Friday, December 21, 2007

Zell As Shining Example for Wordsmiths Everywhere

If I had a nickel for every time an English teacher told her students that language skills are essential for success, I still wouldn’t be as rich as Sam Zell, the Chicago kerjillionaire who ascended from humble beginnings as a garden gnome to become king of Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and some stuff to do with sports.

So I can’t help but think of those poor teachers as I reflect on something Zell said in yesterday’s press conference regarding his conquest of All Things Tribune. The question wasn’t audible, at least not to those of us listening in via the Tribune website, but through context clues (a concept I learned in an English class) I was able to figure out that a reporter had asked Zell whether he wanted to get involved in the editorial side of the newspaper business. Zell answered with a loud and resounding no, which he punctuated by adding that he got “shitty grades in English.”

There’s a lesson here for kids: If you want to be successful, don’t listen to your English teacher. She’ll never tell you that, in this world, success comes to those who have more use for the word “shitty” than for the word “subjunctive.”

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