What happens when you try to take away your 22-month old’s Wubanub to take a picture, and it turns out she was prepared for you? Something like this:
I have made no secret over the years how I feel about entitled, self-important teens and “adults.” The Supreme Court’s decision in Fisher v. University of Texas has just brought all those old feelings to the surface.
What I think about affirmative action is irrelevant to my feelings about Fisher. The bottom line is that the SCOTUS never should have taken this case in the first place. In fact, no appellate court should have taken this case. Why? Because, quite simply, Abigail Fisher had no injury.
I am one of those people who is a freak (and probably a pain) about good grammar. Sure, I make allowances for auto-correct or (in a casual or personal setting) mindless errors made by quick action and/or lack of proofreading. Heck, I’m not perfect; I realize (sometimes too late) that I make grammatical mistakes that I shouldn’t have because I know better. Heck, in some situations, I even use bad grammar on purpose. Those are not the things that bother me. What bothers me are the mistakes that people make because they just don’t know any better—and worse, sometimes because they just don’t care. That’s unforgivable. It makes me fearful of the educational system (both public and private), and it makes me weep for future generations, who are certainly on the road to proving that Mike Judge’s Idiocracy may be less fiction and more of a prediction (a sad, sad prediction).
What are some of the things that really grind my gears?
Sigh… I could go on for days. But I’ll stop here, because the whole point of this post was to talk about making (note, not “makeing”) bad grammar and spelling mistakes work for you, right? So here goes…
I recently started a job where I’m doing much more (almost exclusively) transactional type legal work than litigation. Switching practices like this has brought our my inner grammar geek in full force. You would think that my former practice (a litigation hybrid), involving a lot of memos and court pleadings, would have given me more encounters with bad grammar than my current gig (transactional work, for those of you that didn’t click the link, consists of non-litigation things like drafting contracts); but it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of bad writing to be seen in my days as a litigator. However, most attorneys who are drawn toward litigation tend to be good writers [I’m not talking about those general practice lawyers who do anything and everything; I’m talking about people who are strictly in litigation or litigation-hybrid practices of law]. Also, those who aren’t good writers usually (but not always) tend to acknowledge their weaknesses in that area and leave the heavy drafting to the good writers. I suspect that I’m seeing so much bad writing in a transactional setting [not, mind you, coming from any of the lawyers at my current job, who are all as grammar geeky as I am], because when people start drafting things from a form, they get really lazy. And if they’re already inclined to be lazy or just don’t know any better, they don’t know when the things they are copying are wrong, and they also don’t know how to make their new additions to those forms look right.
Today, I received a draft [not from anyone at my company!!] that had the word (rather, “word”) “interfear.” Seriously. If you don’t know what’s wrong with that word, we’re already starting at a deficit here. Honestly, I don’t even know how someone could have given me a draft with the word “interfear,” because the red swiggly line was clearly under that puppy. I mean, the only thing I could imagine other than pure laziness causing the person not to notice, is that s/he [not saying which] has written that word so many times, that s/he finally added it to his/her custom Word dictionary. If that’s the case, that’s just sad. Because if that happened to me, I would be inclined to do some Google research to see why Word hated my word so much.
Seeing this patently wrong “word,” however, reminded me of an e-mail forward I got a long time ago about The Washington Post’s Style Invitational. In one of the contests, they asked readers to take any word from the dictionary; alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter; and supply a new definition. The contest generated such awesome words and definitions as (my personal favorite) “sarchasm” (n.): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
Taking a cue from the witty readers who contributed to the Style Invitational, I decided to make lemonade out of lemons and come up with my own definition for “interfear”:
interfear (n) the terror one experiences when burying a corpse (i.e. fear of interring. e.g., “I was supposed to be a pallbearer at my grandmother’s funeral, but my interfear got in the way.”); (v) to be afraid of placing a corpse in a grave or tomb (e.g., “My grandmother’s funeral is Sunday, and I’ve been interfearing the funeral rites.”)
I shared my made-up definitions with the co-workers who had commiserated with me this morning over the awful grammar in the document I was reviewing. We all decided to make this a “thing.” The next time we get some godawful, “they really should have known better” spelling mistake, we’re just going to make a new word out of it. Of course, this doesn’t help at ALL with the everyday grammar mistakes that don’t involve gross misspellings, but at least it’s a start. And if you have any idea how to put a silver lining on those monstrosities, please let me know.
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This afternoon, The Huffington Post angered a number of fans on its Facebook page when it posted the following:
“Tell me about yourself…”–four little words that seem so simple. But are they?
We’ve all heard it before. Dates, job interviews, small talk at a party or professional event. But how do we answer it? And what does our answer say about us?
Obviously the answer to “tell me about yourself” is going to depend in part on the setting and the audience. You’re not going to answer that question on a job interview or at a professional networking event with “On the weekends, I’m really into being tied up and beaten with small, light whips,” even jokingly [unless, of course, your business industry happens to be related to S&M]. Just like I’m sure your attachment parenting support group doesn’t really want to hear you laundry-list your resumé and all of your professional accomplishments. But even within a tailored setting, the way you answer that question can be tricky. Not to mention, there are those times when you are asked the question in one setting, when the intention is another altogether.
I was recently asked this question in a professional context. As I usually do in a professional setting, I started answering it from a professional standpoint–what my practice area is, where I work, how long I’ve been doing it, etc. I was cut off. “Nah… I don’t want to know about your legal career. I want to know what you like when you’re not being a lawyer. What do you like to do? Do you have any hobbies?”. Instantly, I relaxed. Suddenly, I no longer had that feeling of being “on.” But then where to go? Do I mention that I have an unhealthy obsession (as many other lawyers do, I’ve found) to trash reality TV? Do I talk about my children? Shrug. So I began where I usually do, “I really like to write…”.
For most of us, who we are is multi-layered. You can talk about your children or your hobbies. You could talk about your background from birth to present day. Or you could just talk about the week you’ve been having. But where do you begin? “Well, I was born in a small town near Timbuktu to John Doe and Jane Smith-Doe. There, I attended Almost-Timbuktu Elementary, where my first grade teacher was Miss Know-It-All…”.
This is why “tell me about yourself” with nothing more bothers me. I don’t know what information, if any, the asker is actually seeking. Not to mention, sometimes it feels like a trick: what do you prioritize about yourself? On a theoretical basis, the first thing that pops into your head should be the most important thing about you, right? But I suspect most people are like me, and within a millisecond, you’ve filtered your personality down to one innocuous thing about You© that you can share until you gauge who this stranger is and what his or her end game is. For any stranger who has used this question as some sort of personality or litmus test on me, sorry to burst your bubble, but you likely did not receive an answer that told you the things I feel are most important about me. We don’t know each other well enough for that kind of disclosure. For anyone who used it because they really didn’t know how to ask the right direct question to find out what it is about me they really want to know [which, I suppose in most cases is, “Do we have some common traits that can take this conversation from awkward introduction to a meaningful exchange?”], then I apologize if my answer did nothing but drag out the uncomfortable first-meeting scenario. But you’ve gotta work with me here!
For the personality test, I feel like there are so many other indirect ways you can find out what values a person holds dear. For someone like me (the “semi-open book” type), maybe your best bet is to skip the beating around the bush and just ask me direct questions. If you want to know if I’m a religious person in the same way you are, asking me “tell me about yourself” and hoping that somewhere in my rambling answer some church activities come up is really not a productive way to go [particularly if this is in a professional setting, since, ya know, it’s usually best to avoid topics of religion and politics unless you have a reason to believe the other person is on the same page as you]. Why not just ask me outright, “So where do you go to church?” or “Do you go to church?”. Yes, it might be momentarily awkward when I answer that no I do not go to church, nor am I Christian; but at least then we can quickly move on instead of you asking me over and over to “tell me something else about yourself.” Because we will never get to anything close to that topic. We just won’t. If there’s something you want to know about a person, why not guide them in the right direction?
If “tell me about yourself” is your way of making small talk and getting past an awkward introduction, you have actually failed in that regard, because you have now made me more uncomfortable by forcing me into a situation where I am taking a 30-second personal inventory, where I have no idea what bits and pieces of information would be remotely relevant or interesting. How about asking more detailed questions, such as the person who stopped me mid-rehashing-my-resumé-track: “What are things you like to do outside of work? Do you have any hobbies?”. In this particular instance, the pointed question led to skipping over my stock answer about writing [an area in which the asker had no interest], and into a nice back-and-forth about crafting, a rug I randomly decided to make, and an excellent kids’ craft idea she made up for one of her children’s birthday parties years ago. By focusing her general question on one particular aspect about me [hobbies], we were able to find some common ground which led to a pretty lengthy and mutually interesting discussion.
“Tell me about yourself” is such a horrible stock question. Whether you’re interviewing someone, courting someone, trying to make a new friend, or just trying to fill some time while the person you really want to talk to is otherwise occupied, why not instead try something a little more direct or specific? You’ll be glad you did.
Tell me: How do you all generally answer the magic “tell me about yourself” question?
Some lawmakers in Texas and the lieutenant governor are now working on legislation to allow teachers to bring guns to school and allow for gun training for those teachers. Even ignoring how absolutely awful that idea is, this is exactly what I meant yesterday when I talked about fucked up priorities.
In 2011, Gov.
Goodhair Rick Perry cut $4 billion from the Texas education budget, resulting in the layoff of thousands of teachers, larger class sizes, and, as a natural result, a worse education for many public school students in Texas.
So we can’t provide the funding to keep all our teachers and reduce class sizes, but we can provide the funding to arm and weapons-train teachers (many of whom don’t even want the training)??? Are you fucking kidding me?!?!?!?!
I need out of this state. Fast.
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