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. 😀

My English Valentine

english-valentine

Dear English Language,

I love you. Even with all your quirks, I love you.

Let’s face it; you don’t play by the rules much. You’re more into “strong guidelines.” That’s part of your charm. You’re always growing and changing. As frustrating as that can be, I find it really exciting.

Oh, many writers will abuse those changes. They’ll do things that are just wrong and claim they’re all in the name of growth. They’ll misuse words and abuse punctuation. You suffer it all with equanimity.

You are the most global language. In your DNA are bits and pieces of most, if not all, the languages on earth. Add to that the generations of history that peek out constantly, and I can’t help but be beguiled by you.

When we come together, I am held rapt with fascination for your multiple, ever-changing dimensions.

Simply put, I love you,

Annette

Where Have All [ ] Articles Gone?

no-articles-copy“It’s been going on a lot longer than we thought, Lieutenant,” Ms. White said.

“At first we thought they were just occasionally asserting their independence,” Ms. Strunk dabbed her nose with her handkerchief. “Now it’s becoming severe.”

Grammar nodded. “Most writers don’t realize how much articles do in a sentence until they’re gone. Can you give us some details? Was there unrest?”

“Well, A and An are always rather contentious. They’re never quite sure which should do what,” Ms. White explained. “We went over it thousands of times, but words like herb and union constantly present difficulties.”

“But The was always solid and dependable. Maybe we took them all for granted,” added Ms. Strunk.

Yes, small but vital to flowing sentences, Grammar mused.

“Do you think they took off of their own volition? Or do you think someone has ulterior motives for keeping them out of writing?”

“I hate to think there’s some nefarious scheme to keep our articles from us,” Ms. Strunk sobbed. “All we want is for them to come back and make our writing flow again!”

“I think it’s lazy writers shutting our articles out of their rightful places,” declared Ms. White.

Grammar pondered life without articles:

  • “We people of United States, in order to form more perfect union…”
  • “I have dream!”
  • “It was worst of times; it was best of times.”
  • Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe

Yes, Lieutenant Smith knew she had to track down those missing articles quickly. She turned to Dis Connect.

“Send out all points bulletins for A, An, and The as missing adjectives. We don’t suspect any foul play – yet.”

 

The Sentence Samurai Strikes Again

sentence-samurai-copyAs Grammar Smith walked down the hallway of the old, high-ceilinged
building, she saw officers in crime scene gear shuffling in and out of the door at the far end. Occasional flashes punctuated the hallway.

A woman clutching a manuscript to her chest sobbed on one bench while another, looking bored
and impatient, sat on another.

“It’s a real massacre,” Dis Connect murmured in Grammar’s ear. “I haven’t seen anything like this since Stephen King blew through.”

Grammar poked her head in the door. The room was a typical editing office: desks, computers, reference books, and a giant coffee maker. Typical except for the puddles of non-repro blue ink and bodies of bloated phrases everywhere.

Grammar took Dis off to the side. “Give me the breakdown.”

“Ten due to the fact thats, 32 nowadays, 257 unnecessary uses of the verb to be, 88 and alsos, 19 we as human beings, and an it was a dark and stormy night.”

“Have you interviewed the witnesses?”

Dis colored. “Um, well, Ms. Scrivener was so upset, I figured I’d let her calm down a bit.”

Chicken! Grammar thought as she sat next to Ms. Scrivener. Patting the woman’s hand, Grammar asked, “Can you tell me what happened?”

“It was horrible! The ink everywhere! Phrases lying around! Look at my baby!” The writer thrust the crumpled, damp manuscript at Grammar. “It’s half what it was when I brought it in here. This place is a charnel house.”

“Oh, give me a break!” the woman from the other bench said. “That manuscript’s a thousand times more readable now.”

“And you are?” Grammar asked.

“Tweakly Fine-Tune. I run this business.”

“There’s no sign of a forced entry. Do you have any idea how the perpetrator got in?”

“Probably over the transom,” Ms. Fine-Tune said pointing to the open glass panel above the door.

“Yes, it looks like the Sentence Samurai has been here,” Grammar said to Dis.

“Hey, Lieutenant,” Ms. Fine-Tune said. “When will you folks be done? I’ve got to get rid of that stench of passive voice and get back to work.”

Merriam-Webster’s Election ‘Coverage’

polling-place

On the eve of Election Day in the United States, there are all kinds of words swirling around. Let’s look at the vocabulary of an election. (All definitions are from Merriam-Webster.com.)

Rhetoric: 1. the art of speaking or writing effectively…; 2. a: the study   skill in the effective use of speech; b:  a type or mode of language or speech; also:  insincere or grandiloquent language; 3:  verbal communication:  discourse

Partisan: 1.:  a firm adherent to a party, faction, cause, or person; especially:  one exhibiting blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance

Campaign: 1. a connected series of military operations forming a distinct phase of a war; 2.  a connected series of operations designed to bring about a particular result <election campaign>

Stump:  5. a place or occasion for public speaking (as for a cause or candidate); also:  the circuit followed by a maker of such speeches —used especially in the phrase on the stump

Swing:  ato cause to move vigorously through a wide arc or circle <swing an ax> b:  to cause to sway to and fro; c (1 :  to cause to turn on an axis (2) :  to cause to face or move in another direction <swing the car into a side road> [A swing state is a state whose voting may swing the election in one direction.]

Pollster:  someone who makes questions for a poll, asks questions in a poll, or collects and presents results from a poll

Those headed out to vote tomorrow can now feel secure in their knowledge of election terminology. Have fun!