How to make an environmentalist

This post reflects the opinions of the author and is not intended to hurt the sentiments of anyone who is related to W.H Davies/ enjoys bad poetry/ makes a profession out of getting offended easily.

Now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll begin.

Today’s post will be about nature. No particular reason. I was just running out of ideas so I looked around for inspiration and saw two things that caught my attention: 1. My feet and 2. Some nature. Luckily for you, I decided to write about the latter.

To be honest, I don’t know that much about nature. Well, I know that it’s important and stuff. I’ve studied about it in Environmental Science and I’ve learned that nature is important ’cause it has ecosystems. And biodiversity. And trees. I think trees are actually pretty cool.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I aced all the tests.

Alright, I’ll admit that I’m kidding. I didn’t ace the tests, and honestly, I’m an ardent environmentalist. Well, maybe not ardent. I don’t ride biodegradable unicycles or anything. But I recycle and I don’t litter. So I suppose that counts as novice environmentalism.

I was first introduced to the ingenious new concept of nature-loving by the poem ‘Leisure’ by W.H. Davies. I was quite intrigued when I first read it, at age eight. “No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass” – I was left wide-eyed by the genius of the rhyme. Pass and grass! What mortal could devise such rhythm, such tempo? And the idea bewitched me: not having enough time to watch the squirrels hide their nuts – that was the story of my life! I began to revere W.H. Davies like a god. I quoted Leisure in every single essay and every single story I ever wrote (whether or not the topic was evenly vaguely related to nature), starting from an essay about man’s inability to enjoy the beauty of nature and ending with an essay about Adolf Hitler’s policies in Germany. I think I managed to attribute all of World War II to Hitler’s inability to just sit back and watch ‘the squirrels hide their nuts in grass’.

And now I feel like an idiot, because I’ve realized that what I’ve been quoting all along is just absolute rubbish. No offence meant to W.H. Davies or kin.

The very first line of the poem is, ‘What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare’. Oh my god. He wrote ‘stand and stare’. Stand and stare! Why would anyone in their right mind ‘stare’ at nature? The Oxford dictionary describes ‘stare’ as ‘look fixedly or vacantly at someone or something with one’s eyes wide open’. I really don’t think W.H. Davies meant to say that people should ‘look vacantly’ at nature. That’s actually entirely contradictory to what the poem is meant to say, i.e., that people should take more time to enjoy nature. Talk about the wrong choice of words.

I’ve been quoting grammatically inaccurate material for several years. That’s really bad for the reputation of a Grammar Nazi.

It gets worse. “No time to stand beneath the boughs, and stare as long as sheep or cows.” He used ‘stare’ again. And now he’s saying we should stare like farmyard animals do. He seems completely out of his mind, if you ask me. To be fair, it’s possible that his wi-fi was down when he was writing this poem, so he couldn’t Google for synonyms of ‘stare’ or words that rhyme with ‘boughs’.

I’ll admit that the rest of the poem was much more sensible than the shaky, somewhat repetitive beginning. But then he says, “No time to see, in broad daylight, Streams full of stars, like skies at night.” Stars in the day? It’s possible that there is a deep philosophical meaning hidden somewhere in there, but inexplicably, ‘ingestion-of-forbidden-substances’ is the only rational explanation that comes to mind.

Look at me, critiquing literature and all.

The reason for this rant is that I was recently reading essays by middle school children on the topic ‘nature’ and each one of them had quoted Leisure. Moreover, some had even gone so far as to paraphrase Davies with worrying results. “I love to stare at nature – I do it all day.” “It is important for man to take some time out of his busy day to stare at nature.” “Like the famous poet W.H. Davies says, man should stare at pigs and cows.”

It almost gives one the feeling that this is one of the tasks on Man’s daily checklist:
1. Go to work. Check.
2. Pick up the dry-cleaning. Check.
3. Stare at nature. Check.

Almost wants to make me become an anti-environmentalist.

And this is why I don’t like Leisure anymore. When I was younger I thought it was the epitome of poetic perfection, because it rhymed and everything. Now I think it’s preachy, grammatically incorrect, clichéd and overused. And that’s why schools that want to promote environmentalism should stop teaching children Leisure and should get them to read newspapers instead.

It’ll frighten them into becoming unicycle-riding environmentalists, I promise. 

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I didn’t choose the Grammar Nazi life – the Grammar Nazi life chose me.

The title of this post was originally meant to be ‘Lessuns in Grammer, Speling and Puncshuashun’. That didn’t work out because I was afraid that, had I clicked the ‘publish’ button, I would have to walk around with that disturbingly flawed title on my conscience for the rest of my life. I would probably get a big black X beside my name in my Life Book.  So I decided to stick with the clichéd but grammatically accurate ‘I didn’t choose the Grammar Nazi life – the Grammar Nazi life chose me.’

Please forgive my OCD.

I’m very ashamed to admit that I am a Grammar Nazi. I’d like to blame it on my genes, but I can’t. Alarmingly, my mother has no qualms about using ‘who’ in place of ‘whom’. It shocks me that my mother, my mother, would let her grammar fall into such a state of disarray. It’s having an impact on me as well. I’ve fallen into the bad habit of using semi-colons when colons will suffice. I have to do something about this before I end up being entirely gangsta. Just imagine – I may start scribbling ‘Mushroomsup rox!’ in library books.

I digress.

I’m not proud of being a grammar Nazi. It’s a disease. When somebody says “What is the time in your watch?” my immediate response is “by your watch.” I like to think that I’ve taught the inquirer something new, but in fact, all they’ve learnt is that they should never ask me for the time. It’s quite sad, actually. The inquirer has left to ask someone else for the time, while I’m sitting there all alone, telling myself, “It is half past three by my watch.” The same thing happens when someone says, “[Insert Name] and me will grab a bite on the way out.” I can barely stop myself from shaking them by the shoulders and weeping, “It’s [Insert name] and I, for heaven’s sakes! [Insert name] and I!

The average Grammar Nazi has no friends. When someone says, “I’m headed for the movie theatre, would you like to come?” the grammar Nazi is busy wondering whether it is ‘headed for’ or ‘headed to’. It’s a lonely life in Grammar-ny (If that didn’t make you think of Germany, I apologize – making terrible puns is another characteristic of a Grammar Nazi).

Every time I write a post for this blog, I spend most of my time rushing to check grammar forums to see if I have used a certain word correctly and in the right grammatical context. If I can’t find the answer on grammar forums, I’m forced to resort to asking my mother. I get on her nerves. Sometimes I get on my own nerves.

Spoken grammar is nothing when it comes to comparing it with written grammar – social networking is enough to propel a Grammar Nazi to suicide. I know I’m being a prick when I comment ‘*You’re, not your’ on injudiciously titled photographs, but I just can’t help it. I feel compelled to educate the world, no matter how unwilling my pupils are. The Grammar Nazi’s job is the most underappreciated job in the world.

One of my pet peeves is people using more than one exclamation mark or question mark at the end of a sentence. Why would they do that? Do they want to convey a level of surprise or inquisitiveness that one single exclamation/ question mark cannot handle? Is there a set of rules I haven’t heard about? Perhaps one exclamation mark indicates mild surprise, two indicate shock and horror, three indicate eye-popping disbelief, and so on. Still, I haven’t heard of these rules, and this trend shall continue to annoy me until someone draws my attention to such a set of rules. As a rule, all Grammar Nazis love rules.

I like the fact that Microsoft Word and most word processors have an ability to check spelling and grammar. I do have a bit of an ego when it comes to spelling and grammar check, though. I’m glad when Word corrects others, but I’m not so happy when it corrects me.  I hate those little red and green lines under the words and the ominous command ‘Fragment – consider revising.’ I’ll have you know, Microsoft Word, that I’m extremely partial to sentence fragments. They’re my favourite kind of grammatical error. If there’s one grammatical mistake I’ll tolerate, it’s a sentence fragment. Also, don’t try to correct my spelling errors. Seriously; you don’t want to mess with me.

I’ll conclude with some advice: Never ask a Grammar Nazi to proof read anything you’ve written. You WILL regret it. By the time the Grammar Nazi’s done, you’ll be weeping in despair. The Grammar Nazi will then comfort you by saying, “There, they’re, their.”