Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Sr. Patricia was fierce when it came to proper grammar and usage and if she's still alive, I hope that she too has found Paul Brians' website called Common Errors in English Usage. It's a keeper! My bookmark has been set and I'm sure I'll wander over there frequently just to leisurely read through various entries. Yes, I realize, that's bizarre. There's some freakish part of my character, that finds this stuff so darn fun. Apparently, it's infectious as I've managed to convince my daughter, Charlotte, that diagramming sentences if a fabulous way to spend a morning. If I succeed with Grace as well -- you'll have to admit I'm gifted :)
But, I'm a teacher and a writer and not only do I not wish to look like a fool, I love having a central place to send students. Mr. Brians has even put his site of wondrous knowledge into book form too.
Sr. Patricia would be tickled pink if she knew. I have to add (just to give a proper visual here) that the nuns at my school in the 1970s were startlingly modern and didn't wear habits. The change, coming as it did after so many years of not having to make fashion decisions, was not an easy one. There were a number of days when Sr. Patricia came to class dressed in pink (or purple) polyester pantsuits (the alliteration of which was surprisingly, completely lost on her, though not on her students).
Despite her alarming attire, I must thank Sr. Patricia. If I hadn't had her in my life, I might not be able to identify the ablative, genitive, or nominative cases. I can't say I've ever been asked to identify them, but still.... that likely just reflects my own lack of interest in foreign language study.
Because Sr. Patricia hammered grammatical knowledge into us with the aforementioned wooden rod (if only figuratively), we were all ridiculously intimidated by her. Not too long afterwards, as an organist for the same church when I was maybe 18 or 19, she and the other nuns (there were maybe 3 still there) invited me over to the convent after mass for coffee. These were hardly the same women. They were kind, sweet and charming. They were still recognizable when around the kids in the school yard, but one on one with adults -- well, all I can say was the difference was stunning! I still remember walking out of the convent door that day in a daze -- feeling that my world had been altered in a rather incomprehensible way. I'd always loved that convent and as a kid had briefly considered becoming a nun just so I could live there. The isolation of it all was alluring to me even then, but I was discouraged by the thought of becoming such an implacable, icy sort of gal. Turns out -- it was all an illusion. We kids had all been duped into submissive behavior. I left that day with even more respect for Sr. Patricia than I'd had before. In fact, now I wonder if the pink polyester pantsuits weren't part of the gag. Nah -- couldn't have been.
Labels: teaching writing