August 29, 2004

It's All Well and Good

I'm a grammar geek of sorts. I've even read a few books on grammar for fun (and I've enjoyed them immensely). Sure, I don't follow the rule about prepositions avoiding the end of sentences religiously, but at least it's something I'm aware of.

I've also got this odd habit of acquiring the speech patterns of people that I'm around. Accents too. It's the kind of thing that can get you into trouble if people think you're making fun of them. E's from the south, but grew up in a city and speaks the LA version of English that kids learn from TV. When we visit E's family, E's speech stays the same. I, on the other hand, always manage to acquire a lilting drawl from E's father, mother, and the people in town that are immigrants from smaller backwaters. E finds this hilarious. I find it frustrating.

Because I pick up people's speech patterns, it's particularly vexing when I'm around incorrect grammar. Innevitably, I adopt the messed up grammar, unless I make myself take note of each incorrect usage and how I want to avoid it.

Lately, I've noticed that people seem to be having a particularly difficult time with the idea that good is an adjective and well is an adverb.

I think people must have heard that good is often the tell-tale sign of poor grammar (e.g. "I'm doing good. How are you?"). Because lately, I've been hearing quite a bit of:

How are you? I'm well.

It bothers me every time I hear it. I've even thought up a helpful lesson to explain the difference to people. It goes like this:

You're well? You can't be well! You can be well hung. And you very well may be. But if you're doing well, then you're good. Or maybe you're fine. But that's it. You are NOT well.

Of course, I never actually say this out loud. Recently, I met a lawyer at a firm where I'd like to work. And he shook my hand and said, "I'm well" when I asked how he was. My brain raced off into the diatribe and I tried my best to keep the shit-eating-grin from my face and the image of his response to my commentary about his anatomy from my mind.

When I came home, I told E about my day. And E pointed out that well can be used as an adjective to describe not sick. E was ecstatic to kick my ass in a grammar discussion.

I, of course, was amused to find another one of my teenage linguistic "truisms." Regardless, I need to kick the habit of thinking people who say they are well should be told about the well hung thing... that's headed nowhere but trouble--OCI is almost here.

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