Snow, Shakespeare, Grammatical Errors

Well, it’s another snow day. This is unreal!

Think how much it has to snow, to make a town in the middle of new england call a snow day. The answer is “a lot.”

It’s still snowing.

I will tell you one extremely weird thing about these storms which is that they so far have only happened on Saturdays and Sundays, such that Monday is always the snow day. I guess one was on Friday. But I think this is the third Monday snow day. Why would this be? God hates Mondays? JUST LIKE GARFIELD??? IS GOD GARFIELD???????????

It is a mixture of sucking and ruling because I don’t teach Mondays anyway. So on the one hand I don’t get the snow day, but on the other hand I don’t have the hassle of drastically re-arranging my entire syllabus over and over again. One of my TAs told me last week that he’s enrolled in a class that HAS YET TO MEET, because it’s only on Mondays and there have been various snafus in addition to the snow days. I don’t know what is going to happen; I assume they will soon start tacking these days onto the end of the semester, which will be awful, awful!

I am up in my birdy nest, trying to turn my brain from three full days of writing this Shakespeare chapter to my actual mundane to-do list, which has things like “grade papers” on it. Just looking at the list out of the corner of my eye makes me peevish.

It’s true. I wrote a chapter of my book about Shakespeare. I learned a lot of funny things. I said a lot of weird half-baked stuff about opera. I read a scanned original copy of David Garrick’s 18th-century adaptation of Romeo and Juliet online. That David Garrick stuff is crazy–he wrote a version of the play that made it a bit more proper and tasteful for 18th-century audiences but he also added this insanely devastating melodramatic ending that is very different from Shakespeare’s. And I bet those of you who never took AP Shakespeare in high school probably think of the Garrick ending when you think of the play! It’s that long-lived, this weird adaptation by this random English actor in like 1720. In Shakespeare’s version, in the tomb, Romeo comes down, sees Juliet–who he believes is dead–and drinks poison and dies. Juliet wakes up, sees Romeo dead on the ground, is upset, and then oh-happy-daggers herself. In the GARRICK version, Juliet wakes up right as Romeo is drinking the poison, and he’s shocked, and it’s so amazing that she is actually alive but it’s so fucked up that he is now dying! And so they have this 10 seconds of rapturous bliss but then he crumples and dies in her arms. THEN she grabs the happy dagger and sticks it in its sheath (her heart).

I think we can all agree that, credit where it’s due, that is a great ending.

I learned that in 18th century France you weren’t allowed to say the names of animals or insects on the tragic stage, nor could you say words that related to manual labor. So basically there was not a ton of Shakespeare performed in France in the 18th century, as you can imagine. They did their best with these brutal “translations” that are more like Mormon plot synopses of super sexy movies than they are like Shakespeare’s plays. Whole scenes cut, speeches cut and rearranged, insults removed, you couldn’t do the gravediggers scene, the mad scenes, anything showing regicide, pretty much every moment of Othello, I mean, what is even the point.

And yet they tried. They were really into Shakespeare. What does it all mean? You will have to lobby various academic presses and demand they publish my book in order to find out what I think, which is probably wrong anyway.

I thought I’d finally found a grammatical error in the New Yorker. My body surged with adrenaline. I have this terror-hope fantasy of finding a copy error in that rag, because they are so famous for being so epically, religiously copy-edited by the last remaining True Grammar Nerds of the earth. Like I think their most recent copy editor who just died was an 80 year old woman who’d been doing it since the 1950s and she was legendary, you couldn’t slip a “that” that ought to be a “which” past her, nor would she ever miss the almost universal but nonetheless incorrect use of “ambivalent” to mean that you don’t care that much one way or the other. She knew that even if “neither” is not present in a sentence, you still have to use “nor” if your sentence expresses two negatives, the second of which is a verb [see previous sentence–ed.].

Anyway, I thought I’d found a dangling modifier. I was filled with savage joy and sorrow–when it comes to finding a grammatical error in the New Yorker, I am truly ambivalent, in the correct sense of the term, which means to passionately want two opposing things at once. I yearn to discover a copy error that I could then write a gleefully rude letter to the editor about; and yet, I love very much that the New Yorker still remains this bastion of iron-fisted grammatical writing–the dumbing-down of writing thanks to the tedious democratization of the internet is genuinely sad to me, I can’t believe that now people who literally can’t do “your” vs. “you’re” are writing about their opinions on more or less legitimate sites–and I know that once the New Yorker starts slipping up it will truly mean the final death of old-school journalistic values, because it will mean they can no longer afford the badass copy-editing of yore, and have had to turn the job over to a self-important 22 year old idiot, like every other website on earth.

I pored over this dangling modifier. I was so sure it was one! I read it to my husband, who yelled “YES!!!!! It’s wrong!” I circled it and put four exclamation marks by it. But then on closer inspection we realized that the comma placement in the sentence indicates that the sentence is actually a list with a verb at the end, rather than a modifier with no subject. GODDAMN IT / THANK GOD

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5 Responses to Snow, Shakespeare, Grammatical Errors

  1. Drea says:

    The badass copy-editing of your, maybe.

  2. pmg says:

    Wait, that is totally how that crazy Baz Luhrmann Romeo + Juliet with Leonard DiCaprio and Claire Danes does the death scene! 10 seconds of bliss/Claire Danes crumpled face. I remember thinking it was really profound in high school.

  3. the ghost of Lu Burke says:

    I’m both happy and sorry to say that the New Yorker, especially since the proofreader you mention’s death, has been pretty bad about grammatical errors. I see them every couple issues and have even spotted two–a missing preposition in the KidZania article and a subject/verb disagreement in the Albuquerque PD article–since reading this post…

  4. Allie says:

    I’m sure you’ve seen this already, but just in case – http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/23/holy-writ

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