I Feel Seen
Finding your people in poorly constructed sentences
This is an entry in the Saturday series of Timeless & Timely called “Off the Clock.” A newsletter for word nerds.
“Grammar, n. A system of pitfalls thoughtfully prepared for the feet for the self-made man, along the path by which he advances to distinction.” — Ambrose Bierce, 1906
We’ve been talking about awareness, attentiveness, and vigilance this week.
As a grammarian, I feel like I’m always on duty.
Eternal vigilance is the price of good grammar, after all.
Punctuation, spelling, tense, parts of speech, context, syntax, sentence structure, etc. To me, it all matters.
And at times, it feels like I’m alone. Or as if I’m a shunned pedant if I point out any inaccuracies online.
Only when I alight upon a fellow grammarian do I feel as if I’ve found my people—people who understand the eye twitch and irresistible need to pull out the red pen.
I can’t be sure of this, but perhaps my appreciation for grammar came from my love of Bugs Bunny cartoons as a child. I remember this exchange between Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, as they feuded over the target of Elmer Fudd’s hunting in “Rabbit Seasoning.”
Bugs: “You keep out of this. He doesn’t have to shoot you now.”
Daffy: “Ha! That’s it! Hold it right there! Pronoun trouble. It’s not 'he doesn’t have to shoot you now.' It’s ‘he doesn’t have to shoot me now.’ WELL I SAY HE DOES HAVE TO SHOOT ME NOW! SO SHOOT ME NOW!!”
Throw in some Schoolhouse Rock and you’ve got the early stylings of someone who cared about the proper use of the English language—maybe a little too much.
If you are enjoying this edition of “Off the Clock,” this is bonus content I write most every Saturday—thoughts that fall somewhere between Timeless & Timely, often about language, literature, or that are just plain fun.
So it should be little surprise then, that when I saw the following on Twitter, I felt as if I had found my fellow Saturday morning tribe:
“I seen” grates on me like few other things.
Not quite as bad as “You better” (instead of the proper “You’d better”).
But I fully expect to hear “I seen” said by someone telling a story who undoubtedly says “You better” and likely utters, “I says.”
It might go something like this:
“I was drivin’ down the street and I seen this guy and his family broke down on the side of the road. So I pull over and I says to the guy, I says, ‘Hey pal!’ I says. ‘You better get that thing looked at. Yous need a lift to the station?’”
Admit it. You read that in the voice of someone you’ve met who actually speaks that way.
And with that, I’ll leave you to grab the ice pick you now need for your eardrums.
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.
Nice piece today, Scott! And I admit it--I'm guilty of frequent uses of "You better." I'll be watching myself in the future!
You should never visit Eastern Kentucky. Almost everyone there “seen” something. I gave up correcting them long ago.