The Colonial Theatre Tea Garden

The beauty spot of downtown Richmond was, in 1921, the Tea Garden of the brand-new Colonial Theatre. Herein, we recreate the essence of elegance, joy and hauteur that was once found in Virginia's first real picture palace. Bathtub gin is available at the top of the grand ramps.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Before hitting the main point, another brief note to something inanimate:

Dear Rain:

What have I done to annoy you? I know I get a little cranky when you decide to fall on me when I'm not expecting you, but really now.

You've stayed away for an entire month and then, blam. I put clothes out to dry, they dry, and then right about the time I realize "Oh, the clothes should be dry now," you elect to appear and make them not dry anymore. Then I let them hang out for another few hours to dry for the second time and NOW I CAN SMELL YOU IN THE AIR AGAIN. Damnit, rain, do you have something against my need for clean clothes?

Just wondering.


Now for my non-inanimate peeve of the moment: Publicly bad grammar.

I am perfectly aware that I am a grammar Nazi and that no one in the "real world" cares about grammar because it's all, you know, old-fashioned and stuff, and doesn't "really matter" because "you know what I mean." Well, you know what? Sometimes, if a person's usage is really awful, I don't know what he means and therefore, sadly and outdatedly, grammar does matter. Also, if we hope to achieve world peace (or much of anything else) it's just a wise idea to be able to communicate with some level of efficiency.

Tonight, while somewhat distractedly watching "60 Minutes," a commercial for Mutual of Omaha was shown. This was a touchy-feely commercial. It featured a woman who was talking about how proud she was to have finally finished her education, and how VERY proud she was of her mother, who had (at some advanced age) gone to college and finished HER education.

One would think--wouldn't one? that in a speech about the importance of education, someone might have done enough proofreading to make sure that the speaker used correct English. Unfortunately, no one did, and she didn't. She referred to "a picture of my mother and I."

Why do people insist on misuse of the first person pronouns? Do people think that "I" sounds more formal than "me" and is automatically preferable? Does anyone say "This is a picture of I?" (Just in case you don't realize what's wrong here: "mother" and "I" are both objects of the preposition "of," so that the objective case pronoun--"me"--should be used instead of "I.")

Retail establishments have fallen into an equally annoying pattern of incorrectness masquerading as either misguided friendliness or perceived correctness. The proper thing for employees to say, it seems, is now "Can I help who's next?"

Dear stores: THIS MAKES NO GODDAMNED SENSE. CUT IT OUT. "Who's" is a contraction. What the employee actually says here is "Can I help who is next?" Does this make sense to anyone? I didn't think so. Also, since they're store employees, one would hope that they can help the customer. The question is whether or not they may. So, let's correct that part: "May I help who is next?"

Not much better, is it? Perhaps it should be "May I help the person/customer who is next?" Unfortunately, that's a bit unwieldy, and probably sounds too formal. Modern people don't like formality; it frightens them and they start worrying that people will judge them and that someone will ask them which fork to use and they won't know and will be looked down upon. Which, frankly, they should be because figuring out which fork to use is about as difficult as figuring out how to breathe.

I'm not sure what's wrong with "May I help the next customer?" but something must be, because I've not heard it in years. "Next, please?" was a fairly workable option, but I haven't heard that in quite some time either. Its problem may be that it doesn't sound formal enough.

I've noticed that my students will invariably pick the most convoluted, overwrought answers on multiple choice tests. This lends some credence to the idea that people want to be more formal at the expense of being correct. The fork concept fits in here, as well: Obviously, it can't just be the first fork on the left, which is the easiest to pick up, because that would be--well, obvious, and because table service is all Formal and must therefore be Complicated, that couldn't be the right one. Never mind that it's far and away the logical (and correct) choice.

My conclusion is that the vast majority of people are stuck in a hopeless conundrum. They want things to sound more complex, or to be more complex, because if it's difficult to grasp then it's probably right. However, because the complexity is frequently unnecessary (or just plain wrong), they fear it and deride it as unnecessary (which it frequently is).

So, here are some of my basic life tenets for Society:
1)Grammar is easy.
2)Use grammar correctly. Do not overcomplicate your sentences. What you think sounds intelligent and important actually makes you look stupid.
3)Forks are also easy. Do not overcomplicate dinner. What you think makes you look sophisticated also makes you look stupid.
4)Overcomplication taxes small brains. Cut it out, or you'll blow a gasket. It also taxes the patience of people who are smarter than you are. Now you know why I'm angry.