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High School Confidential

May 27, 2009

I have a thing for a teacher I see each morning. He’s not my teacher–I finished school long ago. This one sits in the corner at the café, and leans his elbows heavily on the table, slopping a bit of coffee over the brim of his cup. I know nothing about him, not the subject he tackles, his age, his full name. I’m not sure whether students call him “Mister” or if he operates on a first-name basis. I have detected his affection for grammar, and note that he writes left-handed, grading with a simple red ballpoint. It’s possible he’s lovely. It’s equally possible he has disgusting quirks, maintains a squalid little bachelor pad, or shares his home with a cute girlfriend. All I know is, he laughed at my joke about semi-colons, and with that snicker, conquered the “crush” sector of my heart.

I am incensed by bad writing: the wrong “its”; shamefully poor advertising copy; hastily pecked text messages; illegible post-it notes attached to office files; internal emails that clearly weren’t read aloud to see how they sound. You know how sometimes a phrase scans ok, but when it’s spoken, suddenly seems ridiculous or rude?

For instance:

“Human Swine Flu!” read the subject line of a broadcast email delivered to the Ontario Public Service, of which I am a member. A well-drafted letter signed by a prominent official was attached; yet, that subject line conjured memories of the three skeezy bachelors I dated last month. Human swine, indeed.

From my grammatical intolerance, I infer a dribble of elitism, a quietly bitchy superiority. That’s not so hot; I should keep that in check. I am not above making a mistake or three; I don’t profess to keep a tidy workspace or to pay perfect attention to detail. I drink wine while I write, eat dinner from my lap, watch my penmanship deteriorate when I jot things at high speeds.

My favourite school teacher, Miss Sinclair, paced before my grade thirteen class, beating style and knowledge into our heads. “You will rarely meet another person who knows how to correctly punctuate the word ‘however’,” she drilled. “Remember where to place the semi-colon and you will go far.” She presented similarly vague reasons why we should be grateful to learn the art of the precis (economy of language, awareness of what matters and what is merely extraneous fluff) and to recite soliloquys by heart (just because). Miss Sinclair was stuffy, frumpy and dry. And, she was dead right.

One Comment leave one →
  1. looka permalink
    May 27, 2009 5:37 pm

    Oh yes! A new issue of the Cakes-and-Neckties literary SUPER-mag! YUM!

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