Thursday, January 5, 2012
The English Teacher-Gangsta Connection
Then. Than. Not quite homophones when pronounced deliberately, but they are still commonly confused and, as a result, misused in my students' writing on a regular basis. Don't worry. This is not going to turn into one of those snooty posts about how ignorant the general public is when it comes to English grammar. I'm not that kind of English teacher. Plus, I don't have time to list all of the mistakes I see, hear, and make on a daily basis.
I figure that along with the dress standards in our society, we all get lazy from time to time and don't stop to think about the consequences of our sloppy word usage. Like the young men I see roaming the halls of our junior high with the crotch of their jeans hanging somewhere between their thighs and their knee caps, we often find ourselves being careless to the point where we look a little silly, but as long as we aren't caught with our proverbial pants on the ground, we aren't always diligent in correcting the drivel that spews from our mouths when we speak or from our fingertips when we type. Now, I know what you are thinking: Those punks whose pants ride underneath their cheeky region look more than just a little silly! And you're right. But if you think about it, these slovenly clad doofuses still manage to reach their objectives, regardless of their ridiculous attire, don't they? I mean, cars still get stolen, drugs still get purchased, and police are still evaded despite the fact that the sloppily dressed dorks must keep one hand safely in a belt loop at all times so as to not lose their baggy draws. So you see, I figure if there is hope for the ridiculously dressed, there is also hope for the rest of us clowns who trip over our own words from time to time—and yes, I just used coordinating conjunctions to begin three sentences in the last paragraph...sue me.
Now, before my fellow English teacher friends get their panties in a figurative wad, I am not saying that poor English usage is unimportant. I just believe that if we spend our days constantly pointing the finger at all of our friends and associates who carelessly misuse a word now and again, we really aren't any better off than the hoodlum who must keep one hand on his butt skimmers at all times. Whether we are pointing a finger, or giving our friends an unsolicited V-8 whack up side the head every time they have a slip of the tongue (or pen), we are more like the droopy-drawered criminal than we may want to admit. Think about it: We are both without the use of one hand, we are both menaces to society, and we both run the risk of being hated even more than we already are. Truth be told, English teachers have far more enemies than your average baggy-pantsed gangsta.
So the next time you see the misuse of a simple thing like 'then' and 'than' remember, you have two choices: You can kindly make a mental note not to ask that particular friend or loved one to edit your next thesis, or you can get out your smug, judgmental English teacher pointer finger and call attention to the mistake for all to see. Just be prepared to lose something more important than your pants if you choose the latter...