It wasn’t about coffee

As I noted in a previous entry, I used to post good-grammar reminders on Facebook but stopped nearly a decade ago. Since then, I’ve avoided venting openly, despite regular fingernails-on-the-chalkboard reactions to frequent assaults on our mother tongue on Facebook and elsewhere.

I have tried to demonstrate good grammar in my FB posts and comments. When I could do so without being too obvious, I’ve slipped in a response that followed a rule of grammar violated in the original post.

For example, say the post was, “Today’s sunshine made it a nice day for Zelda and I.” After several other comments, I might enter, “It gave Nancy and me a chance to do some hiking.”

Then, in May of 2018, I came up with another way to demonstrate good grammar subtly. As with the pre-2014 posts, I had no illusions of educating anyone, and my entries most certainly were not directed at any individual. It was just a way to vent. Well, maybe I also wished it might be like hiding a pill in a piece of meat before giving it to a dog.

Unlike in an incident I described in another, unrelated post, I was trying to be “sneaky.” Using colorful backgrounds Facebook offers for short posts, I created a series of memes. The first read, “It’s never too late to have two cups of coffee.” There were a number of “likes” and an enjoyable discussion of the wonders of coffee.

But it wasn’t really about coffee. It was about “too,” “to” and “two.” “It’s never too late to have two cups of coffee.” These are among the homonyms that can confuse some people. This phrase showed all three used correctly.

I created the memes while having my morning coffee. So the invigorating brew was a natural subject. The next two also had coffee as a theme.

The second was “It’s time for coffee to work its magic,” demonstrating a difference between “it’s” and “its.”

(In an English-class assignment during my junior year in high school, I wrote an “it’s” that should have been an “its.” My teacher, one of the best I ever had, circled the error and wrote “Ouch!” in the margin. A teachable moment. Since then, when I see the mistake, I think “Ouch!”)

A few days later, I attacked the often confusing (for some) “you’re” vs. “your” with “Early starts can be difficult, but after a little coffee, you’re on your way.” See? You’re on your way.

In the comments, I was able to add a treatment of “they’re-their-there.” I noted, “Not too difficult, though, because I’m headed to 7 a.m. Bible study. Some don’t have coffee at home before they leave. They’re content to wait to have their first cup there at the church house.” (Italics inserted here.)

And then there’s always the apostrophe. Very useful but often misused. I had already addressed the it’s-its problem. Also troubling is that many people seem to think the letter S must always be preceded by an apostrophe.

The Carolina Hurricanes once had a goalie named Peters. In a Facebook discussion, I saw a fan insert an apostrophe before the last letter of his name. His name! More recently, on a Seinfeld-themed page, someone did the same in a reference to Michael Richards, the actor who played Kramer. “Richard’s” either means “belonging to Richard” or is a contraction of “Richard is” or, occasionally, “Richard has.”

One day I came up with a way to show the apostrophe’s proper use in a possessive and its proper absence from a plural: ” ‘Hey Jude’ was 1968’s top hit and one of the biggest for the 1960s.” It generated some discussion of music and memories associated with that song.

At another time — maybe a couple of times — I’ve posted, “If you visit the Bectons’ home, you may see two or three Bectons, and you might get to hear Daniel Becton’s music.”

I don’t know if the subliminal messages about grammar registered in anyone’s subconscious. I’m sure the number would be between zero and “pretty small.” Likely closer to zero. But in any case, thinking up the posts was fun and a worthwhile mental exercise for me.

Hold onto your hats. Chances are you’re going to see more of these nuggets later in the 2020s. They’re forming in my mind, and I won’t want them to stay there.

My like-dislike relationship with social media

Facebook is the only social medium in which I participate, unless you count group texts. I suspect that many of these thoughts, though, might apply to other forms of social media. Most do apply to group texts, as well as communication (or attempted communication) in general.

There are things I like about Facebook: being in touch with long-time friends; photos of kids, grandkids, nature, meals; inspirational posts; genuinely educational posts. I also appreciate being able to vent.

Here I want to vent about comments I don’t like to see on Facebook, whether in response to one of my posts or those of others, as well as to others’ responses. These comments fall into two categories: non sequiturs and trolling.

A common cause of a non sequitur is that the person responding didn’t really read the post (or previous comments) first. In this category are those comments that miss the point of the post. The commenter may pick up on a minor element or even a phrase not on-point and change the focus of the conversation. At the extreme are those who hijack the post, making it about them or their own agenda.

While there are “professional” trolls intruding on almost all public pages, I’m bothered more by trolling by friends. Some individuals enjoy playing “gotcha” and engaging in trash talk. At some point, though, “kidding” can become annoying, if not hurtful, because of intensity or frequency. Closely related: making the conversation into a competition and seeking to one-up the poster or another commenter.

Trolling also can include value judgments of another’s personal likes/dislikes, “witty” comments that get only halfway there, feeling a need to explain an implied joke, dedication to “yes-but” responses and proclivity for putting a negative spin on a positive post.