Saturday, October 9, 2021

Adjective-y Adverb-ly Nouning (Day 283)

I like to add "ing" endings to nouns in order to make them verbs (let's call this Noun-ing). And I love adding a "y" to the end of a noun to make it an adjective (adjective-y). I add an "ly" to make a noun an adverb (adverb-ly). I don't do anything to verbs. Since they are such active words, they are hard to catch!

Get it?

I realize that most people would believe a writer to be obsessed with the rules of grammar and language. Perhaps that a writer would respect the rules and guidelines put forth by a variety of style books and manuals and very well-meaning teachers.You might also think that a writer would be an above average speller, with a firm grasp on phonics or whatever letter sounds are. 

And some writers are both grammarians and very skilled at spelling words. 

But, not this one. I stink at both. 

Last things first, I still have trouble with d, p and b sounds. I am a horrific speller. Before spellcheck, I legit carried a giant dictionary in my Lisa Frank backpack. 

I once had  a loud, emotional argument with my 6th grade teacher over the word VIOLET. I was naming my main character, a member of a neighborhood crew of kids, Violet, after the flower or the color. Violet was a Punkie Brewster-y character--rainbow socks, a high ponytail, a pet lizard in her backpack and a heart of gold! Her mother was a stay-at-home-mom who was amazing at baking cookies and her father had some boring job that no cared about but paid the bills. She was a balance to Ruth, who was obsessed with facts and rules and whose parents were doctors. 

I am not sure how I spelled Violet, but my teacher insisted I was trying to name a child VIOLENT. Violent is not even an appropriate name for any child and even if it were, using Violent as a child's name would dictate an entire plot and character change. A child named Violent would not have a friend named Ruth! And Violent would not have a mother who baked cookies! Violent would have a single mom and a dad in jail. 

After a very loud and emotional argument in the back of the classroom, I was forced to rename the character Jen. 

I am still upset. But, I can spell Violet, finally. 

First things last, I love the magic of words and commas and em-dashes and oxford commas and semicolons and incomplete sentences and run-on sentences with a binge-y amount of "ands" in the middle. Grammar is an amazing tool! Grammar rules should be broken all the time, in order to get ones point across. Binge-y piles of "ands" in a sentence set up a cadence that makes you feel the plentiful nature of the list. A comma just cannot do the same thing. However, a comma can signal a short pause in the flow; while an em-dash can make you feel a long drawn out moment that is not quite a pause. 

The rules can mess all that up and leave you with a set of sentences suitable for your 4th grade homework sheet. 

I once mentioned all of this in a job interview for a copywriting position when I was asked why I selected writing as my profession. As I rambled on about the beauty of building and positioning words and punctuation together to set a tone and call readers to action, I watched the woman interviewing me make a very cringe-y face. Literally, her face was so pinched, I thought maybe she was having seizure or a stroke, but the cringing was evenly spread across her face, not just on one side like it would be with a stroke. Her entire face was like totally pinched up and tight. 

Apparently, I called her impressive facial muscles to action! 

Anyway, she said something like, "well, we take grammar very seriously here!" To which I replied, "I thought you cared about the environment!" (It was for a copywriter job at the Environmental Defense Fund!) Her face remained pinched. 

I decided not to take the grammar test that was emailed to me after our interlude. I would have failed it anyway. 

I did not get the job. (and guess what, the ENVIRONMENT IS A MESS! TAKE THAT!) 

Obviously, I am also prone to off-topic sidebars, but I think that is okay. 

Writing is all about creating something--a speech,  a manual, an ad, a marketing email, a social post, a blog, an article. All of these written pieces are made up of words and emotions and story. Foundation and structure both have a place in writing. And that place is at the bottom.

(Don't tell my old English teachers about this blog! They are scary people.) 

Writing is art. And art cannot live under an oppressive regime of grammar rules. 





 


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