Celia Rivenbark

There's no test for Southern vocabulary

My daughter just brought home a rather long-winded explanation of what is expected of fourth-graders on the upcoming big, fancy state writing test. I've read it, like, eight times and I still don't understand it, which means that either (A) I have the brains of sweater fuzz or (B) This thing really makes no sense.

On account of me being a perfessional writer-type person, I was eager to learn about the writing test but got stopped by the heading "Classroom Assessment Analytic Rubric."

I have no idea what a rubric is. Maybe it has something to do with a Rubric's cube, but then, what would an obscure toy from the '80s have to do with writing?

It's all tres confusing.

The writing test is given to students in grades 4, 7 and 10, and parents are urged to work with teachers to make sure that students don't blow it by using sentence fragments, run-on sentences or other no-no's. Or is that no's-no?

This example of using a word the wrong way was included in the, er, rubric: "He wanted to sale the boat." Maybe that's wrong; maybe not. If this is a Southern student, he might not want to "sail" the boat, as snooty test-writers assume. He might want to fix up that rusty-butt john boat behind Paw-Paw's shed and "sell" the boat. In the South, we pronounce that "sale" so there should be some geographical leeway, so to speak.

It's also important to use pronouns correctly. The example of using a pronoun incorrectly was: "John and myself went to school." They didn't give the reason for why this was wrong, so I can only assume that if a fourth-grader ever said that sentence to another fourth-grader, he'd get the snot beat out of him for being uppity, the kind of kid who would brag about getting to sale his boat for big money.

Another frequent problem with student writing is "incorrect formulations" such as "hisself, theirselves and bestest." Well, that's just about the worstest idea I ever heard. I LOVE those words.

Again, I sniff a geographical bias here. What right-thinking Southerner has never uttered the word "hisself" as in "John caught hisself on the barbed wire trying to get away from that bull"? There is simply no suitable substitute.

Because it wasn't listed, I'm hoping that the test will allow the use of another favorite Southernism: "theyselves," which, of course, is the pluperfect plural subjunctive of the verb "they." An example of correct usage would be: "They saw theyselves on 'Cops' and weren't even embarrassed about it."

I'll help my daughter study for this test. Just remember: If she doesn't do well, it wa'nt my fault.