One of the great things about going to university is the friendships you make with your fellow students. In my case, even though I am an external student and seldom get closer to my new buddies than a late night skype, this particular brand of collegiality is one I haven’t enjoyed since leaving the church. And perhaps not even then.
For a grammar and punctuation stickler such as I am, it’s been particularly heartening to find that university is peppered with similarly pedantic sorts. Finding each other has been a revelation – akin to overhearing a stranger ordering a peanut butter, lettuce and mayonnaise on white at the sandwich bar and waiting while the universe stops to catch its breath as it acknowledges that the two of you share an important little difference unappreciated by the bulk of humanity.
On my favourite university Facebook group, more people than just myself often bemoan the appalling standard of English on uni discussion boards and elsewhere…and others soon chime in with their Irritation of the Week citations. It’s fantastic! But I’ve begun to notice a rather disturbing pattern and I think it’s time I make an official note of it.
Recently, one clever uni friend joined our whinge-fest, describing her understandable horror at a hairdressers’ shop sign which read ‘Appointments not nessecary’. My friend went on to inadvertently describe herself as having been ‘aghaust’. A few minutes later, another fellow English-rules-nut gave the folk who write university student advisory pages a spray stating that they could use a few ‘lessions’ in grammar and spelling. This struck me as very close to some kind of delectable Freudian slip; I imagined if she got those advisors alone for just a few minutes she would inflict horrible wounds on the ignorant cusses – perhaps belting them with the sharp edge of a dictionary.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not criticising these uber-bright women – precisely the opposite is true. I’m acknowledging that his happens to all of us. It could be because we tend to type more quickly when we are annoyed, thus increasing the possibility of typos. But I’m going to hypothesise that there may be little-understood mystical powers at work. That my friends were, as I have been many times, the victims of what I’m going to call ‘Jane’s Law’ – at least until I discover that someone has beaten me to it. So here it is:
Jane’s Law states that the degree of righteous indignation one expresses while criticising the grammatical, spelling or punctuation failures of others is directly proportionate to the likelihood that one will produce an ironically similar error right at that moment.
As I see it, that’s the only plausible explanation for the humiliating failure of usually reliable English skills at times like those. At least, that’s what I’ll be blaming for my own unfortunately frequent, cringe-worthy lapses in future.