Opinion: Misuse of langage stops me cold

<p> Field Days is finished; the hectic last few weeks of August are here, and it&rsquo;s time for our kids to get ready to return to school. By &ldquo;our kids&rdquo; I don&rsquo;t mean our own sweet cherubs. I mean our collective kids, the children of Addison County. It takes a village to raise a child, right?</p><p> And it takes a village to create a literate environment to model for our children that language and learning matter.</p><p> In some ways we excel in creating such an environment. We have a variety of local newspapers. Our three large towns and many of our smaller towns enjoy active public libraries. We support a number of excellent independent bookstores and used bookstores.</p><p> But in other ways we could use some improvement in the quality of our literacy environment. Some of our everyday public use of language fires up the teacher in me, and I feel compelled to address my Pet Peeves in Local Language Butchering. Just take a seat at your desk now, and take out your notebook. Ms. Sessions is ready to start class.</p><p> First, there&rsquo;s the misuse of &ldquo;I&rdquo; instead of &ldquo;me&rdquo; when the speaker is the object rather than the subject of the sentence, as in &ldquo;Friends from New York came to visit Sue and I this weekend.&rdquo; OUCH. &ldquo;Friends&rdquo; is the subject, so &ldquo;Sue and <strong>me</strong>&rdquo; are being visited. Another example: &ldquo;Could you save some lasagna for Jeremy and I?&rdquo; &ldquo;You&rdquo; is the subject, saving lasagna for &ldquo;Jeremy and <strong>me</strong>.&rdquo;</p><p> I first noticed widespread use of this jarring grammatical construction a few years ago when I worked in&nbsp; Burlington. I thought perhaps it was local slang gone viral, but now I hear it everywhere, even in my own family!</p><p> Here&rsquo;s a way to remember the rule. Take out the &ldquo;Sue&rdquo; and the &ldquo;Jeremy&rdquo; and say the sentences: &ldquo;Friends came to visit I this weekend.&rdquo; &ldquo;Could you save some lasagna for I?&rdquo; Surely that&rsquo;s an OUCH! If you would use &ldquo;me&rdquo; when it&rsquo;s just you, you still use &ldquo;me&rdquo; when there&rsquo;s a pal involved.</p><p> Second, there&rsquo;s the use of the apostrophe to indicate plural, as in &ldquo;Peach&rsquo;s For Sale.&rdquo; This one takes me back to my days as a fifth-grade teacher, enthusiastically explaining to my students that apostrophes are easy because there are only two uses: to indicate ownership and to show letters are missing (as in a contraction like &ldquo;can&rsquo;t&rdquo;).</p><p> An apostrophe with an s does not mean more than one; it means someone owns something. So we would have to ask, &ldquo;Who is Peach and what&rsquo;s she got for sale?&rdquo;</p><p> And third, there&rsquo;s the super-bargain pricing: Photo Reprints .39&cent; each, Peaches .99&cent; a pound. Step right up, get your photo reprints for less than half a penny, and your peaches for just about a penny a pound!</p><p> A seller needs to choose either the decimal point OR the cent sign &mdash; $.39 OR 39&cent; &mdash; but not the hybrid with some of each, or they&rsquo;ll be selling their wares at one hundredth of their value.</p><p> Do you share my Pet Peeves in Local Language Butchering? Perhaps you have a list of your own.</p><p> The difficult question is this: If we care about the local literacy environment, what should we do about improving it? Years ago, I made myself very unpopular at our children&rsquo;s elementary school by red-penning the newsletters the teachers sent home and returning them to the teachers. Really. I&rsquo;m not sure I want to be that brash any more. Or that unpopular.</p><p> Perhaps we could start a &ldquo;truth in advertising&rdquo; campaign, and hold sellers to their advertised prices. Next time I see peaches advertised for .99&cent; a pound, I think I&rsquo;ll weigh out five pounds, put a nickel on the counter, and say &ldquo;That&rsquo;s OK, keep the change.&rdquo; If you do it too, it will be a Conspiracy, then a Movement! And when we all get out of jail, we can see whether the literacy environment in Addison County has improved. Anything for the kids, right?</p><p> <em>Abi Sessions is a retired educator and proprietor of Good Life Gardens garden design. She lives in Cornwall with her husband, Bill.</em></p>

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Middlebury, VT 05753

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