Friday, February 11, 2011

Becoming a Grammarian

I've always prided myself on having good grammar. I give the credit to a solid British based education based on the three R's, Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic. I recently had this belief shattered to its core when I started a course in Grammar. It is a part of a certificate programme and I expected that it would be a piece of cake. I began the first diagnostic test confidently, even cockily. I scored quite well, but I was quite surprised at the effort that it took.

I have now been reading "Woe is I" by Patricia O'Connor, and this entertaining book on grammar has taken a spot on my bookshelf next to my Strunk and White. I have learned many of the more intricate rules behind some of the patterns that were already familiar to me.

How easily can you choose the correct sentence construction?

He is one of the authors who say / says it best.

I wish I was / were in St. Kitts.

Jane is wearing what looks / look like a mink coat.

See you again on the 28th.

6 comments:

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

While no grammarian has ever written anything of real consequence, one would be a real ignoramus to try to sully the craft of writing without an awareness of grammar...Uless, maybe, you're a theologian, like Rabbi Burns. :)
Scots broad is acceptable as well as ghetto rap...But even here, you must be hip..stay in the groove....never awkward.

In a word, you have to know the rules before you can break them.

My best advice came from a decrepid playwright who said the first thing i needed to know was the difference between the subjenctive and the indicative.
Tongue twisting, yes, but
this is best shown in Patricia O'Conors little test up above.

I wish I was / were in St. Kitts.

Gotta be like a Frenchman to do it right--to know the difference between the subjunctive--as it may be at all times--and the indicative, or the way it actually WAS.
And then I'd read Humpty-Dumpty's incomparable speech to Alice in Through the Looking Glass.

What do I know? I am merely God. :)

...And while full of that hubris,I wanna tap somebody's head with a pencil eraser for getting his singularls and plurals mixed up.
I grate when someody says something like "everybody must pick up their books..." Grr!

Cold it be that I am a closet grammarian? Egad.

Captain Black said...

Arithmetic.

Charles Gramlich said...

I need to add this book to my collection right now. I could use the help.

KeVin K. said...

I taught English as a second language for many years and always told my students two things: First, English is a predatory polyglot. It hunts other languages down to steal words and grammar to add to its own collection with no thought to logic or aesthetics. It sometimes helps to recognize where a word or rule came from, but it's best to abandon all hope of regulation or predictability.
Second, do not speak English the way folks here in the south do. "Jaguar," for example, does not rhyme with "wire," and "you" is already plural (since we stopped using thee and thou) so "you all" (aka "y'all") is redundant.

Speaking of plurals: "Everyone must pick up their books" is not a confusion of plural/singular. It is an awkward verbal patch used by those who do not want to appear sexist by saying "his" when both genders are involved but think "his or her" is too cumbersome. It's accepted informal usage. (Though "Each of you must pick up your own book" solves the perceived problem more neatly.)

When gender is not specified, I go with she/her/hers. I know that the first few times a reader comes across this, it throws her out of the narrative, but after a few bumps it becomes as invisible as the traditional he/him/his.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

KeVin,

Informative,actually elegant.

Yet I am not entirely convinced.

I have read a couple of things by Eli Wiesel. Though myself not a fan of Nazis, or, for that matter, hunters of antique Nazis, I nevertheless agree with him that once language goes to hell, so does everything else...I mean, have a look!
Myself a transplanded Canadian, I write American english ...But I sure hate it when a muscular and lyrical King James langage is reduced to absurdity.

Does anybody remember former U.S. veepee Dan Quayle, the master of malopripisms,meaning to say the liberal thing while coming out
with goofs like, "You go to a negro college--you lose your mind"
..Heh maybe the answer lies in humour.

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