Getting Back to Active (Voice)

volcano“It’s back to work that I want to go,” Grammar Smith said.

“Lieutenant, you are still suffering the effects of your deep undercover assignment,” Dr. Query said.  “You helped save the world but at great personal cost. You just don’t come back from that very quickly.”

“I’ve been working really hard at it, though. I really think I’m ready.”

“Yes, you’ve made great progress. However, I think you need a little more time.”

“But we just stopped a major passive voice outbreak. There’s still work to be done,” Grammar pleaded.

“I’m sorry, Lieutenant,” Dr.Query said. “You’re just not quite ready.”

Will Grammar Smith be able to detox from passive voice? Will she be able to get back to actively fight against English language abuses? Will Dis Connect ever stop eating doughnuts?

Stay tuned…

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The Past Form Isn’t Present

lead-led meme

It was mid afternoon as Grammar Smith walked into the Hunt and Peck after an extended shift at the Department of English Language Offenses. She just wanted a quick glass of Chardonnay to unwind before heading home.

The bar was pretty much deserted. Grammar sat down a couple of seats away from Led and Paid, and ordered her drink.

“Hello.”

“Hiya, Lieutenant,” Paid replied.

Led just grunted and stared into his beer.

“Rough night?” Paid asked Grammar.

“Not sure I’d say it was rough, more like complicated. We had to track some subject-verb agreement offenses over at Fustian University. It took way too much time. What about you two? What are you doing here in the middle of the afternoon?”

Led snorted, looked up at Rocky, the bartender, and said, “Again.”

She brought him a shot and a beer.

“Whoa there, Led. Hope you’re not driving anywhere,” Grammar said.

“No, I’m driving him home later,” Paid explained. She didn’t look too happy as she nursed her drink.

“What’s going on?”

“Led’s in a bad way,” Paid said. “Both of us have been pushed out by incorrect verb forms. ‘Payed’ has been butting in more often for me, but Led has it worse. Seems like everyone, including writers who should know better, are using ‘lead’ for the past tense of ‘to lead.’”

“It’s just too heavy!” Led downed the shot and gulped the beer.

“C’mon. How bad could it be?”

Paid shot a quick glance at Led, who had his head cradled in his arms on the bar.

“It’s everywhere, Lieutenant. I’m almost thinking the DELO should get involved. It’s killing Led, literally if he keeps drinking like this.”

Grammar sighed. She never seemed to be able to get away from her work.

“I’ll put it on the department’s investigation list,” she promised sipping the last of her wine and heading for home.

Collective Nouns — a Singular (or Plural) Puzzle

jury as unit vs. jury as individuals

“Lieutenant Smith, I think you should see this.”

Sargeant Metaphor placed a copy of The Pencil Post on Grammar’s desk. It had this paragraph circled in red:

The jury in the En Dash identity theft case is expected to reach a verdict today.

Dash is accused of thousands of counts of masquerading as a hyphen. After a long trial and verdict, the jury will be able to return to their families.

“Yes, it’s been a long and exhausting trial, but there’s no doubt in my mind that she’ll be found guilty.”

Dis Connect, looking over Grammar’s shoulder, agreed, “She’ll get what she deserves.”

“That’s not why I’m showing you this. Look at the first and last sentences. How can ‘jury’ be singular and plural? Should I send a couple of officers over to The Pencil Post to see about it?”

“Actually, there’s nothing wrong with that paragraph, ” Grammar said. “‘Jury’ is a collective noun and can take either singular or plural verbs and pronouns depending on how it is being used.”

“I dunno, Boss. That doesn’t sound right,” Dis said.

“Collective nouns — like ‘family,’ ‘team,’ ‘flock,’ ‘class,’ and ‘crowd’ — are singular when the members work as a unit and plural when individuals take separate action. In this case, the jury will be acting as a unit in providing a verdict but as individuals when returning home.”

“Oh, you mean like ‘deer’ which could be a buck standing in the woods or a whole herd,” Dis said.

“No, that’s just the same word for the singular and plural form a noun,” Grammar explained.

“What about corporations. Can a corporation be a singular and plural noun?” Sgt. Methaphor asked.

“Well, most of the time a corporation is singular since it usually acts in a unified manner. Plus, corporations like Kraft take ‘it’ as the pronoun despite what so many writers do,” Grammar said.

“Well, it still seems fishy to me,” Sgt. Metaphor said as she walked back to her desk.

Hotel Incognito: Where Nobody Knows Your Name

Hotel Incognito

“Welcome to the Hotel Incognito,” a bored, shabby, elderly question mark intoned. “How can I help you?”

The hotel unsuccessfully tried to project the grandeur and luxury it once had.

Grammar Smith scrutinized the question mark. There was something vaguely familiar about him.

“We’re looking for En Dash,” Dis Connect said flashing his badge. “Have you seen her?’

The question mark turned his back on the two and started sorting mail into pigeonholes.

“I’m sure I don’t know who you mean,” he said.

“We have good reason to believe she’s staying here,” Dis got stern. “Look at this picture. She may be going by the name ‘Henrietta Hyphen.’”

“Our guests are entitled to some discretion,” the question mark ignored the outstretched picture.

“Turn around, and take a look!” Dis was miffed. “We have a warrant for her arrest. If you don’t tell us what room she’s in, I’ll haul you in for obstructing justice.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Grammar caught a figure stealthily creeping toward the lobby door.

“Hold it right there!” she commanded turning around.

Almost in mid-step, Then froze. It was almost as if he thought remaining motionless would make him invisible.

“Well, well,” Grammar sauntered over to him. “If it isn’t my old pal, Then. Have you been up to your old tricks popping into comparisons again?”

Then slumped. “C’mon, Lieutenant. You know I try to stay out of the racket. I can’t help it if writers keep dragging me in where I don’t belong.”

“I could haul you in on suspicion, but right now we’re here to track down En Dash. Have you seen her?”

“Well, uh…” Then stammered and glanced over toward the question mark whose total lack of energy was stonewalling Dis.

Leaning in, Then whispered, “I don’t know what room she’s in, but I’m sure she’s on the fifth floor. Can I go now?”

“You’d better not by lying to me or I’ll hunt you down,” Grammar warned.

Then slunk away as Grammar returned to Dis and the question mark.

“It’s okay Dis. She’s up on the fifth floor. Which room?” she grilled the question mark.

He sighed. “502”

Dis got the passkey from the crestfallen question mark, and Grammar had Sgt. Metaphor stay with him to keep him from warning En Dash.

As she turned to go, Grammar snapped her fingers as recognition dawned on her.

“Now I know where I’ve seen you before! Weren’t you the butler at Anthology Acres? I met you about three years ago when I was tracking down the missing Oxford Comma. What happened to Fiver and Paragraph Essay?”

The question mark grimaced. “Reading habits have changed, and the Paragraphs had to cut back. They let me go with a very small retirement.”

Grammar shook her head. “And here you are running the Hotel Incognito, a known den for words and punctuation marks masquerading as something they’re not.”

 


(Thanks, BERL! 🙂)

If you’re into some grammar giggles, check out the New Yorker’s “A Compiled List of Collective Nouns.”

Who’s Organizing Team Pronoun-Antecedent?

Who's on first

“Grammar, have you heard about the new softball league?” Detective Dis Connect asked his partner.

“No, who’s organizing it?”

“Ralph told Norman he should be in charge, but Serena told Mabel she would be better at it.”

“What?” Grammar was confused.

Dis just prattled on, “They organized their own teams and just took over.”

“Who took over?”

“They did. They just started it up, but they need more teams since they only have two.”

“Whose teams are set?” Grammar asked.

“The Comma Comets and the Paragraph Panthers. But it needs a few more people for a full roster,” Dis explained.

“Which needs more players?”

“The team does. Haven’t you been paying attention?”

“I thought I was, but now I’m just confused,” Grammar said. She felt a bubble deep in her memory hinting that she had heard this before.

“They have it all set. You just have to sign up for that team or organize your own.”

“If I start my own team, who gets the roster?” Grammar felt a migraine coming on.

“Just email it to them. They’ll get back to you. There are lots of officers who want to play. You should talk to her about being your pitcher.”

“Who?”

“Well, you just can’t have anyone pitch. You need someone with talent. I’d start with her then have him as a backup.”

“You know what, Dis?” Grammar sighed. “I think you’re the guy for the job. Let me know what position you want me to play when you get it all sorted out with them.”

Sports Fans Can Be Grammar Geeks, Too!

Blueshirt Banter Logo and comments

I constantly bemoan the deterioration of writing skills on the internet.  I have resigned myself to endure quick but careless writing.

Imagine my surprised pleasure when I found grammar proponents in the unlikeliest place – the comments section of a sports blog!

Let’s face it, as adherents to good grammar, sports writers and announcers are at the back of the line. They grab every opportunity to get “creative” with English using strange words and poor sentence structure. Subject-verb agreement is taboo.

I usually avoid the rampant ignorance of any comments section on news sites. I just don’t need the aggravation caused by the assault on my writing sensibilities.

On the other hand, I have been a New York Rangers fan for more than half a century. I can’t help it; I was born that way. I follow a couple of Rangers-focused blog sites, but my favorite is Blueshirt Banter.  The blogs are good and solid, but not overly spectacular. I like Blueshirt Banter because of the comments.

The commenters are witty, sometimes eliciting actual guffaws from me. The administrators make sure no one gets too nasty. Anyone who does, disappears like an informer at a mob wedding.  Sometimes I need a laugh after a Rangers game, you know?

But what’s best is the “grammar police” who have no problem correcting, in the most jovial manner, whoever wrote the blog.

On what other sports blog can you find a 50+ comment side thread arguing for and against an Oxford comma? How many times have you seen a sports blogger raked over the coals for using “phased” when he meant “fazed”?

Just like any Rangers fan, I’m by necessity a pessimist with a deep, secret hope for success. I am trying to tame my copy editor and writing instructor fanaticism, so I have just been lurking and not commenting.

But observing the Blueshirt Banter commenters pushing for good grammar brings joy to my heart and a tear to my eye.

Why the “H” Is It There?

Silent Hs

“Inspector Smith! Inspector Smith!”

Grammar Smith looked around, but couldn’t quite see who was calling her name. She felt a tug on her jacket and looked down. There was a small boy with tousled hair and a quizzical look gazing up at her.

“Hello there. Who might you be?” Grammar asked.

“I’m Ellison, and I want to know what the ‘h’ is doing in ‘honor.’”

“What?” Grammar didn’t quite understand.

“Well, why is the ‘h’ there? It doesn’t make a sound. It isn’t doing anything,” Ellison declared. “It seems pretty suspicious to me.”

“That’s a really good question. In this case, the ‘h’ tagged along when the word migrated over from France and started living in English,” Grammar explained. “There are other foreign words we’ve adopted where the ‘h’ is in the picture, but doesn’t do any work – words like heir, hour, messiah, Hannah, ghetto, and ghost.

“In some words, like shepherd and exhaust, people got lazy and now just ignore the ‘h.’ But sometimes the ‘h’ doesn’t seem to be doing much, but it keeps people from getting words confused. Think of ‘hour’ for time and ‘our’ a way to show we own something. “

“Like ‘whit’ and ‘wit’?” Ellison asked.

Kid’s got quite the vocabulary! Grammar thought.

“Yes, Ellison, that’s right.”

“Are there other letters in words that you don’t hear from?”

“Yes, Ellison, lots and lots. Unfortunately, I have a meeting to get to. Detective Dis Connect over there can explain all that to you.”

Grammar pointed Ellison in Dis’s direction, gave him a slight push, and watched as the boy eagerly toddled over.

I am so evil! Grammar thought quickly heading in the opposite direction.


Special thanks this week to my Lucas muses. 😀