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Yes, yes . . .there are certain conventions we must all agree upon. This is school after all. This is academic or persuasive or technical or professional or creative or expository or whatever the heck kind of writing we are working on here. This is not your cell phone. I am not your IM buddy or whatever it is you are calling it these days.

But, really—I’m still on your side.

You want to write? I’m here for you. I’ll work with you. However, I’ll be damned if I’m going to hunt down every little spelling and grammatical error you may have put down. I’ll never mark up your work with a red pen (too much).


Basically, because, more than anything, I want you to have a go at it. I’ll help you. I’ll guide you. But for heaven’s sakes let’s agree for once that we won’t be afraid to make a mistake or two. Let’s agree to learn to say what we want to say (in the most efficient and effective manner) as we go.


Because I make mistakes too. And also because . . .well . . . the English language is dumb.

Consider the following sentences (these are far from original but also far from any clear identifiable source I can give credit):

The bandage was wound around the wound.

The farm was used to produce produce.

The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

We must polish the Polish furniture.

He could lead if he would get the lead out.

The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

I did not object to the object.

The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

They were too close to the door to close it.

The buck does funny things when the does are present (cw adds . . .presenting presents.)

A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

And why doesn’t “Buick” rhyme with “quick”?


There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.

Quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

Why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t a toothbrush a teethbrush; why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, two geese. So one moose, two meese? One index, two indices? Isn’t it stupid that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? What kind of language allows us to recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? English–a wonderfully confusing language in which a house can burn up and burn down at the same time, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

Maybe English was invented just as a joke, or maybe it simply reflects the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

All that said, let’s also agree that I can still make fun of you when you mess up.