Things That Make Us (Sic)
Martha Brockenbrough
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Buy *Things That Make Us (Sic): The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar Takes on Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the White House, and the World* by Martha Brockenbrough online

Things That Make Us (Sic): The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar Takes on Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the White House, and the World
Martha Brockenbrough
St. Martin's Press
272 pages
October 2008
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Every time I hear that someone wants to make English the official language of the United States or of a city or a village, my heart leaps. Would this mean that everyone who lives in the designated area would actually begin speaking proper English? In response to President George W. Bush’s comment, “People that want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English,” author Martha Brockenbrough offers this advice: “If our president is going to expect this much of his citizens, then we are going to expect the same – and more—from him.” Amen, Martha!

In addition to being the author of Things That Make Us [Sic], a devilishly clever attempt to help us make ourselves understood, Martha Brockenbrough is also the founder of SPOGG (The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar). But don’t be frightened - Brockenbrough does not demand perfection:

“We’re not the Society for the Promotion of Perfect Grammar… perfect grammar is impossible to achieve in an ever-shifting sea of rules… there are cases when ‘good’ is either good enough, or better than perfect.”
Lambasting those who regularly vandalize our mother tongue with deliberate misspelling (ex. Kidz) for the sake of cutesy-advertising, or who declare that incoherent raving is a trait of the ‘plainspoken’ man, Brockenbrough asks
“If you wouldn’t trust your hair to a stylist who hadn’t mastered the craft, then why should you trust your cultural legacy to so-called artists who can’t write songs, your money to marketers who butcher words, and your political future to any leader who hasn’t mastered the ability to shape and convey his or her ideas?”
That’s exactly what I wondered when a local law enforcement official, while talking about a round-up of undocumented immigrants, declared that he and his staff intended to “eradicate this county!” Dare I trust this public servant to protect my rights when he is bent upon wiping out the entire population of our county?

Things That Make Us [Sic] is full of helpful tips and mnemonic devices that explain commas, colons, and all those other controversial punctuation marks. There are lists of ‘Evil Twins’ that can confuse even the English majors among us (insure vs. ensure, for example). Best of all, Brockenbrough uses real-life examples of grammatical errors to help all of us improve our command of the language. For those who don’t think language is such a big deal, there’s a warning in the form of a poem – “Make the Pie Higher,” a collection of George W. Bush’s most baffling statements. She shares with us her edited version of spam that almost any reader will recognize. She enlightens us with the copy-edited versions of erotic text messages sent from Mark Foley to teenage pages.

Yes, I stayed up late to read a book about grammar rules. I wasn’t going to admit that, but Brockenbrough thoughtfully provided me with these stirring words:

“Some of us who are passionate about grammar get sheepish about our zeal…. We need to knock that off… Mastering the English language serves a higher purpose, and perhaps even a heroic one.”
Thank you, Martha Brockenbrough, for giving me the courage to stand up for coherence. Thank you for entertaining me with the examples from all those plainspoken celebrities. And most of all, Martha, thank you for assuring me that it’s okay to start a sentence with a conjunction!

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Deborah Adams, 2008

buy *Things That Make Us (Sic): The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar Takes on Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the White House, and the World* online
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