Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lemming Tracks: a Recovering English Teacher and the Dean's Spellchecker

English probably isn't at the top of the list of favorite classes for most high school students. Particularly sections on grammar.

Dissecting sentences and laying out the severed nouns, verbs, prepositions, and other parts of speech wasn't something the Lemming particularly enjoyed, either. And yet, the Lemming was for a time an English teacher.

The Lemming didn't expect the teens in his classroom to get excited about grammar. It's about as dry a subject as grammar. Or, perhaps more precisely, syntax.

"Syntax?" That's:
  • The grammatical arrangement of words in sentences
  • A systematic orderly arrangement
  • Studies of the rules for forming admissible sentences
    (Princeton's WordNet)
While the Lemming's at it, here's the definition of grammar:
  • The branch of linguistics that deals with syntax and morphology
    • And sometimes also deals with semantics
    (Princeton's WordNet again)

Grammar and All That: Does It Matter?

Most folks, when they see a sign that reads, "employee's only," realize that it doesn't mean that the door belongs exclusively to some employee. Sane goes far spilling. Ewe dent half two spiel wards conventionality too meek scents.

You may have had to slow down - just a little - to sort out those last two sentences.

One thing a writer who's trying to communicate with someone else doesn't, generally, want to do is put speed bumps in what's being read.

Unless the writer is making a point. As Northern Illinois University's Dean Jerrold Zar was, when he composed that famous poem.

The Dean's Spellchecker: The Genuine Original

With a grateful tip of the hat, the Lemming now presents, in its original and correct form, "The Dean's Spellchecker." Which isn't the poem's title:
"Candidate for a Pullet Surprise"
Jerrold H. Zar

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule.
The checker pours o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.

Bee fore a veiling checker's
Hour spelling mite decline,
And if we're lacks oar have a laps,
We wood bee maid too wine.

Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know fault's with in my cite,
Of nun eye am a wear.

Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped word's fare as hear.

To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should bee proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaw's are knot aloud.

Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear four pea seas,
And why eye brake in two averse
Buy righting want too pleas.

Copyright © 2000 by The Journal of Irreproducible Results, used by permission.
This is the original and accurate version of the poem, as published in
The Journal of Irreproducible Results,
January/February 1994, page 13.
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2 comments:

Brigid said...

Did you mean to say this: "to get excited about grammar. It's about as dry a subject as grammar."

And I can't tell if this typo is intentional: "when he wcomposed that famous poem"

Also the line break here: "The Journal of Irreproducible Results,
January/February 1994, page 13."

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

The typo was - a typo. The line break follows the JIR's preferred pattern, and was intentional.

About "The Lemming didn't expect the teens in his classroom to get excited about grammar. It's about as dry a subject as grammar. Or, perhaps more precisely, syntax." - That's the way I intended the sentence to read. A purist might have written, "The Lemming didn't expect the teens in his classroom to get excited about grammar. It's about as dry a subject as *is* grammar. Or, perhaps more precisely, syntax." But, given the dialect used, the sentences are 'correct.'

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