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 AL.com site and share it from there with an English teacher you love, click HERE.