I’m marking my 10-year anniversary of writing this column by rerunning some of my favorite Q-and-A’s.
Q. My brother is trying to get me to date this girl I don’t like. She’s one of those futureless, pot-smoking screw-ups with the IQ of a sponge, one of the “bad crowd” (like about every other person in this town). I know he’s just trying to help me, so how do I tell him to stop and not to try again? I highly doubt any of the people he knows would interest me at all.
A. I’d probably leave out the futureless, pot-smoking screw-up with the IQ of a sponge part and just cut to the chase. You could say, “Thanks, man, but I’m all set.” Then I think it’s time for you to book your bus ticket. If you are surrounded by such losers, it sounds like it’s time to make plans to “get out of Dodge.” (2004)
Q. My first-grade son brought home some corrected homework the other day on which the teacher had written this note: “Write neater.”
Under any other circumstance, I would never correct another adult’s grammar; that would be rude and embarrassing. But she is a teacher, after all, and she would probably appreciate being reminded that adjectives modify nouns and adverbs modify verbs, and the grammatically correct statement is, “Write more neatly.”
A. It’s something of a relief to know that there are still people out there for whom grammar is a headline.
If you think your son’s teacher would appreciate having her grammar corrected by you then, by all means, let her know that this language breach is something with which you cannot put up.
But why don’t you sit on your grammar issue and assume that it’s a one-time offense.
If you notice further grammar problems or if your son comes home with his participles dangerously dangling, you should speak with her. But don’t get cute by circling her comments in red pen or anything. Just tell her you’re a stickler and say you’ve noticed a grammar issue: Is she aware of this? (2003)
Q. During the past few years a friend has taken improv comedy classes, which culminate with skits open to the public. I have attended the shows with a friend to show my support, although they can be painful to watch.
It seems that my friend expects attendance with “see you there” remarks when extending an invitation. While I am open to going to these shows occasionally, I would rather not be a perennial audience member.
Is there a polite way to say no to these invitations, or should I bite the bullet and go every time? Keep in mind that the shows usually run for a while, so it’s difficult to come up with an excuse that spans several days.
A. Maybe you could stand inside one of those imaginary phone booths and mime your distress by doing a silent scream?
“Call him out” and make him perform a rap song in the character of an improv-theater-loathing squirrel?
Or just tell your friend, “I’m going to miss this show, but let me know what comes up next, because I’m interested. I just can’t make it to every show.”
This way you’re covered, just in case your pal is the next John Belushi or Bill Murray. (2004)