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Cute “versing” Correct

January 18, 2012

“Come here boys.  I have a task for you.”

“What’s a task?”

“A task is like a job.”

“Then why don’t you just say, ‘I have a job for you.'” <accompanied by a dramatic eyeroll>

(Because Mommy was trying to disguise work as something else that wouldn’t make you roll your eyes at me.)

Okay, I didn’t actually say that, but it’s one of the milder (and printable) inner mom-ologues I’ve had while talking with my kids.  My real response was,

“Because it’s always good to know more words and more than one way to say something.  Now come help me…”

That was my Sunday morning vocabulary lesson with my kids.  As a former English teacher, I can’t help myself.  I’ve always been a card-carrying member of the Grammar Police.  It started as young as elementary school with me correcting my friends.  (Yeah, sorry about that!)  But there are an increasing number of instances where the English teacher in me should come out with sirens blaring.  The thing is, I find myself squashing the grammar police in favor of cuteness.

My oldest walked into the living room this weekend as the Giants game was starting.

“Who are they versing?” he asked.

“Green Bay,” we answered without blinking an eye.  Conversation over.

The word “versing” became part of my son’s vocabulary three years ago when he was in Kindergarten.  We thought it was so cute and even defended how it “made sense” to his young, developing mind.  It was this accepted error among his classmates and all of us chuckled on the playground together about it.  It was cute, so why correct it?

Yet, here we are, three years later, and “versing” is now part of our family lexicon.  Aren’t I supposed to be correcting these errors to instill an understanding of basic grammar?

With my daughter, I find myself ignoring major grammatical errors that used to be like nails on a chalkboard to my ears.

“Am’nt I good at this?”

“We goed to the library today.”

“I’ll be Pluto, you be Mickey, and Robbie be’s Goofy.”

I’m now ignoring things like “goed” and “be’s?”  What is wrong with me?  Why am I not teaching her simple conjugation?  Oh yeah, because she’s three and it’s still cute.  But, if I don’t start teaching them the correct way to speak and write now, will my own kids be the worst mutilators of the English language in the future?

When I taught, it was at the secondary level.  I expected my students to already have the basics down before entering my writing workshops.  Obviously, I expect kids (my own included) to learn the basics sometime between now and middle school.

So when should this transition from cute to correct take place?  Is second grade too old to allow “versing” to go on uncorrected?  Do I say goodbye to the preschool speech and start teaching Subject/Verb agreement?

What do you think?

When is the right age to start correcting your kids and teaching them proper grammar?  Am I too late and have I screwed them up for life?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. ashleyinnc permalink
    January 18, 2012 10:20 AM

    I hope you always use versing, it is the best thing ever. I can really only speak for my sister, who had quite a lot of words that were her own, like amazical, which we still say to this day. The good news is that she went on to attend an exceptionally good college and get a Master’s Degree and no longer uses that word, so I don’t think you do actually have to correct your children at all.
    Abby does a lot of the same things that your little one does, and I never correct her. They will learn the difference, and you will be lucky enough to have some perfect family words! 🙂

    • January 18, 2012 10:58 AM

      “Amazical” may be my new favorite word. I think I’ll teach that one to my kids in an effort to get them to come out like Laura. 😉 Thanks, Ashley!!

  2. abozza permalink
    January 18, 2012 12:34 PM

    It’s hard to let go of those “cute” grammatical errors because they keep our kids little. I don’t correct quite a bit of it. Eventually, they’ll go to school, someone will say it correctly or a teacher will correct them and that will be that. Some of them, I’ve corrected and Matty says “I want to say it my way,” and I’m fine with it because he knows the right way but is choosing, at home, to say it cute. My favorite, in our family, which isn’t necessarily grammatical, but is along these lines is when I make chicken parmesan for dinner. One night, Matty asked what we were having and I said chicken parmesan. He asked what the can was on the counter and I said “chicken broth” which he heard as “chicken bra,” and forever after has called chicken parmesan “chicken bra.” We all call it chicken bra, now, even though we all know what it is called. Sometimes, like “versing,” it’s a nice family joke that you’ll still be saying when those boys are bigger than you. 🙂

    • January 19, 2012 6:03 AM

      Way to go, Matt, for exercising his rights. I really like that concept of choosing to be cute. At this age, I do still smile when I hear these things. I just hope my smiles now don’t lead to cringes later. Thanks, Amy!

  3. Kim G. permalink
    January 19, 2012 7:49 AM

    RJ used to use the word “benext” all the time. “Momma, come sit benext to me!” Then one day, about a year ago, I realized he wasn’t saying it anymore. I can’t tell you the last time he said it, but if I’d known it was going to be the last time I probably would have shed a tear or two. Or three.

    Like you, I think there is a middle ground between enjoying their cuteness… their bright and innocent voices saying adorable, quirky little words during the brief time it lasts… and teaching them correct grammar.

  4. January 20, 2012 8:42 AM

    Our most common one is “remembery” as in, my 8 year old who tells us quite seriously that she has a “very good remembery” (and she does, too!)

    I correct on and off. We homeschool, so I can’t rely on them picking it up from teachers. But there are friends, books, and gentle reminders. But some of them just hang with you. And some will never change. Per my oldest, Barnes & Noble will forever be Narnes & Boble in our family!

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