Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Word From The Grammar Grinch

(A comment first posted on Salon)

Mr. Keillor:

A nice set of sentiments and an enjoyable read, overall.

I do have to say, though, that it appears as though Joan Walsh made some poor choices during her recent cutbacks -- does no one proofread at this joint anymore?

I was first irked by this:

This city enables one to leap or pipe pretty much whenever you feel like it ...

I can appreciate that "enables one to leap ... whenever one feels like it" sounds a bit stuffy, but if you're going to use the second person, use it. Don't be ashamed of it. It's perfectly acceptable in all but the most formal of writing these days.

This is just inexcusable:

A man gets a keener sense of the divine in a church that is not your own.

Particularly coming from a man who insists on saying. "Whom are you kidding?"

Nitpickingly yours,


Anonymous said...

If I had to make a comment about what Mr. Keillor wrote, I wouldn't emphasize the grammar mistakes but the content. He makes judgments about what other people think or experience. What does he know?

bjkeefe said...

One way to look at it is that he's using the second person a lot, which exaggerates the sense that he's speaking of or on behalf of others. It's probably also true that he chooses to say "you this" and "you that" as a way of reaching out to those who might be thinking some of the same things.

As to what he knows, well, who knows? But if you're a fan of Garrison (as I am), you almost certainly like him in part because he is a keen observer of the human condition. He's surely not speaking for or about every last person, but he's capturing a zeitgeist here, I think.

Anonymous said...

I don't know Garrison. I may be a little touchy about certain topics these days. I have the impression that too many people make assumptions about what others think or feel, or believe, or what motivates them, that may not be accurate. I'm also leaning towards finding tolerance and when people express their opinions in terms that disregard others' views I feel disappointed.

bjkeefe said...

Yeah, that does sound like a touch of touchiness on your part. Writers (that work in his genre, at least) are supposed to offer insights into what makes people tick.

I don't think you should take his possible over-generalizing in that piece too literally. I'm sure he would not claim all people think the way he was indicating. Certainly, I found any number of his observations relevant or resonant, while not believing that the emotions he describing were universally shared.