It has just occurred to me that about 3 or 4 years ago, when I was playing a board game with a small child, I said “You win!” as the game concluded. Actually, it’s more likely that I said “I win!”, but I want to make you think that I am a normal sort of person, who wouldn’t actually try to secure victory over a young child in a simple game, so I chose to make it “You win!”, y’see.
Anyway. It doesn’t matter. “You win!” I said, cheerfully. The child’s mother, sitting across the table from me, looked at me with a frown. “You won, Hails, not you win!” she said. She looked at the child. “Isn’t that right?” she asked in the way that parents of small children do, when every moment of every day is an opportunity for linguistic, social, and emotional education. The child nodded. “Oh, er, right,” I muttered, unused to being grammatically inferior to a 4-year-old. I thought no more of it, as we gathered up the playing pieces and launched into a new game.
I have no idea why this memory has suddenly flashed into my mind, but I am suitably confused. Yes, it has taken me several years to have a reaction, and undoubtedly most people (if they were even going to have a reaction) would have done this at the time and then completely forgotten about it. Perhaps I have repressed it all. Taken it to heart, so that now that something has triggered the memory, it has all washed over me in an overwhelming flood. Maybe it will turn out to be the key that unlocks all of my emotional issues. Who knows?
But the point is: why did she correct me? I’m all for training kids not to fall into bad speech habits (the “I seen this” and “I done that” ones are particularly irksome for me), but there is nothing actually wrong with saying “I win!” at the end of a game, is there? I mean, it’s present tense. It’s happening. The last piece is being triumphantly placed and the outcome of the game is clear. “I win!” Later, when telling someone about the game, you would of course change it to “I won!”, but at the moment of the game’s completion I see no reason for “I win!” to be incorrect.
I am dwelling on this now, with unhealthy obsessiveness. However, I haven’t spoken to the child’s mother for quite a long time (just through losing touch, I hasten to add, lest you think that I am actually insane enough to call off a friendship with someone because they corrected my grammar), and I can’t help but feel that she might think I was off my rocker if I called her now and said “Look here, do you remember one day in 2005 when you corrected me for saying “You win!” at the end of a game with your daughter? Well, why did you do that, exactly?”.
Maybe it’s time to learn to let go.