Thursday, September 20, 2007

“If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

That quote is, of course, from Johnny Cochran at OJ Simpson's famous trial. Here are some quotes from my law school professors for your amusement:

"...just pull out a dictionary and make it up. That's what judges do!"

"This will be a helpful way for you to study. So helpful, I'm imposing it on you."

"What is a legal intention? What is it? I don’t have a clue and neither do any of the judges who wrote this decision."

"I’m like you – I didn’t read this case until the night before. If I had, I wouldn’t have assigned it because this case is bad."

"Breathe it in; have fun playing with the Model Penal Code."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

My first interview.

We got our first real press coverage this week when The Canadian Press decided to interview me about the Facebook group. Here's the article (The Ottawa Sun):

By Angela Pacienza

TORONTO (CP) - Tired of hearing the word "like" at the end of every sentence? Does a wayward apostrophe drive you round the bend? You're not alone.

There are plenty of people who are fed up with what they say is a growing epidemic of bad grammar. Among them are more than two dozen groups on Facebook -everything from "Citizens Against Poor Grammar" to "Grammar and Punctuation Are Your Friends" and "Grammar Freaks United" - dedicated to improving the world's linguistic skills.

Many blame the Internet and its ubiquitous abbreviations for disintegrating proper language. "I hate misplaced apostrophes, but what winds me up possibly even more is when people use 'txt spk' when writing online. Surely it takes longer to work out which letters to miss out and make sure it still makes sense, than the time it takes to just type the sodding word!" wrote Rhea D on the "Actually, Good Grammar IS Important" group, which boasts more than 1,500 members.

Listing her grammar pet peeves, Sarah-Jane Smith of South Africa wrote: " 'Could of,' 'would of'... etc... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH."

One U.S.-based Facebook group, "I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar," went so far as to have T-shirts made mocking U.S. President George W. Bush's use of English. The shirts are emblazoned with Bush's face and the phrase: "I judge you when you use poor grammar."(

Led by Sharon Nichols, a 22-year-old University of Alabama law student, the group boasts 180,000 members and has sold several hundred Bush T-shirts.

"I've been pleasantly surprised by the huge response," said Nichols. "I think the group is a lighthearted way to address something annoying."

The Facebook groups typically have a heavy educational component.

"Citizens Against Poor Grammar" was started as a forum for people to learn about commonly used phrases that are grammatically incorrect, says founder Meredith Maloney, a 35-year-old Torontonian who works in the social service sector.

"I am by no means a grammar expert," admits Maloney. "I initially wanted to expand my vocabulary and change some phrases that I may say incorrectly." The group's membership was initially made up of Maloney's friends. But it's now grown to about 60 members from all over the world.

"People seem to enjoy venting about things that their co-workers, strangers and family members have said to them. It's a bit of comic relief too," Maloney said. Her favourite incorrect phrase? "'I didn't mean to earsdrop on your conversation,"' she said.

Grammatical correctness is also making its way into reality TV. CBC will air "Test the Nation: Watch Your Language" on Sunday, a game show testing contestants' knowledge of the English language.

Participants will include romance novelists, word gamers, ad agents, comedians and English teachers.

"It's kind of sloppy," contestant Mary Ellen Perley, a teacher at McNally High School in Edmonton, said about the state of grammar among today's youth. "Sloppy spelling, sloppy use of past and present tense."

"When you try to explain to them why it's got to be (a certain) way, there's a blank look." Perley, a self-professed grammar cop, blames the school system for not putting more emphasis on teaching the basic ABCs of grammar.

What does she consider the most cringe-worthy error? The "it's" versus "its" blunder.

"That one drives me cra-aaa-zy. That's a big one. And you see it everywhere. You don't just see it in schools. It's creeping into published documents."

Maloney hopes Facebook groups like hers encourage more young people to openly discuss the state of grammar.

"I don't want the onslaught of technology to encourage people to become lazy. That would be a true shame."