?

Most of our best times in France are spent sharing experiences – whether it’s a walk in the mountains, an hour at the gym, or simply having a drink together – with our local friends and neighbours. We worked really hard before we came to France to get the basics together, and even harder once we got here. Our efforts were appreciated. It meant we could use local shops instead of making an impersonal trip to the supermarket. So we met people. Locals tell us about the things that are going on, recommend an electrician, invite us to a party, or to go on a walk. We turn up to things so often we’ve become part of the furniture. We’re no longer ‘that English couple’, but simply ordinary active members of our community. It’s been hard work. And we still make embarrassing mistakes, as when we translated the word for organ (as in the splendid instrument you may hear in church) using a word that’s more often used for – um – sexual organs.

Embarrassment is good. It spurs us on. Must Try Harder so that, little by little, we need to Try Far Less Hard, and our Little Learning becomes A Lot.

Ever experience any embarrassing moments while traveling abroad where language let you down?

tweet me @rasjacobson • Margaret ne tweet pas

{NOTE: I want Susie Lindau to know my thoughts are with her today as she bravely faces her double mastectomy. I know she’d want me to say it straight, just like that, because that’s what’s happening. If you know Susie or you know someone who’s battled breast cancer, leave Susie a comment for her HERE. She’s a fighter, that one! #SusieStrong}

Tingo Tuesday: Have You Ever Gone ‘Akihi?

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It’s Tingo Tuesday!

The first Tuesday of each month, I share a word from The Meaning of Tingo by Adam Jacot de Boinod, and you get the chance to win a month of side-bar linky-love.

Today, I’m sharing a Hawaiian word.

Have you ever walked off without paying attention to directions? Well, then you were ‘akihi.

I do that all the time. Kind of.

Say I’m lost. I try really hard to pay attention to the person giving me directions, but then I get back in my car and realize I can only remember maybe 2 of the 19 steps involved. So I drive towards the general vicinity of my destination and plan to stop 37 more times. FYI: Folks who work in convenience stores give the worst directions. And the best directions come from mail carriers. Those folks know where they are going.

I love when other cultures have language for the actions and concepts for which we haven’t necessarily got the right words.

Now it’s your turn!

Leave me a comment about a time when you wandered off all ‘akihi and get a map for just $3.99.

If I love your comment the way my husband loves his GPS, I’ll slip a photo of you into my sidebar so folks can check you out all month!

If you are not a blogger, don’t worry. I have plans for you, too.

This month’s winner is Audrey Frampton of blogschmogok who explained her distaste for neckties started when she worked at IHOP. Can you say polyester neckwear? To see the comment that won her a month of sidebar linky-love, click HERE.

Now it’s your chance!

Tell me about a (real or fictional) “‘akihi” moment. What happened? Where were you? How long did it take until you got to your destination?

tweet me @rasjacobson

You have until February 27, to enter a comment! The winner will be revealed on the first Tuesday in March!

Tingo Tuesday: Tell Me About A Krawattenmuffel Moment

Cover of

Cover via AmazonIt’s Tingo Tuesday!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

What do you mean: “Keep it down!”? I know everyone was getting down and getting intoxicated funky last night.

But it’s Tingo Tuesday!

Just because everyone is hungover doesn’t mean we should stop playing, does it? No way!

Plus Adam Jacot de Boinod actually emailed me to tell me that he liked Tingo Tuesdays.

I know, right? How cool is that?

In case you are new here, here’s how this works. The first Tuesday of each month, I share a word from The Meaning of Tingo & Other Extraordinary Words From Around the World by Adam Jacot de Boinod.

And today is Tuesday!

So I’m sharing a German word with you.

Have you ever known someone who absolutely hates wearing neckties? Yeah, well that person is a “Krawattenmuffel.”

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 12.04.09 PMGuess who married one? I did! I love when we are invited to go to a fancy-schmancy party and Hubby reads the invitation and groans: “Black-tie optional? Does that mean I have to wear a tie?”

I would think guys would LIKE to wear neckties. After all, they are one of the few fashion accessories that are made especially for them. The way I see it, men have neckties and jockstraps. And while I love a good garage sale, I’m not currently interested in checking out anybody’s junk.

I love that other cultures have language for the actions and concepts for which we haven’t necessarily got the right words.

So now it’s your turn!

Guys, leave me a comment about a time when you acted like a total krawattenmuffel and win a lap dance for just $25.99. And ladies, tell me about that special tie-hater in your life. Comments can be real or fictional.

If I love your comment as much as Hubby hates the floral tie I bought him back in 1993, I’ll slip a photo of you into my sidebar so folks can check you out all month!

If you are not a blogger, don’t worry. I have plans for you, too.

This month’s winner is Kristal Zacharias of Clearly Kristal. To see the comment that won her a month of linky-love, click HERE. It is a masterpiece that will make you totally hate her old elementary school nemesis, Debbie. After you leave me a comment here, be sure to check out Kristal at her place. Just click on her face in my sidebar and you will be magically transported!

So tell me about that (real or fictional) “krawattenmuffel” moment. What happened? What color was it? How bad was it?

tweet me @rasjacobson

You have until January 31, to enter a comment! The winner will be revealed on the first Tuesday in February!

Tingo Tuesday: Tell Me About A Blue Smile

Cover of

Cover via AmazonIt’s Tingo Tuesday!

It’s Tingo Tuesday!

The first Tuesday of each month, I share a word from The Meaning of Tingo & Other Extraordinary Words From Around the World by Adam Jacot de Boinod.

Today, I’m telling you about a Welsh word.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of an insincere or mocking smile? Well, then you got the “glas wen.” Literally, a blue smile.

There is this chick that I know. My husband golfs with her husband. She hates me. And she flashes me a big, fat “glas wen” every time we run into each other, which — luckily — isn’t often.

I love that other cultures have language for the actions and concepts for which we haven’t necessarily got the right words.

So now it’s your turn!

Leave me a comment about a time when you received a “blue smile” and get a complete makeover for just $79.99.

Seriously, if I love your comment the way my husband loves his green blanket, I’ll slip a photo of you into my sidebar so folks can check you out all month!

If you are not a blogger, don’t worry. I have plans for you, too.

This month’s winner is Jess Witkins. To see the comment that won her a month of linky-love, click HERE. It is a masterpiece!

Tell me about a (real or fictional) “glas wen” moment. What happened? How bad was it?

tweet me @rasjacobson

You have until December 31, to enter a comment! The winner will be revealed on the first Tuesday in January!

Tingo Tuesday: Tell Me About Your Grief Bacon

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It’s Tingo Tuesday!

The first Tuesday of each month, I share a word from The Meaning of Tingo & Other Extraordinary Words From Around the World by Adam Jacot de Boinod.

Today, I’m telling you about a German word.

You know that excess weight that you gain from emotional eating? Germans call that “kummerspeck.” It literally means “grief bacon.”

Now, I have to admit, I’m not big on the pig. I know Americans have this bizarre love for bacon that, frankly, has me bewildered. It has to be the most un-heart-smart food, since, like… ever.

But.

I totally get the idea behind being so emotionally devastated that you tried to fill the hole with food. I remember how I felt when Tad dumped me when I told him I wouldn’t give him a blowjob.  I cried forever. I totally gorged on grief bacon.

And Ho-Ho’s.

I love that other cultures have language for the actions and concepts for which we haven’t necessarily got the right words.

So here’s the way it works!

Leave me a real or fictional comment about a time when you ate a lot of grief bacon.

I’ll pick one comment I love the most.

If you are a blogger, I will announce your identity and slip a photo of you into my side bar which will link to your blog so people can check you out all month. If you’re not a blogger, don’t worry. I will let everyone know how smart you are.

This month’s winner is Amber West from A Day Without Sushi.

THIS is where Amber left the comment that impressed TechSupport, and made her sweep this thing. Enjoy your time in my sidebar, Amber. You look so natural there.

Now, tell me about your “kummerspeck” moment. What happened, pookie? And what did you munch? You have until November 30th to be considered for the spot in my sidebar.

tweet me @rasjacobson

What the Deuce Does JINGLEKEET Mean?

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It’s Made-It-Up Monday! The last Monday of each month I throw out a 100% made-up word and ask you to:

  • define it
  • provide its part of speech, and
  • use the word in a sentence that indicates how the word could be used.

Because it’s fun.

And because someone gave me the book The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words From Around the World by Adam Jacot de Boinod.

You know how sometimes someone taps you on the opposite shoulder from behind to fool you? The Indonesians call that “mencolek.”

I’ll bet that word comes with an eyeroll.

Imagine two Indonesian kids walking down the beach. One kid attempts to poke his buddy, and the other kid says: “Wow, dude. Good one. You almost got me with that mencolek.” *eyeroll*

For me, it’s reassuring to know that other cultures have language for the actions and concepts for which we haven’t necessarily got the right words.

If I can’t find the right word on the word-shelf to fit my mood or predicament, I just make one up.

The first blogger to use my made-up word even remotely close to the way I do shall receive linky-love. And by that, I mean I will announce your identity and link to your blog during next month’s Made-It-Up-Monday, so folks can head over and check out your stuff.

If you are not a blogger, don’t worry. If you guess the meaning, I will highlight your name in bold and let everyone know how smart you are. If you are looking for a new job, you can put “uncanny ability to define 100% bogus words” on your resumé and direct prospective employers here. I will totally back you up.

Last month, the bogus word was INDICULT and Peg from Peg-O-Leg’s Ramblings guessed that it meant a person who is crude, indelicate, and difficult to deal with. Her sentence: “Peg knew that if her sister-in-law had more than 1 beer at the reception, she would become indicult and start dropping f-bombs all over the place.”

Yes yes and yes!

Now… before you all jump ship and go check out Peg-O-Leg’s awesome blog (which you should definitely do in like two seconds), I have to tell you something.

Because it is my blogoversary month, this time, I have a copy of Tingo to send to one lucky commenter!

The person who comes closest to using my bogus word in the way I do shall receive the aforementioned book, BUT if no one comes close, I will tell you how I use the word and Random Number Generator will be my best friend. So there is definitely a winner, people!

Continuing alphabetically, this month’s word is:

JINGLEKEET

What the heck is that? Define it. And give me a sentence in which you show me how you would use it.

You know, if it were a real word. 😉

All blogoversary winners will be announced on June 2nd — once I figure everything out. However this winner will be announced on the last Monday in June. Good things come to those who wait. Or something.

Other blogoversary giveaways you can enter to win:

The Write-Brain Book

Elena Aitken’s ebook Sugar Crash

A handwritten card from me

Tyler Tarver’s ebook Letters To Famous People

HotDog Yoga Rollpack Giveaway

Tweet this twit @rasjacobson

Who’s the “Derpy-est” One of All?

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Today I continue with Made-It-Up Mondays.

Every once in a while, I throw out a made-up word and ask you to a) define the word, and b) then use the word in a sentence that indicates how the word could be used.

Why? Because someone gave me the book The Meaning of Tingo: And Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World.

For example:

You know that feeling of anticipation when you are waiting for people to show up at your house and you keep wandering over to the window to check to see if they are there yet? Yeah, well, the Inuit call that “Iktsuarpok.”

We don’t really have a word for that in English, do we?

When I can’t find the right word on the word-shelf to fit my mood or predicament, I often just make one up.

The last time we did this the word was “castanurgle, and I created a poll to find out which answer readers thought was the best answer. Folks voted for Chrystal from The Spirit Within.  She said a castanurgle is “a dilemma for which there is no easy solution.”

Funny, I always thought a castanurgle was when you just so happened to be stuck in a castle with a case of the sniffles and you don’t have any tissues handy! Shows you what I know. 😉

Continuing alphabetically, this week, the made up word was:

DERPY

But then I learned DERPY is a real word! Kind of.

I mean, it’s in Urban dictionary! See definition HERE!

So, who’s the derpy one today?

I’m guess I’m revising things retroactively.

What’s the “derpy-est” thing you’ve done lately?

Like I sprayed perfume in my mouth this morning.

Also, I spit my mouthwash into the garbage can.

Also I wrote this blog about a word that isn’t a word that is a word.

Derp.

From Zhaghzhagh to Arborcade

Cover of "The Meaning of Tingo: And Other...

Cover via Amazon

Today marks the beginning of a new feature for me: Made-It-Up Mondays.

On Mondays when I’m in the mood, I am going to throw out a 100% made-up word and ask you to a) define the word, and b) then use the word in a sentence that indicates how the word could be used.

Why? Because someone recently gave me the book The Meaning of Tingo: And Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World.

(Of course, it is my new favorite book.)

I read that that there are approximately 1,010,649.7 words in the English language. And while this seems like a really enormous lexicon, many nuances of human language sometimes leave us tongue-tied.

Sometimes it is necessary to turn to other languages to find a word to find le mot juste.

As Bill DeMain noted in his article “15 Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent”:

“Zhaghzhagh” is a Persian word, a noun, meaning the chattering of teeth from extreme cold or rage.

We don’t really have a word for that in English, do we?

When I can’t find the right word on the word-shelf to fit my mood or predicament, I just make one up.

It will be fun to see what other people come up with.

Remember, you can’t be wrong because the word I throw out will be a 100% fictional word.

If you’d like to submit a made-up word of your own, feel free to contact me. (My info is under the “Contact Me” tab.)

I’m starting alphabetically.

This week, the made up word is:

ARBORCADE

What the heck is that? When would you say it? Define it and give me a sentence in which you show me how you would use it.

You know, if it were a real word. 😉

Much Disagreement About Agreement

About a week ago, everyone in my neighborhood received this green postcard from the newly opened Huntington Learning Center. Very eye-catching.

Truth be told, normal people probably tossed it right into the recycle bin. But because I read anything and everything of/or related to education, I flipped over the card.  And I proceeded to do a little dance. Because I knew I had a blog.

Here is the back of the card. Can you spot the error?

The scene of the crime!

What? What do you mean you don’t see it?

Don’t worry, you are not alone. Almost no-one catches this error. In fact, it has gotten so that this “error” isn’t really considered an error at all. So today’s “Who-Gives-A Crap” moment is brought to you courtesy of this twit.

For those of you who are still looking at the postcard going: “I still don’t see the problem,” don’t be ashamed.

The problem is in the sentence:

Help your child learn skills they’ll use all year.

The issue is that “child” is singular. How many kids? Unless you also have a secret love-child unbeknownst to your wife, the answer is one.

But the folks at Huntington linked that singular child to the pronoun “they.”

Whaaaat? Where did all those extra kids come from? I thought there was only one kid.

To be sure, a person can deploy the “singular-they” in his or her speech, and it will likely pass without objection. People do this all the time. Spoken language is more casual than written language because of the speed at which we speak. We can forgive our newscasters, our reality TV hosts, our Snookis.

(We can forgive Snooki, right?)

But careful writers try to avoid using the “singular-they” whenever possible.

Looking for linguistic affirmation, I went over to the folks at Let’s eat, Grandma’ or ‘Let’s eat Grandma’: Grammar Saves Lives’ on Facebook to see if I might get some help from the moderators there.

I asked someone – anyone – to show me a page from a Style Book that says it is correct – even acceptable – to use this construction. Mike Workman showed up at Grandma’s and declared:

I figured someone might say language is always changing and the non-gender specific use of the word “they” is just easier. It sounds more natural, and we don’t have to fuss with any of that “he/she” stuff. But I didn’t expect someone to tell me that “most style guides accept ‘they’ as a gender neutral collective noun that could also be used as a singular noun.”

Whaaaaat?

Throughout the thread, Mike kept insisting that it was fine to use “singular-they.” He quoted famous authors who had done so from Shakespeare all the way up to the 1930’s. I gritted my teeth. To me, all that meant was that famous, dead authors made errors that, sadly, went into their books. (It seemed unfortunate that those great authors didn’t have better copy editors.)

Every time Mike said it was okay to use the “singular-they,” I kept thinking: Eating with our hands seemed more natural than using cutlery until someone taught us how to use forks and knives, no? I felt like I was getting linguistic advice from a Deadhead who had eaten way too many ‘shrooms. His message seemed to be: “Oh go ahead, it’s all right – nobody cares – do whatever you want, dude!”

So I went looking for these sources to which Mike was referring. (Because I am that geeky.)

And, frankly, because I was scared that I have been teaching it wrong.

And then, Charles Young showed up, my knight in shining armor. Or my Grammar Geek in white underpants. It didn’t matter. He swooped in to rescue me. He parried Mike Workman with his linguistic sword:

Okay, so I didn’t totally understand Charles, but I knew he was trying to agree with me. In a really fancy way.

Fifty comments later, Mike and Charles were having a serious cyber fist-fight. Each man was equally passionate about his (their?) love for me feelings about the use of “singular-they.” One man said, “Yea!” The other said, “Absolutely no friggin’ way.”

I figured things would die down at Grandma’s. I went to bed. And then I went away for the entire weekend. And when I came home, I saw the thread was still going strong!

At post 192, people were beginning to wonder if the thread would ever end. I thought I might be blocked from the group for causing such dissension among the ranks.

It was a runaway train. I had to try to stop it.

I left “Grandma’s” again, thinking: What is an English adjunct to do? I mean, I understand Mike’s point. The whole he/she thing is really cumbersome, and didn’t the lucky recipients of those shiny green postcards completely understand the intended meaning? I mean, we knew what we were being offered, right? So what’s the harm?

Well, here’s my issue. This place offers tutoring for SAT testing. And, as of today, if the following fill-in-the blank question showed up on the SATs —

Help your child learn skills ______ will use all year long.

— and the possible choices were:

(A) he

(B) they

(C) he or she

(D) who friggin’ cares?

as it stands right now, choice (A) would be considered sexist; (B) would be considered an example of  poor agreement, and (C) would be considered the correct answer. Although I recognize, at this point, most of you are leaning strongly toward choice (D).

I discussed this with two Advanced Placement high school English teachers and Most Excellent College Department Chairperson: a veritable holy trinity of English educators. And while Mike kept insisting the practice of using “they” is “widely accepted,” I was unable to find one single Style Book that stated it was “grammatically correct” to use this construction in formal essay writing.

I mean, some of us have to teach Comp-101. We have to explain the rules.

The nuances of language are complicated. It isn’t easy to master all these rules, especially the ones that feel archaic and forced. Come September, I am going to explain to my students that they need to have a speaking vocabulary and a writing vocabulary. I am going to try to convince them that we have to be poly-lingual. We need to know how to speak one way to friends and another way to teachers. We may write one way in texts, but (hopefully) that is different from the way we correspond to our parents and educators. On Twitter we have to Tweet it in under 140 characters, which requires a lot of creative abbreviation that would not be acceptable in a formal paper. Ever. The reality is, each of us needs to be literate in every one of these vocabularies (and others, too). We all need to be able to move between these worlds effortlessly and with expertise.

Call me old-fashioned, but until the folks at the Modern Language Association tell me otherwise, “singular-they” shall be considered sloppy usage.

Excited by my epiphany, I decided to pop in to “Grandma’s” and – to my horror – the thread was still going strong with over 400 comments! And even though I totally wanted some of the cookies that I knew were baking in the oven, I turned my back on “Grandma’s” house. It was getting ugly in there. I’m telling you, they were bringing out the Bazookas. And I don’t mean the bubble gum. Who’da thunk I’d get so much mileage outta dat ‘they’ question?

Do I need to tell the folks at The Huntington Learning Center about this? And seriously, what do you think they’ll say? Did anyone even make it to the bottom of this post?

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