Looking Under The Hood…

I just love statistics, and numbers, and such
Whether icy abstractions or warm to the touch
I’ve been told that, perhaps, I adore them too much—
That my feelings are more-or-less “weird”

Ok, “weird” I can see, but I have to confess
I’m put off by the too-imprecise “more or less”—
Is it greater, or smaller? And so, I obsess—
Which is pretty much just what they feared.

“Pretty much”? I shall have to do better than this!
My obsession compels me; there’s something amiss!
Like cars to the Germans or clocks to the Swiss
Are numbers to people like me

There’s too much to do, so I’ll finish up fast
“It’s the last verse”, I’ll say, so I’m strapped to the mast
I will want to write more, but that moment has passed
And—precisely—I’m now out to sea.

I won’t tell you what prompted this verse–I can’t; I don’t have time. I saw a comment, when I shouldn’t have been looking. I was (and am) grading; I have too much to do to be reading non-essential stuff, let alone writing.

But then, someone made a bad statistical argument. And it physically hurt to read.

It’s pretty much the same reaction that bad grammar or spelling gives me, except that it is rarer, so I have built up less immunity.

Anyway, I couldn’t get back to work until I addressed the situation. So… back to work. Right, then, as you were, move along, nothing to see here!

Or… do you have your own obsessions like this? Do you correct the grammar and/or spelling of signs? (I do) Do you physically feel it when you see a mathematical error? Do you turn the radio off (as I did yesterday) when someone starts reciting poetry that does not quite rhyme, or does not quite follow the appropriate meter?

Do you consider your obsession to be a blessing or a curse?


  1. Die Anyway says

    Ok’ I’ll admit it. I’m a grammar Nazi. (Is that an acceptable term?). It drove me crazy at work when my boss would send out a memo like: “Send your weekly report to myself.” I almost wrote back that “only you can send a report to yourself” but I liked my paycheck too much to give in to that temptation. The other one that I hear a dozen times a day is “me and …” as in “me and my friend went to the store.” I yell at the TV, for all the good that does, and correct friends and family which probably doesn’t enhance my popularity, but I can’t help myself. Someone is wrong in their grammar. :-( I guess that makes it a curse.

    As for statistics, I view the world in a statistical manner but haven’t particularly noted any misuse or mistake that made me jump up and down in anger. Now that you’ve gotten me thinking about it, I will probably encounter an example soon. Synchronicity, don’t you know!

    Eat well, stay fit, Die Anyway

  2. zackoz says

    What you need is a t-shirt text I saw the other day:

    “I am silently correcting your grammar”.

    But everyone has their own grammatical tics. For example, I hate the word “gotten”. And “thusly” too – what’s wrong with “thus”?

    I have to keep reminding myself that grammar correctness depends on usage – and usage can change.

    Maybe statistical errors are different, or at least more clear-cut.

  3. John Horstman says

    @zackoz #2: Man, “thusly” really irritates me as well. “Thus” is ALREADY an adverb, no need to attach the adverb-making morpheme “-ly”.

  4. gardengnome says

    I simply cannot ignore the use of ‘pled’ in place of ‘pleaded – lights my fuse every time!

  5. Al Dente says

    I hate the word “gotten”.

    If gotten was good enough for Shakespeare and Marlow it’s good enough for me.

  6. Johnny Vector says

    Yeah, pretty much everything in your penultimate paragraph. Also, since you didn’t mention it, poor typography. I probably get that from years of reading alt.religion.kibology back in the day. Bad kerning makes me grimace. It’s Shamrockfest, not Sham rock fest!

    Hmm… Or is it?

  7. permanentwiltingpoint says

    Well, I’ve recently been to a poetry slam at my university. And poetry forced to rhyme, regardless of flow, meter or length of line is physically hurting as w / hell.

  8. anne mariehovgaard says

    I do this all the time, with (Norwegian) grammar and spelling. I’m physically incapable of ignoring such mistakes – show me a page full of text and ask me if I like the font, and I’ll immediately point out any spelling mistakes. I think I have a spell-checking homunculus in my head. Noticing grammatical mistakes takes longer, since I have to actually read the text. I don’t always say anything – but if I’m in the audience, you should proofread your PP pages carefully*. Misspelt** words hurt my eyes and make it very, very hard to focus on what you’re trying to say.

    *And if you are giving a lecture on dyslexia, I will point out your mistakes in public.
    **I was taught first Am. English, then British, then Am. again, so I tend to mix & match words… I’m afraid it’s too late to change that ;) Please feel free to point out any other mistakes, though :)

  9. Joan says

    Written to my husband a couple of years ago.

    War on Word

    Long ago ‘tween you and me
    The argument then seemed to be
    Whether “affect” or “effect”
    Was proper usage. Now, by heck,
    I look with fondness on that time.
    In retrospect it seems sublime
    Compared to that which takes its place
    Both on the air and printed space.
    “Impacted?” Surely it’s a spoof.
    This word concerns a crowded tooth
    Or objects crushed together tight
    But now the word has taken flight.
    “Affected” hasn’t the impact.
    “Impacted” is the nouveau tact.
    No one’s affected by event
    Of storm or war or ill wind sent.
    They’re all impacted. I gave up
    My futile war against this pup.
    But just when I was quite resigned
    To swallow all this bilge I find
    New courage. It is quite a mouthful
    To say that something is “impactful.”

  10. outeast says

    You could say that my rhyming’s atrocious
    That my meter is making you scream
    But in truth I’m a Poet Precocious:
    You just haven’t figured my scheme.

    For I’ve declared war on those critics
    Who only love to read poems that scan
    And tooth-grating abuses of scansion
    Well they’re right at the heart of my plan

    My arsenal of poetic abuses
    Will be more than I think you can bear
    And my rhymes may not rhyme, but the truth is
    I just love how it grates in your ear…

  11. Cuttlefish says

    That, outeast, is a thing of beauty.

    Love, love, love the last line. But I’m a fan of visual rhymes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *