Thursday, December 8

Not Generally Minding the Rules

This must happen to many different professions: it's the scenario where you meet some new people, they ask what you do, you tell them, and they playfully rear back and say they must be careful about [behavior they associate with your profession].

It happens with English teachers: "You're an English teacher? Well, I'd better be careful with how I talk around you!" They who crack the joke also laugh, as though surprised by their own wit, even though this is such a standard convention of speech that it should emit, word-for-word, from a novelty key fob of prerecorded messages.

It doesn't happen with dentists: "You're a dentist? Well, I'd better floss twice a day around you!" More's the pity, most people don't floss once a day.

If you care about the littlest, most casual errors,
you really shouldn't vacation in Asia.
It doesn't happen with proctologists: "Well, I'd better be exceptionally diligent in wiping my ring around you!" Though in honesty, I'd try to befriend whoever said that. They must be a blast to go out drinking with.

But I'm an editor—or I try to be, as no one's hiring me right now—and people get the notion that I must be driven mad by all the errors I see every day, everywhere I go. And it's true, there are errors everywhere. Every-freakin'-where. If you pay attention, it's a little astonishing our current surplus society didn't collapse 80 years ago, the last recorded point in history when handwriting mattered, or 50 years ago, when our politicians could ad lib a stirring and cogent rant. Now our senators and even our presidential candidates, even when reading from a script, come off like a live Alabama news interview with a guy living next to the guy whose house burned down after a domestic incident.

Does my head explode on a daily basis? It does not. Why? Because once you're really an editor, you don't care about the small potatoes anymore. You don't care that people confuse their usage of less versus fewer in casual conversation. You don't care that... actually, if shite English like irregardless and broughten bothered you before, they will still bother you deep into your career. But you don't freak out about the various abuses of your/you're or there/their/they're, that's freshman concerns. That's what your friends freak out about when they're trying to show sympathy with you or show off their acuity to others.

So, no, no one needs to watch how they speak around me at parties, because I'm not on the clock. (I would definitely go to more parties if I could bill my current rate for attending.) I'm unconcerned with average people struggling through half-remembered grammatical forms in casual conversation because this isn't a financial report or a peer-reviewed journal. Friends apologize needlessly to me in e-mail and occasionally check my stress levels about their text messages.

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