*Check out my short poem, “Sweet Tummy,” on Burlesque Press!*
Lately I’ve been having an insatiable craving for Grainessence brown rice mochi, which is apparently only sold at the Trader Joe’s on Cape Cod and some random natural foods store in Missouri (which I found out about via the Internet). They don’t sell it at the Trader Joe’s in Seattle, and the people at the Whole Foods here told me it had been discontinued. So on Sunday Paul and I went on a Mochi Mission to Uwajimaya, the Asian food and gift emporium in the International District of Seattle.
Paul was sure I would find all the mochi I could ever want and more, but I had a feeling they wouldn’t have Grainessence brown rice mochi, because it’s more of a hippy food and less of an Asian food. But, on to Uwajimaya we went! While Paul ogled the selection of dumplings in the frozen section, I perused an aisle of dried squid with both curiosity and fear.
When we came to the desserts, we were overwhelmed by mochi products. They had every sort of gooey, chewy, rice-based confection you could possibly desire….except, of course, my Grainessence brown rice mochi. After some brief pouting, I decided to make do with the mochi options available (which were plentiful.) I chose some peanut-filled mochi desserts and a package of Omochi brand Japanese plain rice cakes.
Unable to wait for my mochi fix any longer, I devoured a peanut mochi in the car on the way home, and as soon as we got back to our apartment, Paul started boiling water for his pork dumplings while I examined the Omochi package for cooking directions. Then I started to laugh. Here’s what it said:
Directions for Cooking:
When you use the microwave, please put it in and heat up for few minutes.
After heating up, please wait for a minute and remove Omochi from the microwave.
Put Omochi into a pan of boiling water.
After a few minutes, the water is boiled again.
Please put out the fire and remove Omochi after a couple of minutes.
Please Pay Attention!
*This bag contains a deoxidant. After opening the bag, it has no effect, please throw away.
*The result from temperature change, it surface a drop of water in the clear bag one by one But it doesn’t effect to quality. Please break and throw away the bag before cooking Omochi.
*Please eat Omochi before cooking. Don’t touch heat up Omochi directly for avoid burn. And please use the chopstick.
*Please don’t put many Omochi in your mouth and don’t eat without a break. (It is dangerous to catch in your throat.)
*Please by carefull and get your mouth little by little
Directions for Preservation:
1. Unopened: Please do not expose Omochi to the direct rays of the sun and do not place it at the sun and do not place it at the place of high temperature and humidity
2. Opened: Omochi is raw things, it happens to get moldy Please fold down the bag and keep refrigerator.
The Omochi directions make it obvious how important proper grammar can be. Without it, we tend to deem something ridiculous or unprofessional. We may even post in on facebook for public mockery and entertainment (which is what Paul wants to do with the Omochi package.)
But we don’t always need such extreme examples to see how grammar mistakes can cause harm. Recently, I had a story published in Issue 2 of the online magazine, Vagabond City. My mother read it, and in addition to telling me it was very odd and interesting, she pointed out two mistakes: “You said “now she had four pairs of hands.” Should have been 4 hands or 2 pairs! And Andrea Chang morphed into Andrea Chan later in the story. Surprised the editor didn’t catch that!”
My first reaction was, dang, my mother needs to be a copy editor. My second reaction was frustration with myself. I must have proof-read that story at least ten times – why didn’t I catch those mistakes? My third reaction was annoyance with the editors of Vagabond City. Yeah, why didn’t they catch those? Did they not read my story carefully enough?
I started to feel like maybe the journal wasn’t very professional or prestigious. Maybe my story getting published there wasn’t any big feat. I felt embarrassed for myself, and for Vagabond City.
Of course, I know that people will still appreciate my story, and the journal, but grammar mistakes, little as they may be, have a big impact on the way people see you. Speaking of copy editors, I went to happy hour on Friday with a new friend who works as a copy editor at a Seattle-based accounting firm. She edits articles and blurbs written by the higher-ups in the company, and she’s often surprised by their mistakes. This is why they need her, of course – to preserve their reputations as being competent and intelligent. Bad grammar would make their credibility fall.
Over glasses of wine and a plate of mushroom pate, we discussed the proper placement of hyphens and the difference between a while and awhile (yes, I realize this sounds nerdy), Then I told her about something I’d come across recently while re-reading my old diary from 2007. I had been off-and-on seeing a guy who lived elsewhere but came to New Orleans (where I lived) several times a year. We would email during the in-between time, and I wrote the following in my diary:
The thing that confuses me about A–– is why, if he went to Tulane and is therefore obviously fairly smart and well-educated, does he misspell things or spell them like a 14 year old? And why is his writing and his punctuation all over the place? Is it because he’s ADD? Is it just his personality? Is it because he’s high? It’s just weird because his emails sometimes make him seem kind of stupid, but I know that he can’t be that stupid. After all, Tulane is a pretty good school.
I told my new friend, the copy writer, about this, and we both laughed. Ahh, poor grammar. Not only can it be a detriment to your professional life, it can hurt your romantic interactions as well.
Of course, sometimes, like in the case of the Omochi package, it can also provide hilarious entertainment.