Monday, November 5, 2012

The Grammar Nazi Gene

I've been reading The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins and while some of the references in it may be a little dated, it is still a great and interesting read.  Every chapter is like:

I never quite realized just how amazing genes are!  They control so much!  I guess I've always been a little anthropocentric in my thinking because as humans we can do things because we learned to do them.  In many cases though, learning had nothing to do with it, it was just the genes telling the organism what to do.  One example he gives is the gene for hygienic behavior in bees.  When larvae gets infected with disease some bees will open the nests and throw the diseased larvae out of the hive thereby keeping the whole hive safe from infection.  Not all bees have this gene though.  The fascinating thing (for me anyway) is that experiments showed that this behavior was not due to one gene sequence but two - one for opening infected nests and one for throwing out sick larvae.  If a bee only has the one they will either just open nests and do nothing or do nothing until someone else opens a nest.  So a hygienic bee is a bee with both the genes.  Nature, it's pretty amazing right?

So that got me thinking.  How much of my behavior comes from my genes?  Certainly not all, maybe not most but surely some, right?  I'm really wondering about that because someone put this sign up in my neighbourhood and it is driving me NUTS!

Honey bee's what?  You move Wendy's what?  What?!  WHAT?!?!

Why do people who can't use apostrophes upset me so?  Is there a grammar nazi gene?  Do I have it?  Because it would explain a lot!  I shouldn't care about spelling errors on home made posters but I do!  So much!!  English isn't even my first language but when I see English language spelling and grammar mistakes I have a nearly uncontrollable urge to correct it.  It feels like I'm itching on the inside and the only way I can scratch it is by fixing the mistake! Could it be because both my parents were teachers?  Did they pass on the gene that gives me the urge to whip out a red pen and fix spelling mistakes?  Could such a gene sequence really have evolved?  The other day I was at the hospital and the trilingual sign they had up had a translation error in the Afrikaans part.  It took every bit of self control I had not to get a pen and fix it, even if it meant irking the very people in charge of strapping me into things and sticking needles into me!

I think I have a problem.

You know what?  No.  I'm not the one with the problem!  People who can't use apostrophes, they're the ones with the problem!!

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