Grammar Rant Alert!

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 09 November 2012 @ 11:30 am

The first time I heard one of my parents correct the grammar of one of my children, I smiled in the deepest recesses of my being. I smiled because it was so familiar. I smiled because I knew that it was a reflexive response on his or her part. And I smiled because I knew that it was these very same corrections that had instilled in me the ability to speak correctly.

I supposed there are some who would disagree with the notion of parents correcting their children’s speech. I have certainly read articles that offer the gentler alternative of repeating back what the grammar offender child said but in a corrected form. But subtlety, both its usage and its comprehension, is an art. One that is often wasted lost, I find, on the young.

The outcome of a lifetime of parental correction — because apparently a parent’s work is never done — is an adult who uses and, when appropriate, utilizes language in its correct form. And given the rising number of grammatical errors I hear and see every day, I am beginning to think that my parents were radical in their approach.

The impetus for this post is this morning’s school assembly. It was the scene of numerous grammatical offenses. Not by the students, mind you, but by adults. Yes, one can argue that this is an elementary school and not an institution of higher education. But to that I say, harumph! With the very youngest of our students in their care, kal vachomer (how much the more so) ought the faculty strive to speak with grammatical accuracy.

So what was it that brought on my “grammar meltdown?” (Hat-tip to my colleague, Rabbi Mary Zamore, for coining my rant as such.) Take a look:

Followed, just moments later, with this:

That’s right. Ye ole’ “that vs. who” conundrum.

As with any grammatical rule, there are exceptions with this one. Unless, however, one has gone to the Chaucer school of English, here is the simple rule of thumb: use who when referring to a person and use that when referring to an object.

Schools will do a better job when viewing students as people and not objects. And an even better job when they use proper grammar.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jason Burnett 09 November 2012 @ 11:41 am at 11:41 am

Unfortunately, this particular problem doesn’t get better with more education. I work as a medical transcriptionist and several times a day have to listen to a doctor dictate “this is a patient that…” (I’ve never had a doctor complain because I corrected it, but I’ve never had one start using the correct working either.)


2 Debra Kassoff 09 November 2012 @ 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm

Toweringly righteous and elegantly stated. You do your parents proud. I share your pique (though now I’m a little nervous I might inspire it one of these days ;)). Thanks, too, for leading me to look up the difference between use and utilize. I learned something new today ( offers my favorite explanation of the morning in her February 22, 2012 “Grammar Matters” post). Now I’m wondering whether I’ve ever actually used the word utilize? I think perhaps not, but now I’ll know just what word to reach for the next time I want to describe one of my daughters fashioning a pair of glasses out of a slice of bread, or my husband building a footed platter out of an overturned soup bowl and a large plate. (We like to play with food at my house.) I’m also trying to think of a good illustration of how one might utilize language. You got one?

You are far too interesting and entertaining a distraction, my dear, especially on a Friday late morning when I should be loading the car for my Shabbat road-trip and instead I’ve not yet packed. Next time, try to get your rant in by Thursday night, would ya? (I know, I know, it just happened.)

Hope you can find some Shabbes peace this week in spite of the proliferating grammar offenders.


3 Laura Winer 09 November 2012 @ 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm



4 Michelle 09 November 2012 @ 1:34 pm at 1:34 pm

Oh, thank you, that rant felt good. While volunteering in the classroom last week, I heard my first-grader’s sweet, adorable teacher instruct the children to “cut acrossed the bottom of the paper.” It was painful. And just when I had successfully chased “accrossed” out of our house.


5 Laurie 09 November 2012 @ 1:55 pm at 1:55 pm

This is really one of the simplest of rules, isn’t it? My exception: my dog was always a ‘who.’ šŸ™‚


6 Stephen Einstein 09 November 2012 @ 6:47 pm at 6:47 pm

You not only do your father proud, but your grandfather, Oliver Sholem, is smiling from the next world!


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