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Don’t Go Murdering the King’s English

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I took my son out to dinner at Carrabas the other night, during a big snowstorm. As we were leaving the restaurant after we ate, the hostess opened the door behind us. “Drive safe!” she called after us, and we headed out into the snow. 


Once we were in the car, I asked D., “What did she just say that was wrong?”


He looked at me, puzzled. “I don’t know … be careful?” He was fiddling with his iPod.


I said, “No. She said, ‘Drive safe,’ but safe is an adjective. She should have said ‘Drive safely.’ Safely is an adverb.”


D. rolled his eyes. “Give her a break, Mom,” he said. “She’s a freakin’ waiter.


“She probably didn’t go to Harvard,” he added. She probably went to Yah-ley.” We heard a teenager on TV say he wanted to go to Yah-ley. We laugh about that a lot. “Well,” I replied, “Your grandmother would say it doesn’t matter whether you’re a college graduate or not—you can still speak properly.”


My mother never went to college—she was studying to be an opera singer at the San Francisco Conservatory when she met my father. But she certainly taught us to speak properly. I’d say to her, “Why don’t you come with D. and I?” and she’d say “D. and me.” And I’d respond, “You’re already going with D?” I learned from her that we are never done after we eat. Hams are done. People are finished. And we got into an argument once about whether you say a historian or an historian (she won that one—it’s an, can you believe that?).


So, I must pass this tradition on to my son. I took him to see The King’s Speech recently, just to inspire him. I thought the film was phenomenal. Other than the history, the context, the language, and the slow pace, he thought it was okay. He liked that it was rated R. Good thing English class can be anywhere. I was an English major, so as far as I’m concerned, his education will never be over.


“By the way,” I told D., as we drove home through the snow the night at the restaurant, “She’s not a waiter. She’s a waitress.” 

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