Barack Obama called Michelle “some angry black woman.” (Not really, but Michelle’s mangled prose makes it seem so.)

On Facebook the other day, one of my friends offered her services as an English tutor — and included a grammatical error in her offer.  Admittedly, it was an error that involved a usage that has been changing over time, but I still expect an English tutor to avoid this particular mistake.  Even if her usage is correct colloquially, it doesn’t pass muster in grammar books.

Don Quixote, to whom I told this story, said that I’m fighting a rearguard battle here.  I certainly agree with him that language changes (otherwise we’d all sound Shakespearean), but the fact remains that there are rules of grammar, and that good writers and speakers know these rules.  Nor are these rules merely useless holdovers from older, more formal times.  Many developed to advance one specific goal:  clarity.  If you assemble the parts of your sentence in accordance with strict grammatical rules, you need not fear that it will be open to misinterpretation.  The writer (and speaker) who controls his dangling or misplaced modifiers, random pronouns, subject verb disagreements, etc., is the writer who actually gets his message across.

Immediately after having delivered my ringing endorsement for good grammar, I turned on the radio and got proof that I’m right.  I heard a snippet of Michelle Obama’s CBS interview, the one in which she rebutted the charge that she’s an angry black woman.  Through the miracles of mangled grammar, though, even as she claimed that the charge is untrue, Michelle explicitly stated that Barack Obama himself has “announced” that she is an angry black woman:

 … I guess it’s more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation here and a strong woman and– you know? But that’s been an image that people have tried to paint of me since the day Barack announced, that I’m some angry black woman.  (Emphasis mine.)

Even with the comma that CBS helpfully inserted, the sentence reads as follows:  “That’s been an image that people have tried to paint of me since the day Barack announced that I’m some angry black woman.”  Certainly when I heard Michelle on the radio, I did a double-take and had to rewind the sentence in my mind to figure out that she meant to say that, “Since the day Barack announced that he was running for president, people have tried to paint me as some angry black woman.”

Whether you’re speaking or writing, grammar matters — unless you’re comfortable telling the world that your husband stands in the forefront of people contending that you are indeed an angry black woman.

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  • LSBeene

    Michelle Obama has acted like she feels like an ENTITLED person.  Her mechanism and vehicle may be race and or gender, but the shoe fits.

    If you look at the history of Michelle Obama it’s of interest to note that after graduating law school she went to work for a Law Firm in 1988.  She left in 1991.  Let that sink in for a minute.  

    Most young associates who go to work for a law firm realize that the first 2-3 years are pure drudgery and the next few 1-5 years are for building your reputation in your chosen specialization.  Your first year you are doing scut work and preparing to pass the bar.  You’re not even a lawyer for most of your first year.  THEN you have to LEARN how to PRACTICE law – because, despite Hollywood movies to the contrary, law school is theory, precedent, and a money sucking vacuum that is in serious need of overhaul.

    Apparently during her first or second year (this is from memory) she commented that there were few black faces and not enough black partners in the firm.  She was barely beyond her J.D., had just passed the bar, and was broadly hinting (IMO) that they needed to “get this train moving” and do some affirmative action. 
    Now, that’s MY TAKE on it – but I have grown up knowing quite a few lawyers, and can say this: Any first or second year associate who starts to make noises about how they SHOULD be moved up, (hint: you guys have a racial issue and need to promote minorities : meaning ME) is not going to do well.
    Law firms who take Harvard Law grads are making an investment.  They are not going to see any real production out of them until year 3 or 4.  There are exceptions, but it’s really rare.  If you hire some associate and they can’t make the cut, they usually “seek employment elsewhere” – but it’s just polite lawyer speak for saying “the reality did not match the potential promise”.
    For a law firm to hire a Harvard Law grad, keep her and pay her, while she studies for the bar, and then her go, if she is some legal stud (or studdette) after 3 years is idiotic.  They just gave that associate a crash course in law and are getting no return on their investment.
    But, Michelle stayed there for 3 years, and the firm and she parted ways.  She then went into “public service” as “an assistant to the mayor”.  28 years old, barely able to practice and she’s advising the mayor?  On what?!
    That’s not some red hot legal stud who blazed a trail – IMO that’s someone who found out the law firm world of grind and dues was actual WORK.  Who then started to make noise about “not enough black faces at the partners table” and, think about this for a good minute or two, let Michelle know her future there wasn’t bright.  A racially motivated black lawyer who had serious affirmative action issues – and they let her go – it was a gamble of pay now or risk a lot more later. 
    Now – again, to be clear, much of this is based on my knowledge of how some law firms work, what it takes to make it the first few years out of law school, and the mutually beneficial relationship between associate and firm that exists – and how Michelle basically washed out.
    And then went into “public service” – and whose private sector work included farming out poor folk to local clinics instead of having the hospital she worked for see them (and pay for them) and being given a raise for saving the hospital money.
    Screw her politics, or who her husband is, or if she has a (D) or an (R) next to her name.  IMO she’s an entitlement junkie who used gender and race to achieve what she lacks in talent.  Doing that for herself if one thing.  Doing it while “believing in ‘social justice’ and ‘helping people of color’” and then throwing those very people under the bus medically is pure self-absorbed mercenary behavior.
    She’s a phoney.

  • Indigo Red

    It’s endemic in the Obama household and Obama White House. Earlier today Obama spoke to a group of Chicago supporters where he said, “The first bill I signed — a bill that said that we’re going to have equal pay for equal work because I want my daughters treated the same way as my sons.”  Unless he was actually telling us he has more kids than the two publicly acknowledged daughters, then it was very poor sentence construction resulting from sloppy thinking. 

  • Ymarsakar

    She’s a phoney.

    In other words, she’s a Leftist. 

  • suek

    My current “favorite” (meaning that I hear them as being blared into my ears, even when moderate tones are used) are “well paying”, and “less” when used in the sense of “fewer than”.  I also have a problem with the frequent use of “utilization” – or should I say the frequent utilization of utilization?
    One can say “well paid” and be correct.  Well is an adverb modifying a verb.  No problem.  But when you change the verb form to “paying”, it becomes a gerund, which is noun, and should be modified with an adjective – which means “good paying”.
    I can’t hear them without correcting them under my breath…!

  • Indigo Red

    I’ve a problem with “for free.” Advertising is rife with goods and services ‘for free’. Stuff is either free or for a cost and free is not a cost. Saying ‘for free’ implies there is a price which must be met before the transaction is complete and the price is some unnamed quantity of ‘free’. The mistaken assumption is that ‘free’ is ‘nothing’. This may stem from the old saw that says “nothing in life is free.” What is really meant is ‘no charge’ or ‘for nothing’.

    I’ve another problem with ‘that’, ‘which’, and ‘that which’. If ‘that’ can be replaced with ‘which’, neither is needed. If ‘that which’ can be replaced with ‘what’, do so.

    Another language problem I have – good heavens, I’ve got a lot of problems! – is using his/hers or him/her when the sex of the individual or group is unknown. In such cases, the word is ‘they’. ‘They’ is the correct gender neutral pronoun.

    ‘Gender’ is another. People have sex, words have gender.

    Okay, that’s enough.

    P.S. — People are hanged, pictures are hung.  And, situations are “nipped in the bud,” not butt; it’s a horticultural phrase.

  • LSBeene

    Um, ok, I gotta ask – and yes, I type as casually as I speak – was it MY poor English that caused that fracas?

  • Indigo Red

    No, not at all Beene, It was Michelle’s poor grammar that was the basis of the discussion of poor grammar generally and then to pet peeve grammar gaffes.

  • Marica

    Thank you, Indigo Red. Sex. 

    “A panda walked into a cafe. He ordered a sandwich, ate it, then pulled out a gun and shot the waiter. ‘Why?’ groaned the injured man. The panda shrugged, tossed him a badly punctuated wildlife manual and walked out. And sure enough, when the waiter consulted the book, he found an explanation. ‘Panda,’ ran the entry for his assailant. ‘Large black and white mammal native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.’ ”

    From the book, “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves,” which 

    “adopts a more militant approach and attempts to recruit an army of punctuation vigilantes: send letters back with the punctuation corrected. Do not accept sloppy emails. Climb ladders at dead of night with a pot of paint to remove the redundant apostrophe in “Video’s sold here”.”


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