Tales from a Grammar Geek

June 9, 2015

By Jennifer Kennedy

Jennifer is IEA’s Marketing and Communications Coordinator and puts her enthusiasm for grammar to good use daily.

I have a confession to make: I love grammar; I always have. When I began learning Spanish, I was excited about how much it taught me about English grammar. Proofreading my friends’ papers was how I relaxed and de-stressed in college. When I heard a coworker express her love for the semicolon, I immediately jumped into a discussion with her about it. My obsession with books often sends me to Barnes and Noble, where I cannot pass a book on grammar without buying it. I have strong urges to hole myself up in my room reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

I am a writer. It is what I love to do most. Commanding use of grammar and vocabulary – another of my deep interests – makes me a more effective writer. Unfortunately, though, grammar, vocabulary, and books are not exactly the most hip interests to have when you are in elementary school.

Being a gifted kid, I couldn’t tolerate the use of improper grammar. I often corrected others, including adults. I earned the reputation of being weird, snobby, and rude. My mom even had to implement a rule that I was not allowed to correct my grandmother’s grammar, regardless of how much it bothered me.

As I got older, I realized that I didn’t have to be seen as weird. I could love and obsess over grammar without anyone knowing about it. I could correct people in my head – as I had learned to do with my grandmother – and I could experience the satisfaction of fixing their sentences without anyone knowing that I was doing so. Like many gifted kids, I hid my “weird” interest and retreated into my thoughts, which captured my interest more than all the grammatically incorrect conversations buzzing around me.

The problem still remained, though, that I used proper grammar when I spoke. Despite not needing to talk about grammar or correct others’ grammar out loud, I still answered the question “How are you?” with the response, “I’m well, thank you.” So, I implemented a common gifted kid coping mechanism: I started using incorrect grammar on purpose, at least when it came to the culturally acceptable uses such as using “good” instead of “well.” This habit joined the existing practice of “dumbing down” my vocabulary in front of other kids.

Today, I am much more comfortable in my weird intellectual skin. I know that people who don’t like me for me don’t belong in my life, and my friends – even those I made back in those coping days – accept me for who I am. I am a grammar geek, I am a word nerd, and I am a rabid reader. I wish I hadn’t feel the need to cover up any of those things in the past.  Unfortunately, I did. My advice to gifted kids who feel the need to hide their “weird” interests and traits: Don’t lose sight of what makes you who you are. One day you will find someone who embraces you for you, and you will be able to be yourself and be accepted. Make sure that, when that time comes, you haven’t lost yourself in the sea of what you tried to become in order to be accepted by others.

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