My wife and I have little grammar buzzers in our heads. They go off when:

  • Someone finishes a question with the word “at” (e.g. “Where’s my car at?”);
  • Someone uses “seen” instead of “saw” (e.g. “I seen that movie”);
  • Someone starts to answer a question with the word “so,” which is the new “like” (e.g. “So, you’ll find jars of cinnamon in aisle seven”);
  • Someone who over-qualifies their remarks (e.g. “Personally, in my opinion, I think…”);
  • Interviewers who preface a question with, “Let me ask you a question…”;
  • Over-use of the prefix “pre-” (e.g. you don’t have to call it a “pre-moistened” towelette, just like you don’t serve me “pre-cooked” chicken or a “pre-poured” Pepsi).

The one we currently hate the most is the use of words that end in “-ing” (gerunds) improperly. For instance, at dinner last night, our waiter stopped by to ask, “How are your salads? Are they tasting good?” There was no need for the last four words; the first four did the job.

We’ve also been asked, “How’s your guys food tasting?” — which is a double violation. There was no need to add “guys,” when we already assume it’s the plural “your,” since you’re addressing both of us at the table (the same goes for “how are you all doing tonight?” — although “how are y’all doing tonight” is mildly acceptable in regional use). As far as how my food is tasting, it’s not. I am tasting the food, it is not tasting me. Just ask, “How does the salad taste?” and be done with it.

Come to think of it, wait staff shouldn’t even ask the question in the first place. Their job is to take our order, bring our drinks and meals, and then leave us alone until it’s time to clear things away and bring us the next course or the check. There’s no need for constant status updates or faux conversation. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t walk by every once in a while to make sure everything’s okay, but you should be able to ascertain that without any questions, just a glance. Believe me, if there’s something wrong, we’ll flag you down, but if not, don’t interrupt. Even if I’m dining by myself, I don’t need a quiz about whatever I’m consuming — especially since they seem to always ask just as I’ve put a forkful of food in my mouth so I can’t answer with anything other than a thumbs-up.

While I’m on this restaurant tangent, I always enjoy it when a server brings my food and warns me that the plate is hot. This happens especially in restaurants that make a big show of bringing the food from the kitchen but before it reaches our table, it has to make a pit-stop at a hot plate, where it’s placed atop a burner which warms things up quite a bit from the bottom. Naturally, that plate is going to be hot, and I don’t actually mind the warning. It’s just that I have a dumb man’s brain inside my head that hears that caveat but still — every time — feels it necessary to touch the plate.

I don’t know why I always do that, but at least no one asks, “How’s that finger burning?”