I will be the first to acknowledge that I am a bit of a grammar Nazi. I blame this on my mother, who is Canadian, and taught me that using poor grammar was like stabbing Jebus in the eye. I think she learned this from my grandmother, who was intelligent, literate, and spoke the Queen’s English. (She also referred to the Queen as “Liz”. I’m not sure QEII would be appreciative.)
As a result, I was excellent at grammar in school, and have had a hard time adjusting to a world that does not value grammar as I do. When text messaging came along, it nearly drove me to drink. It’s hard to be grammatical, especially when you only have a few characters in which to express yourself. I have learned to deal with it (sort of) and try not to let the bad grammar of the world get to me.
I get most of my books from PaperBackSwap, which is mostly free, and also gives me the opportunity to browse books that I might not have otherwise found. I recently got a copy of How Do They Do That?, which is fun not only because I get to learn all sorts of geeky facts, but because it was written in 1981, and lots of those geeky facts are no longer correct.
However, I have been prevented in fully enjoying this book because of the way that questioned are phrased: almost all of them start with “How do they….”
This makes me crazy.
First of all, people, there is no They. You can spout your conspiracy theories until you are blue in the face, but there is no big, faceless They. Also, the They that you reference in one question (How do They measure the universe?) is not the same They in another (How do They get lead into a pencil?).
While I understand using They in the title, I do not support the use of They in the rest of the book. It’s just damned laziness. Either name a specific person, or rephrase the question.
I have spent most of my reading time with this book not absorbing the facts, but re-writting the questions:
How do they determine a baby’s sex before birth? WRONG. How about: How is a baby’s sex determined before birth? (This is one of the funny entries for me, reading 28 years later. Not a mention is made of ultrasound sex determination – you had to have amnio back in the day if you really, really wanted to know.)
How do they wash the windows of the World Trade Center? Sigh. How are the windows of the WTC washed? (First, horrible, thought that comes to my mind: they don’t.)
How do they get natural gas to your house? No. How is natural gas delivered to your house?
Another pet peeve: Mr. Peters, my beloved 10th grade English teacher, drilled the concept of parallelism into my mind. If I’ve ever helped you with your resume, you know about this particular obsession. In short, if you pick a verb tense/way of doing something, keep going with it.
Which makes me even more befuddled about this book. Many of the questions are styled How do they…. , but some of them are phrased as I’ve mentioned above. There is no consistency within their own naming conventions!
Maybe I just need to put this book down and realise that it will make me so mad that I can’t get through it. Or, maybe, this book is going to be updated and reissued, and they need my help in re-writing…..I’m available. And cheap. Call me.