In praise of English class

June 20, 2018


The local news featured the story of a disgruntled customer at a popular restaurant who had discovered ABC (already been chewed) gum floating next to the okra in their gumbo. “It’s gumbo — not gum-bowl! He and me ain’t never gonna eat here again!” The viewers gasped in shock, half because they hated to hear about a pot of wasted shrimp, and the others were jolted by the woman’s poor grammar.

In praise of English teachers everywhere, let me just warn young folks that no matter what you think you’ll end up doing in life, absolutely everyone needs to plan on being a public speaker and writer.

If you want to be a baseball player, you’ll have to speak with reporters and answer fan mail, and you don’t want to look like the stereotypical dumb-jock. If you plan to inherit your daddy’s taxidermy shop, then you’ll eventually be asked to write a story for your trade magazine, “Stuffins-n-Such.” Parents need to write proper letters to the teacher explaining why Junior doesn’t have his homework for the third day in a row, and attorneys not only need to be able to write precise legal documents, but these days, need to be well spoken on their screaming commercials as well.

Although it’s great fun to write a, “Dear John” kind of letter that includes words like, “scumbag,” “low-life” and “sorry *#! fool,” a good English professor can teach you how to zap a simple-minded oaf with something like, “Your delusions of virtue cause me to believe you are doomed to a life of questionable character, and I for one, will not tolerate such unscrupulous behavior.”

On the happier side, absolutely everyone should be able to write a passionate love letter, and not one that includes little boxes that are labeled, “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.” If you’ve spent your time in English class daydreaming, you won’t know how to express yourself and your true love may end up falling in love with someone else during the pig races at the county fair, just because you couldn’t get your message across in a little note.

Everyone flubs up grammar now and then, although I’m lucky enough to have 22 professional editors check my work each week (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it so I’m never to blame for the over-use of punctuation I love so very much!!!), but worse than poor grammar, it seems that getting to the point of the main idea confuses people whether it’s a simple note or a novel. My husband has encountered trouble over the years finding employees with good correspondence skills. Even an Ivy League graduate he hired flubbed-up basic client letters and emails to the point we really needed to drop-kick him through the goal post of life.

I’ve saved all my husband’s love letters he’s sent me over the years, even the disgruntled one he wrote in college after I broke up with him and he addressed to, “Miss Leslie Anne I didn’t mean to turn you on Harrison” (it was a song, kids). His letters were so brilliant, I had to give the guy a second chance. The only other letters I’ve ever saved were from a red-headed high school crush. His clever notes were written on notebook paper and slipped to me as he would take the books from my arms to carry to the next class. Charming, for certain, and a fine example of the power of the written word.

I loved all my English classes, but never in my wildest dreams thought I’d end up writing more than a grocery list. Other students were far more talented, but because of blessings, luck, stubborn determination, or as some of my classmates suspect, a deal with the devil, I have 6 years’ worth of columns, a real publisher, and a real book, that you can swat bugs with and everything. (I’ve also been told it also doubles as a great door-holder — thanks, Mom). And if I ever find gum in my gumbo, I promise to honor my English teachers by expressing my disgust with proper grammar, exactitude and panache.

To see this story at the site and share it from there with an English teacher you love, click HERE.

Leave a Reply

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more Leslie Anne. It is so important to teach our children how to speak and write. My concern now is public schools are not teaching our children cursive writing. This is terrible, most children won’t even be able to sign their names!!!!! What can we do???? I am so upset about this, it’s ridiculous:(

  2. Leslie Ann what are we to do? I do worry that basic skills are not being taught. What happened to a simple thank you note? I am tired of giving graduation gifts and never receiving a thank you note. That was forbidden by my mother. I am sorry I drifted off the subject. Have a wonderful weekend and stay cool!

    1. Oh, it’s all related! The basic skills are definitely missing and you’d be shocked to learn what replaces them. My son had a required class i 9th grade where they spent a week cutting out pictures from magazines to make a poster about what they wanted to be when they grew up. – NINTH grade! A WEEK! The next son, we homeschooled and it was awesome.

  3. Amen, Sister! Between the grammar and Tara O’Hara’s cursive, you have found a subject dear to my heart! My pre- vet students at Clemson lamented often and vehemently over being forced to take 3 semesters of English. “I’m going to be a veterinarian, why do I need grammar?!?” Well, maybe you are going to discover the cure for hip dysphasia or feline leukemia and will need to write a scientific article about it!! Who knows? And cursive…students may have a 1600 SAT score, but they can’t even sign their own names. How many times in your life have you had to sign documents?

    My beloved high school English teacher, Mrs. Robinson, taught me an appreciation of writing, good grammar, and even greater literature. And she especially taught me to appreciate a wonderful fountain pen. To this day, 50 years later, all my thank you notes are written with my Waterman fountain pen from Paris. Please don’t get me started on the lost art of thank you notes!!!

    1. Pens! My favorite part about having a book is getting to sign them with a good pen. Your’s sounds very fancy. Good for coaching your pre-vet students. We have veterinarians who appear on our local TV station to discuss pet issues and they are all smooth-talkers who give pet owners confidence!

  4. Is it really square to admit that English class was always my favorite? Algebra and geometry were agonizing for me but I liked nothing better than being given a complicated sentence to diagram.

    I cringe when network reporters interview a random fellow Tennesseean for a story, they always pick one who says, “I seen this…or I seen that.” And yet I have forgotten so much over the decades, have to constantly look up something and often substitute there for their or something simple like that on FB, proving that I must must must proofread first.

    And has it just become accepted to say I instead of me as the subject of a verb? It’s said so often on primetime television that it has begun to sound more correct than what actually is correct.

    I bet anyone who knew you in school knew that you’d end up writing much more than grocery lists. I’m sure the writer of those brilliant love letters knew that.

    My best to you who always has great panache,

  5. I admit to being a grammar snob (Are all teachers?), and I just cringe when reading Facebook posts. That is another really good reason to know correct grammar, spelling, etc.
    Don’t embarrass yourselves, folks. My granddaughter is in honors English and loves writing, so we probably have another grammar snob emerging! I’ll take that over appearing to never have had an English lesson.
    Ditto to the writer about thank-you notes!
    Great post, Leslieanne! ??????

    1. Thanks Sue. I make mistakes these days because I need to update my glasses, and it drives me crazy when I catch something wrong I’ve typed. Also, for some reason, the “N” key on my computer is flaky, so I’m having to double-proof read it all. The Facebook people need to learn to re-read their posts before making it public. You are so right! Good for your granddaughter. Encourage her!

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