Copy That: Sorry, Mom

Monday, March 14, 2016 - 6:43pm

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Illustration by Emily Waters

 

I don’t remember exactly when I became such an annoying grammar know-it-all, but I’m sure my mom probably does.

I have always been that obnoxious kid who incessantly corrects any grammar slip-ups I hear. Between my insatiable reading habits and Catholic school grammar lessons, I received a thorough education of the English language at a young age. I’m sure the first few times my younger self spouted out some silly grammar facts, it was probably kind of cute. Now, at the ripe old age of 20, that’s really no longer the case. When I correct everyone’s grammar it’s because I am, as my mother Carol so eloquently puts it, “a smartass.”

I am very lucky to have supportive parents. Both in and out of the classroom, they have always believed in me and instilled in me the conviction that I was an intelligent person who could do anything she set her mind to. In hindsight, they probably did their job too well.  Sometimes to a fault, I truly think I can do absolutely anything: reach the highest shelf in my kitchen, carry 10 bags of groceries at once and incessantly sass the woman who puts clothes on my back and food on my plate. As the ungrateful child I am, the latter is the way I have decided to repay my mother for ensuring my survival and happiness the past 20 years.

As the years have passed, Carol’s patience has gotten thinner and my ego has continued to grow. It got even worse when we started exchanging e-mails when I went to college and text messages last year when she (finally) got her first smartphone.

Freshman year is also when I joined the copy desk at The Michigan Daily. The copy desk is a wonderful place where grammar nerds can eat gelato, debate the pros and cons of the Oxford comma and complain about fact checking. This community embraced me and strengthened my knowledge of grammar and style. The corrections my mother received mounted. Almost every other line of our text conversations were punctuated with the dreaded asterisks: **you’re, **their, **through. She scoffed at me to leave her alone, complained that text messages were not the time or place for me to correct her grammar, but I was stubborn and unrelenting.

Recently, I received a card from Carol in the mail. The front features a smug lady correcting a man’s incorrect use of the word “your,” and the inside of the card was addressed to the “Grammar Policewoman.”

Hint taken.

Mom, I’m sorry. I know I’ve been obnoxious and honestly a bit rude to you, and I’d like to take this space to apologize.

We may have a feisty relationship most of the time — I mean, I’ve been calling you Carol since high school — and I’m bad at saying how I feel, but I appreciate you more than you realize. I might know a lot about commas, but without you I would never have learned to cook healthy foods, to do laundry correctly or to small talk like a pro. I may know the difference between their, they’re and there, but you showed me how to make it through a spin class, the importance of standing up for myself and to give back to my community. Without your tough and compassionate example, I would never have grown up to be the independent, strong and caring person I like to hope I am.  

So for that and so much more, thank you. I’m sorry for being a grammar-obsessed smartass.

But, because I also got my sass from you, I will probably continue to correct *your* grammar. Just know I do it out of love.