Today’s post isn’t going to be so much about actual GRAMMAR, per se – I’ve got nothing in particular that I want to investigate this week (though I AM still pondering why it is that most of my students love to begin their sentences with “by,” “with,” or “being.” Can anyone shed some light on that?). Nope; this week’s Grammar Wednesday post is about how we discuss language.
California Teacher Guy sent me an email months ago, asking me to parse out the phrase, “went missing.” I put together a Grammar Wednesday post about it, posited my theory about the origins and uses of the phrase, and sat back and waited for the comments to come in.
Boy, did comments ever come in.
Most folks agreed that my assessment of the phrase was correct – that we use “to go missing” in the same way we use the phrases “to go gray” or “to go crazy.” Go, in this case, is more about the transition from NOT something TO something – first I was here, then I was missing; before, I was a redhead, now I’m a silver-top (no, not really, but it’s coming; I can tell).
I’m not writing this post about the grammar, though; remember that.
What I’m writing about is that a commenter (who must have only recently found the entry, since she started commenting this week) took enthusiastic exception to the explanations that were offered as answers to the questions. Vehement exception. Strenuous exception.
Now, I have absolutely NO problem with people being excited and energized about these topics – I encourage such behavior, in fact – I DO take issue with the way some people express that excitement and energy, however. I am fortunate enough to not have to deal often with trolls – commenters who plague the internet with their vitriolic comments and vituperative hate-speech – but do I sometimes find that commenters flirt with the line between energized discourse and disrespectful diatribes.
I’m also not comfortable with closed-mindedness. While it’s certainly okay with me that people have ideas and opinions (yes, even if they’re 180° different from mine), it’s not okay with me that people refuse to even consider that there might be a valid argument on the other side, particularly where language is concerned. Languages (well, most of them, anyway) are living, breathing, evolving things. I’ve been pried out of my strict adherence to rules and traditions because I’ve paid attention and considered the opinions of others around me. There are some things that I choose to retain; I dislike starting sentences with coordinating conjunctions in formal writing, for example, but I am also willing to concede that it’s not UNGRAMMATICAL to start a sentence with “and” or “but.” More to the point, I would never say (or imply) that the person who taught me that it’s not ungrammatical is ignorant.
I suppose what I’m getting at is that I love to have heated discussions. I adore it when smart people get together to hash out complex and interesting topics. I like it when people point out my mistakes and challenge my assumptions; how else am I going to learn what I really think about something? Let’s all try to be mindful, though, to be polite and professional while we’re doing it. As I tell my students on the first day of class – it’s perfectly okay to disagree with someone; it’s never okay to disrespect them.