Title: Things That Make Us [Sic]
Author: Martha Brockenbrough
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the author
First line: It was the fall of 2004 when I founded the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar after writing a column about secret societies for the online encyclopedia Encarta.
Last month I had the fun opportunity to interview Martha Brockenbrough for a Literary Road Trip post. I appreciated her dry sense of humor and mentioned that I wanted to read her book Things That Make Us [Sic], especially for the part where she took Congressman Mark Foley to task for the poor grammar and spelling in his text messages to that underage intern. She graciously offered to send me a review copy, and I’ve been dipping in and out of this book for the past couple of weeks, making my husband wonder what on earth could be in a grammar guide that made me giggle, and at times, snort with laughter.
If you, like me, have ever been tempted to keep a Sharpie handy at all times to cross off stray apostrophes and add missing commas, then this book is a must-read. Ms. Brockenbrough uses sarcasm, wit, and puns to expound on some of the worst grammar errors she has witnessed in politics and entertainment.
Somehow the powers that be have decided to wage a costly and unnecessary war on the mother tongue. Someone in Los Angeles has decided that movie titles sound funnier with incorrect grammar, and that pop stars will have more credibility if they spell and punctuate as they please. Someone in New York has decided that “kids” and other plurals will sell more products when they’re spelled with a terminal z. Someone in Washington, D.C., has decided that people who regularly bungle language can be called “plainspoken,” when the truth is that people who actually speak plainly are the language masters, so skilled that their meaning is transparent without the use of long words, misleading jargon, or convoluted clauses.
After giving the grammar criminals in the media a dressing-down, she gives us the low-down on the rules – those that must be followed, and those that aren’t quite as mandatory. I was especially pleased to read that I can end sentences with prepositions and begin them with conjunctions – in moderation.
If you’re looking for a down and dirty grammar guide to help you remember when to use “lie” vs. “lay” and “affect” vs. “effect,” this book is just the thing. And if you’re too well-versed in grammar to ever “lay in the sun” or “lie your keys on the counter,” then you’re probably a grammar geek like me, and this book will give you fits of laughter and make you want to pump your fist in the air while shouting, “Yes! Exactly!”