Sunday, August 12, 2007

Revenge of the Nerds

Ya, so I own a pair of big sunglasses. And I work along side a bunch of stylie designers. I was even one of those girls in 7th grade who snuck out at night to meet cute boys in the woods where we'd play scandalous games of truth or dare.

But don't let this fool you into thinking I'm anything but a huge nerd. Seriously. One supporting fact for my membership in Club Nerd is my penchant for all things grammatical. While other people's interests include fun topics like Britney's shocking fall from grace, the latest in must-have Mac technology, and exciting sporting events, I'm sitting around thinking about oft misunderstood phrases like "whet your appetite" vs. "wet your appetite." Not exactly cocktail party conversation, unless....you're drinking cocktails with yours truly.

This passion runs deep. In fact, it's lead me to date people just because they sent me an email that clearly demonstrates their mastery of you're vs. your (well maaaaybe there were a few other reasons but not really). One former boyfriend not only knew the Latin roots for countless words but would also routinely drop $.50 bombs like "bricolage" in regular conversation without sounding full of himself--irresistible.

The most recent place this dorky little interest has lead me is into this hard-core editing class. It's 3 hours each week for 10 weeks and the room is PACKED with nerds of all types: college nerds, foreign nerds, grandparent nerds, you name it. We learn things like how to make that rough call between the semi-colon and the comma (an excruciating decision at times), the difference between M dashes and N dashes, and the nuances that come into play with attributive vs. possessive adjectives (like farmer's market vs. farmers market--more tricky than you'd think). Each week, everyone shows up with their bright orange Chicago Manuel of Style and their tattered Merriam-Webster's Dictionary to discuss the finer points of the English language.

Since the first class, I've secretly told myself that my fellow students were bigger nerds "than I." Each time one of them would insist we consider the 3rd or 4th definition of a word listed in the dictionary, I silently confirmed my suspicion. I just knew they had been the teacher's pet their whole life, the kind of person who gives nerds a bad name. And, hey, at least my dictionary was pocket sized. But something happened last Thursday that made me proud to count myself as one of the group.

So, our teacher (a hipster mom with a personality reminiscent of Nurse Diesel from High Anxiety) returned our mid-term exams. At the end of class, I asked if she could please tell us the average score so that I could get some perspective (read: feel a little better about my dismal performance). She responded that she's not at liberty to share anyone's grades. With that, another student spoke up and added that he, too, would like to know the average. "Not who got what grade," he explained with a hint of despair in his voice, "you know, the average." She responded that she didn't feel it would be "appropriate" to share such information, which prompted yet another disgruntled student to explain the meaning of average.

The teacher, wearing a babydoll dress over a pair of sassy jeans, wasn't having any of it...and she was getting more flustered by the minute. All of a sudden she blurted out, "I'm not going to share your grades! If you want to tell each other what you got, FINE. Then you can share your salaries, too!" With that, class came to a screeching halt and she walked out the door. Eek.

A little embarrassed that my question prompted such a violent outburst, I packed up my books and red erasable pens and made my way to the 3rd St exit. Before I made it out, a few classmates caught up with me. I was sure they were going to yell at me for upsetting our teacher, and I didn't have it in me to apologise.

Instead, one fellow nerd, nearly in tears, announced that she had gotten a D on the exam and that her dreams of becoming a professional proofreader had been shattered. Another woman shared with the two of us that she had received a C-. She was fuming. "I've been a magazine editor for ten years, for the love of God. I was just taking this class for fun!" Just then, individual classmates started walking up to our group, introducing themselves and announcing their grades on cue, as if we had rehearsed the scene: "Hi, Mike, D+," "Hey guys, Amy, C-," "Hi, Chrissy, D," "Kelly, C+," "Hi guys, Sandra, C," "Hey, Amanda, D," "Hey, Meg, D-." We'd never spoken to one another before and here we were, sharing our midterm scores and bearing our souls under the flickering florescent lights.

It was like the final scene from Revenge of the Nerds when Gilbert gives the dramatic speech at the homecoming rally about how hard it is to be a nerd, to be an outcast. One by one, all types of people, including the cool frat boys and the hot sorority girls, stand up to support him. Remember that part? Right after the Lambda Lambda Lambdas win the homecoming games?

Well, let this serve as my official cry of support for grammar nerds everywhere. Hold your heads high as you conjugate those verbs, memorize those prepositions with conviction, and for God's sake, whip out your 500 page dictionaries with pride! We must unite against those who attempt to stand between us and grammatical salvation. How dare they discourage us and then try to cover up their evil plan? If justice is alive in this country, those people will wind up sleeping in the gym.

1 comment:

nina said...

what grade did you get?