Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#133 In which our hero does some “thinking.”

Several times in my life I’ve blown off something that I should have done, only to have it come back to me, years later.

For example: I took a Shakespeare class in college (I mean, didn’t everyone?) in which I was supposed to memorize a soliloquy and write it down for a quiz. Since I’m crappy at memorizing and it was only like 1/20th of the score, I didn’t bother. My instructor told us that it would be a great party trick later in life, and I’m like, “Pfft! I’ll never do that.”

So naturally, there have been a couple of times in my life that I thought, “Man, it would be perfect if I could bust out a Shakespeare soliloquy right now!” Worse yet, at least one of those occasions might have impressed a girl I liked.

So I’m reading Defective Yeti today , and in his post he mentions “Gerundland,” which is a joke that only English majors will get. But, it reminded me of yet another thing I had blown off and later regretted.

I read Stephen King’s Four Seasons in my early 20s. One of the novellas therein is called “The Body.” It was later made into a film called “Stand By Me” which you know you’ve seen, because it’s a law in this country that everyone has to see “Stand By Me.” Anyway, in the story, King writes that Chris Chambers (played by the late River Phoenix in the movie) struggled with English Lit in high school, driving him to write, “FUCK GERUNDS!” in his notebook.

So naturally, I had to look up exactly what a “gerund” was. Turns out it’s a kinda complicated grammar thing, something that (at the time) I never thought I would have to know, so I blew it off.

Flash forward 10 years.

I’m in my apartment in Columbus, trying to find a copywriter job in Cleveland so I can move up there to be with the woman I love. I’m on the phone with a high-power recruiter in the Cleveland area, and she’s basically interviewing me on the phone. Once again, I’m the King of the Interview, but this one isn’t going so well. Mostly because I know that this woman doesn’t have a job for me… she has the resources to find me a job -- maybe -- so I’m free to be a little more… casual with the way I answer her questions. She’s also condescending and annoying, so I’m not turning on the charm by any stretch. But since there’s a chance -- however slim -- that she might land me a job, I’m not outright rude.

Anyway, the interview is wrapping up, and she says, “One final questions. What’s a gerund?”

Son of a bitch! I think. I looked this up once. Shit! I should have paid attention!

So I try to bullshit my way through and I say, “A gerund means whatever the client wants it to mean.” Which, as far as advertising-related answers go, ain’t horrible. But this woman replies, “Not in this case. A copywriter who works for me would know the answer.” This caused me to really doubt my ability. But I obviously did get a job in Cleveland, and no thanks to pop-quiz lady, either.

But the other thing it did was force me to again look up the answer, and this time, memorize it.

So what is it? Here is the long, involved answer. But to oversimplify things, a gerund is basically an “-ing” verb that is masquerading as a noun. For example, “hiking.” The “-ing” general identifies word as a verb, but “hiking” can also function as a noun (“I enjoy hiking.” “Hiking is a great outdoor activity”). That makes it a gerund.

Learn it, live it. Don’t be like me, and be unprepared the one time in your life when you’re asked to define “gerund.”


Blogger dave said...

What you should have said in answer to her question was "FUCK GERUNDS!" At least you might have found out how well she knew "Stand By Me."

5:48 PM

Blogger craig said...

I wish I would have thought of that.

ME: FUCK gerunds!
RECUITER: [stunned silence]
ME: Um ... do I still get the job?

9:13 PM

Anonymous Janice Barnard said...

Why wouldn't you get the job? :P

9:15 PM


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