This week we welcome another very special Guest Curmudgeon: the always witty and gratifyingly annoyed Heidi Mastrogiovanni.
I know this is going to sound like I’m bragging, but that’s probably just because I am. I must begin my guest blog post by sharing with my readers (okay, the Curmudgeon’s readers would probably be more accurate; I am, as stated mere seconds ago, a guest here) that I have met the Curmudgeon in person. Yes, dear readers, I am that cool.
We were at a Christmas party and we were introduced by mutual friends, and I immediately thought I would have a reaction similar to the one I had when I met Conan O’Brien in person: stammering, babbling about how much I loved him and his work, and generally coming across as a total loon. Which is exactly what happened when I met the Curmudgeon. Because I am a huge fan of his work and his irascibility, all in the defense of that which is good and proper. The Curmudgeon is, in my world, a rock star. A very, very, very literate and articulate rock star.
But enough about him. Let me tell you how I feel about our Glorious English Language (yes, initial caps are required; our language is that cool). But first, let me start with a little television history.
In 1986, the BBC and PBS broadcast “The Story of English,” a nine-part series detailing the development of the English language. Have you seen it? No? Stop reading this guest post right now. I am serious. Go to You Tube and watch it. All nine episodes are there. I’ll wait.
. . .
Seriously, was that series amazing or what? Now you know why, thirty-plus years later, I am still absolutely crazy about that video homage to our Glorious English Language.
A side note regarding our Glorious English Language: I learned German because my mother was German and my parents and I spent six months in Germany when I was two and children pick up other languages in maybe half a day. I speak German fluently. But I do not, and have not, and probably never will “get” the grammar. German has three definite articles and, by conservative estimate, a bazillion cases. It is fucking insane.
Side note to my side note: I think “fuck” is one of the most expressive and versatile words in our Glorious English Language. Don’t bother arguing with me about this. I will never, ever, ever, EVER change my mind regarding that exquisite monosyllable. If anything, I only hope to love and utilize it more and more over the years.
Okay, back to my original side note: When I complain to my German family and friends, all of whom speak English fluently and beautifully (my cousin in Bremen can make hilarious and complex jokes in English, which is entirely admirable and entirely infuriating) about their der, die, and das, and all the variations thereon, and how wonderfully easy it is in English to just use “the” all the time, their response is always words to the effect of, “Yes, but try learning that mother tongue you love so much when you’re not a native speaker. The letters ‘ough’? Pronounced, what, a bazillion different ways? And there’s no rule to learn about how to pronounce those letters in all the different contexts in which they are used, correct?” To which I respond, “No, I don’t think there’s a rule, so you just have to—” and they jump in and finish the sentence with me, “know it.”
Then my German family and friends add, “We have rules about der, die, das, and all the cases. You just have to learn them.” After scowling mightily, my retort (in German) is usually, “Shut the fuck up. Rules or no rules, your grammar still sucks.” (I have no idea if the noun “Grammatik” is masculine, feminine, or neutral in German.) (Yes, German gives all nouns, not just proper nouns, initial caps, which I think is actually pretty cool, but don’t tell my German family and friends that.)
Okay, back to my point before my first side note: I remember one episode of “The Story of English” that had people speaking Elizabethan English. Which is, you will not be surprised to hear, very different from modern English. And this illustrates, I am forced to admit, the point made so often in response to my outraged and self-righteous posts on Facebook and Twitter about spelling, punctuation, grammar, and syntax: “Language evolves. It changes all the time.”
Fine, fine. Language evolves and changes. It also devolves. Things that were once incorrect, because they happen so often over time, are somehow considered correct. And this, in my forever-never-humble opinion, is a crime.
I’ll give you just one example.
What is the first person possessive pronoun?
This is not a trick question. It’s “my,” right? And you use it when you’re referring to something that belongs only to you, and also when you’re referring to something that belongs to you together with someone else. “This is my house.” “This is my husband’s and my house.”
So guess what I’ve been hearing? “I’s” as the first person possessive pronoun. On television and in person, I have heard “[proper noun]’s and I’s [different noun].”
I distinctly remember hearing this usage on “The Bachelor.” “Garrett’s and I’s relationship is in the early stages.” And, believe me, I’ve heard equally horrifying variations on this theme, and certainly not just on “The Bachelor.” “[proper noun]’s and my’s,” “Mine and [proper noun]’s,” and the exquisitely grotesque “Mine’s and [proper noun]’s.”
The fact that I watch “The Bachelor” is something of which I am not proud.
What the classic fuck is going on with “I’s”? I have heard it more than once. Indeed, I have heard it a disturbing number of times. I have heard it often enough that my head is once again in danger of exploding from yet another assault on our . . . say it with me . . . Glorious English Language.
Thus far, I have not seen “I’s” in print anywhere. I have only heard it. But I might see it in print one day, and maybe even one day soon. Because one day it might be considered “correct” English usage. Because language evolves, right?
Fuck that noise. “I’s” is incorrect. Massively incorrect. And, in my forever-never-humble opinion, it will never, ever, ever, EVER be correct. I bet you anything the Curmudgeon agrees with me on that.
And I bet Conan O’Brien probably does, too.
Heidi Mastrogiovanni is the author of the comedic novel Lala Pettibone’s Act Two (finalist for the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards) and the sequel, Lala Pettibone: Standing Room Only. A dedicated animal welfare advocate, Heidi lives in Los Angeles with her musician husband and their rescued senior dogs. She loves to read, hike, travel, and do a classic spit-take whenever something is really funny. Heidi is graduate of Wesleyan University. Her novels explore the themes present in all her work: It’s never too late to begin again, and it must be cocktail hour somewhere. http://heidimastrogiovanni.com/