Grammar Paranoia and the Double Negative Dilemma

Hello, everybody. My name is Joanna, and I suffer from Grammar Paranoia.

I had a fit today. The potential error beamed out of the screen at me like a beacon, gloating at my lack of perspicacity. I immediately showed the typical first symptoms: increased heart rate, shivering, and battering my forehead with the palm of my hand. Then I broke out in a cold sweat. I dropped everything I was doing, and trawled through grammar guides, gnawing anxiously at my fingernails as my stomach did somersaults. Should I really have written “Me, Beyoncé and the hideous hag”? Wouldn’t “Beyoncé, the hideous Hag and I” have been better? (At least I hadn’t forgotten the comma that saves Beyoncé from being a hideous hag. Or does it?) Welcome to the mess I call my brain.

Grammar police

An example of what MM is capable of doing. (Photo credit: the_munificent_sasquatch)

As I have already mentioned on this blog, I am a fully paid-up member of the Punctuation Police. I come out in spots and start muttering obscenities under my breath when I spot a greengrocer’s apostrophe. I tell shop owners in hushed tones that there is a spelling mistake “just here“, whilst my children burn up with embarrassment – they don’t understand that a spelling mistake is as embarrassing as having a bogey hanging out of your nostril. So when I find a mistake in my own writing, I chew off my own arms in despair.

The grammar guides were formal: “I” is used for a subject, and “ME” for an object. So why did my instinct say “ME”? Before my parents threw out the telly, the first BBC educational programme I used to watch as a child was called “You and Me“. Could the BBC have knowingly given their programme a name that was a grammatical minefield? Wouldn’t the Grammar Gestapo have screamed blue murder and burned their dictionaries in front of the BBC’s offices if it had been wrong?

My grammar paranoia turned into an internet hunt using the term “me and you”. It resulted in an impressive list of references to films, books and songs, including that great song, “Me and You and a Dog Named Blue“. I doubt it would have been a hit if he’d sung “You and I and a dog named Blue”. And what about Me and Mrs Jones? Would they still have had a “thing” going on if he’d waffled, “Mrs Jones and I are having a spiffing little fling” instead?

This set me off on a new track about the liberties that the music and film world take by breaking grammatical rules. One of these things is the extremely common double negative. There ain’t no getting rid of that dang double negative. No, siree.

When I switch on the radio and sashay my way around the kitchen, everything goes fine until that fateful moment when the singer spits out that double negative, and I spit my coffee over the hob. Puff Daddy drives me nuts with his eyebrow-raising title “Can’t nobody hold me down“. Nor will I waste any time listening to Justin Timberlake whimpering “I ain’t got no money, I ain’t got no car…” in his song “The way I are”. (I’m sure there must be some deep, philosophical explanation for that conjugation of the verb “to be” apart from it maybe rhyming with “car”, but I ain’t got no time to look, as Justin would say). And last but not least… tadaaaah… our friend Beyoncé. Not only is she the “most beautiful mother in the world”, but she achieves an absolute best of four negatives in her song “Get me bodied”. (Whatever that means. I’ve heard of disembodied, but not bodied). “I ain’t worried, doing me tonight, a little sweat ain’t never hurt nobody“. OK, we’ll take your word for it, Mrs B.

Beyonce Awesome Reaction

Beyoncé during her Olympic quadruple negative exploit (Photo credits: Giphy)

Yet modern-day singers are just continuing an age-old tradition – some of the best singers in history sang to us in double negatives. When Louis Armstrong warbled “I ain’t got nobody”, nobody got their grammar knickers in a twist about the fact that two negatives make a positive, so if he “didn’t have nobody”, he actually had somebody.

It’s too late for me. I’ve tried, tried and tried again, but when I hear Mick Jagger singing that he can’t get no satisfaction, I feel like washing his cavernous mouth out with soap and sending him to bed with a grammar book. If I’d been at Islington Green School when they asked the pupils to sing for Pink Floyd, I’m pretty sure that my mother would have tied me to a chair at home then hammered some sense into the authors with a heavy copy of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Imagine being a copy editor way back then and finding the lyrics of “Another Brick in the Wall” in your inbox. I would have needed a double dose of Xanax just to get over the opening line, “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control”. If Joe Bloggs had written these lyrics instead of Pink Floyd, his masterpiece of bad grammar would have been arrested and put in Pedant’s Prison on multiple charges of taking the English language in vain.

I’ve scratched my head a lot about this, and have decided that singers sacrifice good language use to achieve a familiar, “boy next-door who’s just fallen out of the pub and thrown up beside you on the pavement” style of speaking. So, snot fair. We bloggers ain’t got no right to artistic licence wiv grammar, but them singers duz.

I have gone back to my post and changed the title to something less worrying. I’m sure that Muphry’s Law will apply here, and someone will find at least one mistake somewhere in my diatribe about other people’s mistakes. So be it. A little humility ain’t never hurt nobody. Now I’m off for a little lie down – I ain’t got no energy left.

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MM, Beyoncé, and the Hideous Hag.

I feel like a hideous old hag today. I have decided to take this with humour, so here is a hideous old hag poem penned especially for you (and you, and you, and you). Step aside, Wordsworth. 

Snow White Mirror 1

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all know how the story goes:

“Snow White and Queen Crooked Nose”.

A corny tale. All soft and sappy.

Boy meets girl, and all ends happy.

Snow White’s young and Snow White’s simple,

 Each cheek sports a little dimple.

(Fore or aft cheek? I won’t say –

I think it’s funnier that way).

On her skin there’s not a wrinkle,

crows’ feet or the slightest pimple.

Now what about Queen Crooked Nose?

Everyone knows one of those.

Over fifty, smells of bleach,

and wears men’s Y-fronts on the beach.

An evil cow, she has been known

to lock up kiddies all alone

Then bully them as they implore

her not to make them lick the floor.

Abruptly from her slumbers torn,

Crooked Nose awoke one morn,

Dreams of Prince Charming on a ladder

Disturbed by morse code from her bladder.

Crooked Nose said, “Bugger me!

My bladder’s full – I need a wee!”

She lifted up her evil head

and staggered slowly out of bed.

In the bathroom, washing hands,

in front of mirror Crooky stands.

She nods her head and says, “Woohoo!

Snow White, I’m prettier than you!”

Pulling close she strikes a stance

Like Cindy Crawford in a trance.

“Mirror, Mirror, on the wall,

Who is the fairest of them all?”

The mirror chokes.

The lightbulb flickers

As Crooked Nose drags on big knickers.

Into the mirror the old hag stares,

Her hairy nostrils widely flared.

“I asked a question!” she declared.

“Please answer, then I’ll go downstairs.”

The mirror said, “I’ve had my dose

Of vanity in panty hose.

You’ve asked for it so here we go:

Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.

You’re an old hag, through and through,

So please wake up and smell the brew.

Although the news may make you blue,

Snow White’s light years ahead of you.”

This little ditty is the result of a rude awakening at breakfast this morning (I only wake up when I have drunk my coffee). You can either read on to understand, or turn off your computer and go and do something more exciting, like writing a poem. (If I can do it, so can you.)

All mothers remember that moment when your child comes up really close, holds your face in his hot little hands, and stares earnestly right into your soul. He informs you with great seriousness that you are “the most beautiful mummy in the whole wide world” before planting a heartfelt, soggy kiss halfway across your eye and running off, leaving you with your heart fluttering, your stomach jiggling like a gym bag full of crickets, and salty, happy tears mingling with the trail of snot they left on your cheek.

Well, this morning, after seventeen years of reign, I lost my position as Most Beautiful Mummy in the World. Yup. Heartbreaking stuff. I’ve been demoted – I’ve lost my Most Beautiful Mummy Badge. I am gutted.

I would get over it, cos hey… shit happens. Seventeen years have taken their toll on me – gravity had the great idea of pulling my boobs downwards and sticking them on my butt. Yet what peeved me isn’t the fact that I’m not as beautiful as I was 17 years ago. It’s because I have been thrown off the podium by none other than Beyoncé. Bigfoot informed me this morning that she had been elected “the most beautiful mother in the world”. As he grabbed my laptop to show me a video of her gyrating and pouting across a beach, my heart sank into my boots.

Beyonce

“Bigfoot! Yoohooo! I’m over here!” Beyonce waiting for Bigfoot at Los Angeles Airport. (Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer)

Beyoncé is a mother; all resemblance with MM stops there. Her assets have enabled her to pip me to the post: apparently, a pert bosom, a butt tauter than Rocco Siffredi’s jock strap, and the aptitude to fold herself in half whilst singing and pouting into a camera outweigh my meagre contribution to Bigfoot’s happiness. I’m weedy competition – my lousy getting up every night for two years on the trot, cleaning up sick, wiping up tears, lying through my teeth to lovesick teenaged girls at the door whilst he hid behind the sofa and taxiing him to and from parties in the dead of night don’t appear to come anywhere close.

So Beyoncé, as the Abba song goes, “the winner takes it all”. I’m sad, but you’ll be inheriting him just as soon as I’ve got his ticket sorted. Just a couple of things: Bigfoot needs lots of food. If he slaps you on the backside and shouts « Run, everyone –  tsunamiiiii! », it actually means that he quite likes you. If he goes all quiet on you, leave him be and he’ll be back to talk when he needs to. And watch out at the shopping mall, he’s got expensive tastes in clothing. When you’ve both had enough, can you ask him who the most beautiful mother in the world is? Thanks.

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A Resounding Silence.

The sun tried its best to pierce its way through the heavy clouds that were brooding over the graveyard. Starlings argued in the bare branches of the tree nearby, an irreverent yet timely reminder of life. A sudden gust of wind blew across the line of children, ruffling their hair. One of the boys absent-mindedly ran his fingers through his fringe, then scuffed at the gravel with the point of his shoe.

“Where shall we put it?” The girls moved forward and gently moved two wreaths apart to make room for the plant. Crouching down, they slid the flower-pot on to the tomb, then placed the handwritten card in the leaves and stepped back, feet crunching on the gravel.

Six pairs of eyes looked down at sneaker-covered feet, then up towards the soft, grey, impenetrable sky. I did likewise – like them, I could not bring myself to focus on the sea of white flowers before me. How I wished the sky had been blue. How I wished that the sky had brought more hope that this.

The momentary silence was uncomfortable. Eleven-year-olds are never this silent, and one of the boys answered their unspoken need to justify it by clearing his throat and quietly saying, “I guess it’s time for a minute of silence”. Heads nodded, hands were clasped  together.

Silence ensued. The silence of six children contemplating another child’s grave is unlike any other. It was at this moment that I understood the concept of a “resounding” silence; by definition, silence is devoid of noise, yet silence can speak volumes. The children’s silence communicated so much – feelings and emotions tumbled out of that silence and seeped into me through each and every pore.

The silence spoke. It said that the children had taken yet another step into the hard reality of life, a reality that we parents try to protect them from for as long as we can. It explained that their rounded, pre-teen shoulders were feeling the unfamiliar weight of sadness. The silence reassured me, telling me that they were more mature and more resilient than I had imagined. It was a sad silence that expressed their feelings for the friend who had lost his little brother. It was an angry silence that screamed that life was unfair. It was a frightened silence that asked fate to spare them from the same experience in the future. And a comforting silence that wrapped itself around them and embraced their friendship.

In this roaring silence, a tiny, isolated sound caught my attention. Then another. Light, crisp, clean, almost imperceptible. I would never have heard this sound without the silence. The children noticed the sound too, and their eyes sought its source. The sky had stopped brooding, the tension had disappeared. The first raindrops were falling gently on the ribbons decorating the wreaths.

A voice interrupted the silence. “Ok, I think that’s enough. Wow, it felt like ten minutes.” A nervous giggle rippled through the group. Then they moved. Shoulders were squared, their faces cleared, and determined expressions replaced the worry that had been there seconds before. “Right. Where are we taking him to cheer him up?”

The silence was over.

Post written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: the sound of silence.

Vladimir and The Big Bad Wolf.

The Sochi Winter Games are well under way, and Mr Putin’s appearance as a bare-chested moral crusader wearing his underpants over his lycra ski-pants has backfired on him to a greater extent than anyone could have ever imagined. President Obama was far from being alone in declining his invitation to the party, and even President Hollande waived the opportunity to try on one of those gay, rainbow-coloured track suit tops.

The world is now scrutinizing the Sochi games, and Internet is full of fun yet lucid messages such as this one from the Canadian Institute for Diversity and Inclusion:

Some athletes sported rainbow-coloured accessories for the opening ceremony, and Google adopted the same colours for their home page, quoting the values of the Olympic Charter below it: “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

Values that Mr Putin immediately transgressed with a cool “welcome” to any gay visitors, requesting them to “leave the children in peace” during their visit, and refrain from “homosexual and pedophile propaganda”.

When inviting high-profile international athletes to your winter sporting event, telling them not to touch your kids probably isn’t the best ice-breaker to kick off your party. I have serious doubts that any athletes came to the Winter Games with the plan of converting Russia’s youth to anything at all – be it brussels sprouts or homosexuality – after years of intensive training for a unique opportunity to prove their sporting skills. However, by conflating homosexuals and pedophiles, Mr Putin has shown his true colours: 50 shades of darkness.

It’s not the first or the last time that a politician has used stories about the bogeyman to gain the support of the population. Your desire to “protect” Russia’s children from the big bad wolf of permissive society may be touching for some, but there are a few things that you seem to have forgotten in your haste to prove to the rest of the world what a good moral guardian you are. These have a much more direct impact on Russian children than foreign athletes who you believe could simultaneously promote their sexuality and ski down the Sochi slopes. 

So instead of scaring your kids with gay monster stories, I’d suggest sorting out a few other more pressing issues that have been pointed out by UNICEF and the world Health Organisation, among others.

Like child pornography and prostitution. Whilst you are barking up the wrong tree, children in Russia (and particularly migrant populations) are being exploited in organised prostitution. Whilst you point an accusing finger at your visitors, you forget that you have no current legislation condemning the simple possession of child pornography in your own country. 

Then there’s the human trafficking and child labour. In the child labour rankings, Russia sadly boasts the 69th place in a list of 197 countries exploiting children, and iconsidered to pose an “extreme risk” alongside China. According to the Maplecroft child labour index 2014, Russia is “lagging” in the battle against child labour and trafficking. The report describes the increasing presence of children working in shops, on construction sites and in agriculture, where they use dangerous machinery and harmful pesticides. 

Peter, Ivan and Sasha realize that they have c...

The arrival of international athletes at Sochi, told by uncle Vlad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Russia’s rates of infant, child and maternal mortality are among the highest in Eastern Europe, and the country has the highest incidence of AIDS after mainland Africa. HIV transmission is mainly fuelled by the heterosexual community, meaning that more and more children are being born to HIV–infected mothers.

Living conditions and education could do with some investment, too – Unicef describe a “dramatic increase in the number of children living on the streets or in institutions”, and deplore declining investments in national education, lowering school enrollment rates and preschool availability, falling school completion rates, and less opportunities for poor children in rural areas to access education.

Last but not least, over 650,000 Russian children are registered orphans, yet an estimated  66-95% of all of these children are considered social orphans, meaning that one or more of their birth parents are still alive. If the State believes there is a problem, they simply take custody of the child. Many of those with serious handicaps spend their childhood in orphanages, then get put into adult asylums. New laws are in the pipeline to remove children from their gay parents, irrelevant of whether they are well-cared for or not, potentially sending more children into orphanages when they have absolutely no need to be there.

Will the real big bad wolf please stand up?

“There is no monopoly in common sense

On either side of the political fence.

We share the same biology,

Regardless of ideology.

Believe me when I say to you

I hope the Russians love their children too.”

Sting.

 

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Gizmo, the Smarty-Pants Phone.

English: "Stripe" Gremlin figure, le...

Never get water on Gizmo the smart phone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three weeks before my birthday, Norbert the Nokia kindly decided that I no longer needed the bottom row of keys, lined up like baby teeth at the bottom of my handset. From that moment onwards, I was condemned to only phoning the numbers that were already stashed away in Norbert’s memory, and I crossed my fingers that he would not suffer from amnesia as well as paralysed digits.

But that’s not all. I also had to get my head around a texting world that was devoid of the letters W, X, C, V,  B, M, and N. Texting became as easy as simultaneously whistling and cleaning your false teeth – it was like playing Scrabble with half the letters missing from the box. By the time I had found a synonym that did not need any of the missing letters, the person I was supposed to pick up at the bus stop had given up and walked home.

The major disadvantage of being deprived of these letters was that I was suddenly incapable of refusing anything to my children at distance, as I had no way to type the word “no” in a text message, whatever language I used. The absence of an immediate refusal was therefore interpreted as a tacit consent.

I can hear you all from here. “Why didn’t you just phone them?” I hear you ask. Simple. Using a phone to talk with parents went out with the arc (even if this was the only viable argument they had for buying the thing). When we parents call our offspring, we are generally greeted by the answering machine – taking a call from your mother on the school bus is as high on the humiliation scale as showing a pimple on your backside to your family GP.

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Gertrude and Doris enjoyed calling their children on their mobiles and muttering “I am your Mother” through their gas masks. (Photo credit: Foxtongue)

A teenager’s mobile phone could be defined as an alarm clock that allows its owner to play games, communicate with friends (by text message only), listen to music and avoid being spoken to by the kid in your class who wants to go out with you when waiting alone at the bus stop. It is also an ideal means to reverse those parent – offspring roles and keep constant track of your genitors – a bit like Argos transmitters on migratory birds. When I leave the house at the weekend, I have approximately ten minutes of freedom before the tracking squad kicks in with regular calls demanding where I am and what time I will be back. This makes me feel like a fifteen-year-old girl who’s been caught sneaking out the back door in her sister’s high heels and sequined boob tube when I’m just on a mission to fill the fridge for the second time in three days.

Anyway, I digress. When PF, Bigfoot, Little My and Rugby Boy took me off to choose my new phone for my birthday, I was a happy cookie. My offspring pointed excitedly at ultra thin phones – the technological equivalent of Paris Hilton after a run-in with a steam roller. The things just oozed sexiness, and when I saw the price label I realised why – they’d had enough microchip surgery to keep them looking young until the next model elbowed them off the telecommunications catwalk into early retirement six months later.

A salesman cruised around the corner and mooched over to us. Flashing a pearly white smile, he smoothly ran off the characteristics of the über-sexy model in his hand. When he stopped for breath, I asked, “So, does it phone?” He drew himself up to his full height – somewhere around my belly button. “Yes, madame. You can also takes pictures and videos, surf the web, get the weather all over the world, the news…” When he had finished, I asked: “Does it do the washing-up and bring me breakfast in bed too?”

He blinked. I explained that although it may appear strange, I don’t have an internet package for my phone – I actually enjoy the freedom of not being followed by social media and emails when I’m out. I just needed a phone that phones. I pointed behind him to a bright red candy-bar that could survive being dropped in the Atlantic, thrown off a cliff and run over by a tank. This little beauty had probably been designed by Playschool, and would survive well after the scorpions had kicked the bucket in the Apocalypse. I quickly found myself imagining the scene – I would tuck it under my lycra knicker elastic and be the new Lara Croft, albeit with less generous boobs and extra padding on my bottom half, bounding around the scorched remains of the earth. Yeah. The only girl with a phone that would work to call the President when the other survivor, Bruce Willis, got the network up and running…

The iStone: at the cutting edge of technology.

The iStone: at the cutting edge of technology.

Little My shook her head and dragged me out of my dream to show me another phone. Her siblings agreed: this was the real McCoy. And ever since, I have been the adoptive mother of Gizmo. Gizmo is a smart phone who is too big to fit in my jeans pocket but small enough to disappear in my handbag. He’s not just a smart phone, he’s a smarty-pants phone. His insatiable need for attention has driven me to lobotomise him by depriving him of his lifeline to the internet router after more disturbances than I care to mention. A night with a teething child is probably more restful than a night with a phone that pops its cheek at you through the dark every time someone on the other side of the world posts a picture of their lunch on Facebook.

Gizmo is obviously a man – he is very touchy-feely, and constantly requests stroking and TLC. Like a Gremlin, Gizmo must be kept away from water at all costs. Whereas I could just wipe my hands on my jeans and press the button to take a call with Norbert when I was peeling the spuds, Gizmo has to wait until I’ve washed and dried my hands before I can tend to his needs. When he rings in my pocket and it’s raining, I find myself reassuring him that I will release him from the dark just as soon as I find a dry place to stand. The idea of him getting covered in warts, and evil baby smart phones popping up all over the place scares the hell out of me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go… Gizmo’s ringing.

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Daily Post: Why I will never be a Febreze Fairy.

A recent Daily Prompt asks what task we enjoy the least in our homes.  Well, to be honest… I hate them all.
I am reblogging this post explaining why I will never be a Febreze Fairy. My apologies to those of you for whom the reading of this little number is already done… and dusted 🙂

Multifarious meanderings

PF knows that I am not the kind of woman who hits the Prozac if HMS Bogbrush doesn’t circumnavigate the toilet rim on a daily basis. He will arrive home tonight, and sigh in despair. As his forehead furrows, his eyebrows will lunge towards each other like two caterpillars that are hell-bent on copulating on the end of his nose. (OK, so caterpillars don’t copulate. But I bet they would if they could.)

He often enquires why I’m not houseproud. The only answer that comes to mind immediately is that if I was, he wouldn’t be able to draw hearts in the dust to declare his undying love for me. But there are other reasons why I don’t have “Purgo, ergo sum” tattooed on my forehead. So here is why I will never be a Febreze Fairy, in five easy points.

1)  I am not my mother-in-law.

Don’t get…

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