Hollison Journey

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” – Don Williams Jr

The Bass Player of Grammar

on July 6, 2008

Back in the days of college, I helped our college church group’s praise and worship band. I was the power point guru, and more importantly, the band “mom,” a title I wore proudly. Being around the musicians taught me many lessons. One of the lessons I learned is that there are two types of musicians: the ones who have studied and know the technical aspects of music and the ones who simply know what is right and what is wrong. The band was made up of a healthy mix of both. Our “lead” (he hated that term) belonged to the first group. He had been in school band for 10 years. He could transpose music, tell you whether something was mezzo piano or forte, and knew things like “music theory.” We affectionately called him “band-o” and “the walking metronome.” Our bass player was the other type. He learned on his own, he tended to learn music by hearing it and then playing it, and while he couldn’t always tell you the specific notes/chords he was playing, he knew what was right.

All this to tell you my big secret. I am the bass player of grammar. It doesn’t matter that I have spent so many years as a proofreader, editor, writer, or that English was always my best subject or that I have had things published; the fact is that I couldn’t teach a grammar course because I never remember the actual grammar rules. Sure I know what a noun and pronoun are, but you start moving toward verb, adverb, adjective, participle, etc., and I get foggy. So how did I become so good at it? I just know what looks or sounds right and I go from there.

Not that this is bad. It means I rarely have to pay attention to what I am saying or writing to make it come out ok. I once was at a speaker’s workshop because I was giving a talk at an upcoming retreat. All of the speakers had to stand and tell everyone a childhood memory as if you were giving it in a talk. The other speakers were watching and listening for verbal and physical crutches. One person had their hands in their back pockets. One person fiddled with his ring the entire time. My crutches were minimal, but the one comment I remember is that one of the speakers, who was a grad student in speech, looked at me and said, “You speak grammatically perfect. Do you know how rare that is? Even people who write in perfect grammar rarely speak that way.”

It’s a fairly hidden talent, and probably the reason I didn’t minor in English. But I think we all have something like that. Some talent where we never actually knew the mechanics of it, we just naturally know.

As to why I never retained those rules – I have a theory. But that is another post for another time. I’ll tell you this much, my theory involves 4 letters that strike fear in the hearts of anyone I went to elementary school with: C S M P.


One response to “The Bass Player of Grammar

  1. jpbehnke says:

    Which one am I, Holly? Which one am I?

    Choose your answer wisely…

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