Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Performing Editing on Those Still Alive

I ranted elsewhere about Mignon "Grammar Girl" Fogarty, "the Rachel Ray of style and usage."  She puts me in a bad mood.  She's of a collective of bloggers offering tips in various areas of life, all of whom end with "guy" or "girl" or in one case "diva."  Being of the old guard, I take words like diva and guru very seriously; I do not glibly apply them to anyone shooting their mouth off.  Further, I feel appending "guy" or "girl" after an interest and claiming this as your unique monicker is the very sea bed of unimagination: "basketballgirl," "gamingboy," but "analdiva" would be permissable.  There's a 50% chance I'd want to meet such a person, and a 50% chance they are forbidden to approach within a 300' radius of my person.

If you're going to call yourself "Grammar Girl," in particular, you'd better give better advice than "oh, just do what you wanna."

What got me started on this was the purchase of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Weird Word Origin.  Some jagoff got it into his head he'd compile a bunch of strange words with stories behind them.  I'm an etymology enthusiast, I'm attracted to linguistics, but what separates this sad assortment from any number of other books, like, The Superior Person's Guide to Words?  Hell, Weird Word Origin clearly cribs from it, as well as a couple obvious Web sites I looked up.  And the selection is desultory: "from soup to nuts" is a fairly common expression but is not mentioned, while the author has seen fit to explain "bluestocking" which has scarcely haunted a mind of my acquaintance.  As for the word "bug," as in technical error, the author starts in with "the popular story is that it started this way," then decries this notion and explains it actually was in use several decades prior... and then neglects to explore its true origins.  He claims Stephen Colbert invented the word "truthiness," though the OED shows it in coinage around 1824 (J.J. Gurney's Memoirs).

And when under namby-pamby I found he'd written something like "...has come to mean all things week or effeminate," I lost my temper.  I was at work so my red pen was already in hand, and I edited the misspelt weak right on the page.  I tore through the book, pointing out factual and grammatical errors left and right.  After a couple minutes of this it occurred to me that I could have just returned the book to the store and gotten my money back, but this was far too late for that.  It's been suggested to me I could mail this book back to Paul McFedries, the author and self-styled president of Logophilia Limited, belatedly providing the editorial services he should have sought prior to publish.

So I'm on a word streak, and I'm also very discouraged about my judgment as pertains to whimsy purchases.  I've made a couple lousy decisions on the fly about things I thought I needed, things that seemed really appealing to me.  I seem to have lost the intuitive touch as to what I'll truly enjoy and what's a piece of crap, a scam.

And I've also realized that, as hard as I've fought against the rising tide of anti-intellectualism, I have still succumbed to the stigma of being good with words.  Rebecca brought me to a work-related function where her coworkers gathered at a bar, and with them I was quite chatty and fluid, despite never having met any of them before.  But in my own workplace it is quite another story: I'm proofreader/editor there, I've been contracted for my skill with the language, and with that skill comes a sense of shame for having that skill.  Decades of being called "bookworm," "know-it-all," "grammar Nazi," being made to feel like a freak for having a broad active vocabulary, have built up quite a residue on my psyche, and in a room full of laid-back creative types, I feel disarmed, stodgy, and entirely awkward.  I dress casually but I feel like I'm wearing a starched shirt and tie beneath robes and a mortarboard.  I feel like the laity's perception of my role must affect how actual people perceive me, and rather than behaving to rise above this, I hold myself down within the preconceived identity and feebly struggle within it.  It's going to take a long time to hit my stride, and who knows if I'll even be with the company long enough for that to happen: I'm so grateful for and enamored of this position, the universal balance can only swing the other way and take it away from me.  Most of my favorite anime end after one or two seasons, my favorite flavor of ice cream is discontinued, my favorite shampoo and hair conditioner have been taken off the market, so surely I cannot be permitted to retain this dream job.

The only thing that's made me feel good in recent past was my discovery:

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