Stupid Tuesday questions, grammar rodeo edition

We got a lot of use out of our satellite radio this past weekend as we drove home across several states.  (Virginia, I may despise your attorney general, but you are definitely the prettiest state when viewed from the highway.  [I was still glad when we left you behind.]  And I’m glad to revise my previous opinion about New Jersey and report that the parts that are visible from I-78 are much nicer than the bits one can see from the turnpike.)  The Critter got to hear lots of old rock music as we cycled between the 70s, 80s and 90s (on 7, 8, and 9, respectively), and it beat listening to the same dozen CDs we’ve had in the car for the past year or scanning through the dial looking for a new station every hundred miles.

It was while listening to “80s on 8” that the inspiration for this week’s Stupid Tuesday Question struck.  Specifically, listening to “Manic Monday” by the Bangles (a song I love).  Crooning along with Susanna Hoffs, I noticed with admiration that the chorus goes “…wish it were a Sunday,” instead of the increasingly common “was.”  “Good for them,” thought I, “for getting the subjunctive mood right.”

Which is when it struck me — I am a colossal nerd.  Only a total and irredeemable nerd would: 1) know what the subjunctive mood is, 2) notice it in a rock song and 3) admire it.  I invite you to pause now and pity my son, whose own social standing is probably already sunk given that he is being raised by such a person (who sings along exuberantly to old Bangles songs, to boot).

Of course, this is not a new realization.  If there’s one thing that American elementary and middle schools are incredibly good at instilling, it is awareness of one’s nerdishness.  I’ve known for decades, and have been at the Kubler-Ross “acceptance” stage for years.  But every so often the weight of my nerdishness presses more noticeably.

So, here’s this week’s question — when have you most recently recognized how nerdish you are?  I ask assuming that many of you are self-aware nerds, which I think is a safe enough assumption.  (Those of you too cool to so identify are obviously not going to have anything to answer.)  Keep in mind that this is different from the signaling that goes with geekdom.  As this Venn diagram helpfully indicates, one can have the intelligence and obsessiveness that are the hallmarks of being a geek without the social ineptitude that is a necessary part of true nerdhood.  There is, to take another example from my own personal file, nothing strangely cute about knowing the names and ambits of all nine Muses.  So, friends, what have you got?  What wrinkles the nose of the cute girls you encounter in the frat party of life?  What forever buttons the top button of your soul, no matter how externally cool you may manage to appear now?

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Well, for one thing, when I hear “I wish it were Sunday,” I sometimes think, “they could’ve said ‘I wish it be Sunday.'” (If I knew more about grammar, I’d understand how these two forms are both different and are yet also both present subjunctive.)

  2. Explaining to my preschooler what is: a proper part, consequentialism v. duty ethics, the distinction between metaphysics and epistemology, the is/seems distinction. He could also at one point identify pictures of Wittgenstein and Russell (he may have forgotten by now).

  3. When I woke up this morning in my happy face pajama bottoms? That I’m still packing around RPG rulebooks in my backpack today?

    Man, I’m so steeped this question has no meaning. It’s like asking, “When have you most recently recognized how human you are?”

    Hm; I guess a lot of people don’t actually ponder that question.

    • Oh! That I posted Weird Al lyrics to “Dare to be Stupid” on my Facebook page… and *two* of my friends not only got it, but started doing the same thing?

      • “You can be a coffee achiever, or sit around the house watching ‘Leave It to Beaver.'”

        I actually learned the Weird Al version of many popular 80s hits well before I ever heard the original versions.

    • “Man, I’m so steeped this question has no meaning. It’s like asking, ‘When have you most recently recognized how human you are?’”

      This. Although I am troubled that the OP seems to blur the critical distinction between “geek” and “nerd.”

  4. Just because you know what the subjunctive mood is might mean you are a nerd, but then again it might not. It could be that you took a semester of Spanish. If I had to label myself it would would probably call myself an eclectic redneck (I watch bull riding and lurk around here). While I wish it weren’t so, my grammar is probably way too bad to be to call myself a parsing nerd.

      • Actually, it wasn’t Hoffs who used it correctly, it was the artist currently known as Prince. He wrote the song for Hoffs. They teach English real good up in Minnesota. 😉

          • I called him TAFKAP during his battle with SONY. (Most here would have sided withn him, I think.)

          • Jeff, I think we would have sided with the artist that actually produced the art as opposed to the douchebags that tried to profit off it.

    • Watching bull-riding is fun, but I root for the bull. There are some that primarily buck, some that primarily turn, but once in a while you’ll get a great bull that does both. 8 seconds is an eternity on a bull like that.

      I had one whose name I forget that was a wonder to watch. Pure poetry and the cowboys flew off him.

  5. I admire a lot of the writing aroung here without having a clue as to how a grammartarian would diagram it.

  6. Wow, even in my head I hear the line as “wish it was Sunday” because I naturally assume everyone uses the tense incorrectly to the point of mishearing correct usage.

    Nerdiness is just part of my daily existence, I am not sure I even notice it anymore.

  7. Reading this is my most recent nerd activity. I try to keep that type of thing to a minimum. No RPG rulebooks or happy face pajama bottoms for me.

      • Are you implying your too much nerd for me? That I couldn’t handle it? The Rulebooks lead me to believe you may be right. Nerdiness can be hot, but you gotta do right.

        • I’m taken. Gleefully so, I add.

          But I know nerds that are as nerdy as me who are single, so if you’re in the market, lemme know. There’s one who would make a great Kept Man.

          • Single, but not looking right now. Thanks anyway. I’m not sure I could handle someone as nerdy as you. I’m not sure many women can. You should hang on tight to the one you have. She is likely a rare breed.

  8. At an early age. When I realized that as much as I wanted to be the Cat in the Hat, I was, essentially, the Fish.

    BTW, humanity: “momentarily” means “for a moment” not “in a moment.”

  9. When I watch Person of Interest, I try to imagine what sorts of algorithms the network is using to filter out who is going to kill/die and who is a terrorist.

  10. I realized that I might have not outgrown nerdishness when I found myself watching the second episode of the new Battlestar Galactica, the one where they’re running out of water, and running upstairs during a commercial break to tell my wife that “This show is really, really good!”

    …I mean, she’d called me a nerd before that, but this time, I realized that she was very probably right.

  11. Anyone can quote movies that everyone’s seen. It takes a nerd to quote movies that no one else has seen.

    (I quoted “Strange Days” for a handful of years and still pull out “the issue isn’t whether you’re paranoid, but whether you’re paranoid enough” when the occasion warrants.)

  12. Whenever I play the drinking game “Kings” (not so often anymore) I always choose “elements of the periodic table” for categories (everyone else chooses “90s rock groups”, “characters from Family Guy”, etc.). Usually the round is over before I’ve even finished the alkali metals.

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