English Major by Mario V. Farina

Andrea Fisher's English was atrocious. This would not have bothered most people, but I would flinch every time she violated grammatical rules, used improper expressions, or mispronounced words.
English Major
English Major by Mario V. Farina
I was an English professor at Wilcox Junior College. I felt that if one wants to express a thought, he or she should do it in the most lucid manner possible, using the most appropriate words. It is true, of course, that not all people will understand what is being said, but that is no reason why the conveyor of an idea should dilute its preciseness in order to fit some common denominator of intelligence. A word about myself. My name is Gordon Mason. I am in my early 60s, of medium height, and somewhat stocky. My hair is thinning and there is a good deal of gray around the edges. My former wife and I were divorced about two years ago. While I had kept my face buried in the pages of Shakespeare, Bacon, and Keats, Martha had been finding occupations elsewhere to keep herself entertained. One day she told me she had fallen in love with a garage mechanic and wanted a divorce. She took the car and the bank account and left me the house. I thought this was a reasonable settlement. I did not realize how much I would miss Martha. I tried to keep going as I had, but found that when my supply of clean dishes ran out, I had to wash some, otherwise, I would not be able to eat. And there are only so many times that one can wear a shirt before others begin holding their noses. I tried to resolve these problems by eating out more often, and by discarding dirty clothes, and buying new ones. But, these kinds of solutions were only partially effective as they were so expensive. Then Andrea came into my life. I met her at a Christmas party. An associate of mine had asked her to accompany him. We were seated at the same table. She and I had an opportunity to talk while others were dancing. Andrea seemed interested in my ideas about Fitzgerald's translations of the Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam, and we agreed to meet again for lunch the following week to continue the discussion. Andrea was somewhat taller than I and about 10 years younger. Her husband, of 30 years duration had died the year before. She was slim and wore her auburn hair long. I thought she had a pleasant personality and was moderately attractive. Well, one lunch led to another and, at one point, Andrea suggested that she come over to my place and cook. I gratefully accepted since going out for dinner every night had become tiresome. It was at my home that I began to notice the odd little irregularities in Andrea's English. In restaurants, they had gone over my head, but in the house they made a stronger impact. "My friend, Agnes, don't know whether to look for another job," she said while we were enjoying our dessert. I laughed and said, "Andrea that should be she doesn't not don't. You see, don't is a contraction for do not. You are saying that your friend, Agnes, do not know whether to look for another job." "Oh," she said, "I'll try to remember that." After dinner, Andrea washed the dishes and dried them. She noted that the floor needed sweeping and took care of that. Next she hung up some coats and shirts that were lying around the house. We continued to date and, one day, Andrea called and asked whether I would like to eat at her house. Happily, I accepted. During the meal, Andrea used the expression he done and she done several times. Each time she did so, my teeth grated. Finally I could stand it no longer, and with some heat, reminded her that she should have said he did and she did. She expressed regret for blundering and promised to do better next time. Over the next several days and weeks, my friendship with Andrea flourished and we began seeing each other every day. We would eat out, or she would prepare a meal at my house. Andrea began to pick up after me, to sweep, vacuum, wash my clothes, make the bed, even clean the shower. She began to spend more and more time at my house. The quality of my life improved to a considerable degree. It was like I had gained a housekeeper, errand girl, and cook, all in one package. All I had to do was speak a kind word to her now and then. However, Andrea's English continue to annoy me and I escalated my criticisms. One day I reprimanded her more severely than I had ever done before. "Andrea," I exploded, your English is insufferable. You use improper past participles, you don't know the difference between the past tense and the present perfect, you use double negatives, you mispronounced words, and there are many more mistakes you make. I think we had better terminate our relationship. Tears welled up in Andrea's eyes. "Gordon," she pleaded, "ain't I good to you? Don't I cook and clean for you? Don't I wash your clothes and make your bed? Hasn't I always went to the market for you and did your shopping? Why should a few mistakes in English make so much difference?" "I know I am demanding a great deal," I admitted. "But I am an English professor. What one says needs to be steeped in good grammar much like tea when it is being brewed. I know my manner of expression may seem pompous, but the correct use of English is an obsession with me." "I got an idea," said Andrea. "Say the rules to me and I will write them down in a notebook. After that, I will practice and improve. We can start with a problem and work on it until I get the hang of it. Then, we can work on another problem, and so on." I thought this was a magnificent proposal, and we started with the difference between went and gone. Andrea bought a large notebook and, after dinner, we sat at the kitchen table. I explained the difference between the two words and she wrote down my explanations carefully. It worked. Andrea stop saying went when she meant gone. She also mastered the differences between gave and given, saw and seen, and several other troublesome pairs. One day, she met me at the door. "Listen," she said, "today, after I came back from the market, I did the washing. Then I went to the bank for you and gave them your deposit." Her face was aglow with ecstasy. "I am delighted with her progress," I said. We worked on pronunciation next. When commanded, Andrea obediently brought out her notebook. Over the next several hours, I dictated a list of commonly mispronounced words and their correct pronunciations. "Practice these," I ordered. She agreed to do so. After pronunciation had been mastered, we worked on prepositions, then adjectives, then adverbs. And so it went for weeks. I must admit that Andrea was a conscientious student. She studied the notes until she understood everything I taught. Andrea began speaking elegant English, but somehow I was not pleased. What drove me to do what I did next, I do not know. Possibly she had become too successful in English and I still needed someone over whom I could maintain a level of superiority. I began disparaging Andrea's cooking, her dress, her driving. Our relationship cooled. Uncharacteristically, Andrea began acting unpredictably. There were periods of time in her days that she could not account for. She defied my demands for explanations. One day, Andrea informed me that I would have to go it alone for a few months. There were things she had to do and matters that she needed to think about. I was too proud to beseech her to stay. She packed and left. The next few months passed slowly. I became depressed. My home became disordered again. The quality of my work at the school declined. I was called into the principal's office. After nervously clearing his throat, Mr. Hildebrand spoke. "Gordon," he said, "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. Your performance has been unsatisfactory lately. You don't look well. The students are complaining. We're asking you to retire effective the first of the month." "Surely my performance has not been that bad," I protested. "And, in such a short time, you couldn't possibly find anyone to fill my position." "Well, as a matter of fact," he replied, "we have a replacement already. She is a Ms. Andrea Fisher. She's an expert in the English language and has just published a book called, The Ten Most Common Mistakes People Make in English – – and How to Avoid Them. It should be a bestseller. We hired her as soon as she applied." "She's your replacement. I'm sorry, Gordon, you're through!"


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