Barry Cadish
Portland, Oregon


Archive for August, 2010

It’s what it is.

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Mrs. Brekke, (pronounced BREK-ee) my high school English teacher, wore large glasses like the ones pictured here. She was a big woman, tall and lanky, nice skin, with lips that puckered every time she smiled or talked.

It’s as though she sucked on a huge lemon wedge before every class.

She was a nice lady, as I recall, who put up with our ongoing class antics on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis. But the incident that stands out most was a particular grammar lesson she was trying to impart. The lesson? Discerning between the possessive pronoun “its” and the contraction “it’s” for “it is.”

Frankly, the English language can be a pain in the ass. It’s amazing anyone can master the various parts of speech, synonyms, homonyms, and assorted vagaries that confound and confuse us. For example, why is “tough” pronounced as tuff, when “through” is pronounced as throo? Why not thruff for consistency? Distinguishing between “your” and “you’re” causes problems as well. Even the words “then” and “than” are used interchangeably (and wrongly) in everyday writing. To wit: If your brain can’t separate then from than, then you’re in more trouble than you think. But I digress.

Mrs. Brekke tried valiantly to help us eleventh-grade students understand the difference between “its” and “it’s.” I think she gave us a few examples and then, after several rounds, wanted to see if we “got it.”

She looked at Dave who sat behind me.

“Dave,” she said, in her high-pitched lemony voice. “Can you use the possessive pronoun ‘its’ in a sentence?”

Without hesitation, Dave blurted out, “Its glasses are huge.”

“Great example,” I thought to myself. Our laughter couldn’t be contained, and drowned out Mrs. Brekke’s pleadings.

“What? What did you say?” she asked, as we continued to cackle.

“It’s not important,” Dave shot back.