DEAR READERS: I started writing the "Ask Amy" column 10 years ago this week. In that time, I've fielded countless letters from readers covering every imaginable personal situation and dilemma. I've also tackled questions about issues I'd never imagined.
I am marking this decade of advice by stepping away briefly for the first time in 10 years to catch my breath and read a few self-help books.
I return next week. In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy some of my favorite "Ask Amy" questions and answers.
DEAR AMY: I have been dating a wonderful, warm, caring man for the last five months. He has many positive qualities and enjoys the cultural arts and dancing as much as I do. I care a lot about him.
The problem is his poor, incorrect grammar. He is intelligent and educated, but often when he talks, he sounds as though he is neither. I don't know if it is just a bad habit he's developed over the years or if he is unaware his grammar is incorrect. I've met other members of his family and they speak correctly.
I wish his bad grammar didn't bother me, but it does. I have a master's degree and have been a music teacher for 27 years, so I'm very aware whether students and people in general are using proper grammar. I've run this "problem" past family and friends and have gotten a variety of responses. I would really like to bring his grammar errors up to him because I believe it's something he could correct, but I need to do it in a kind and tactful way so I don't hurt his feelings.
Here are some examples of his grammatical errors:
I don't want no more of that food.
I seen a beautiful picture at the art gallery
I should've did that paperwork yesterday.
I'm so wore out from all that work.
This may be my own idiosyncrasy and a bit picky in light of his other wonderful qualities, but speaking correctly is important to me and I can't seem to let it go. Any suggestions?
— Grammatically Correct Lady
DEAR CORRECT: When you want to be tactful, I think it's best to start, not by running chapter and verse past your friends and family and soliciting their opinions, but by being direct and respectful.
I've noticed that tactful people often seem to camouflage their issue with self-deprecating charm. You can start by telling your friend how much you enjoy him. Then you should segue right into the tact. You say, "I know I'm going to sound like a schoolmarm here, but did you realize that you make grammatical mistakes from time to time?" Ask him how he'd feel if you corrected him now and then.
He may say, "It don't make no nevermind to me," which, though untranslatable, is an invitation to go ahead and correct. (2004)
DEAR AMY: Our family enjoys your column. You have a particularly dedicated fan in our 12-year-old son, who reads your column every morning during breakfast.
As a family with roots in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, we especially liked the end of your answer to "Grammatically Correct Lady" in a recent column.
However, to our eye (ear?) your education and sense of grammatical propriety was still peeking through.
We would normally say, "It don't make me no nevermind." To say, "It don't make no nevermind to me," as you did — with a bona fide prepositional phrase included — is just a bit of citified formality!
— Fans in Chicago
DEAR FANS: I've heard from several readers wondering if I grew up in a certain corner of Virginia or along the North Carolina border. I didn't, but somehow that phrase made it north into my native neck of the woods.
Your correction is correct.
Insertion of a prepositional phrase must have been due to my now built-in fear of vigilant copy editors, who save me daily.
By the way, the translation to this ungrammatical phrase is, "It doesn't matter to me," which, though understandable, lacks music, don't you think?
My sincere thanks to your 12-year-old son and to breakfast-table readers everywhere.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.