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 Lurking ‘Also’

Lurking-Adverb-Also

“It keeps popping up, and I don’t know why it’s there!”

Grammar Smith really didn’t want to start her Monday morning with a paranoid Maven Syntassein.

“Okay, Maven, what’s the problem today?”

“It’s ‘also’! It keeps showing up everywhere. Sure, it’s not like it’s wrong for it to be there, but I just can’t shake the feeling I’m being stalked.”

Grammar turned to her computer, brought up a complaint form, and [also] started filling it in.

“Can you describe the incidents for me?” Grammar took a sip of her morning coffee.

“Well, ‘also’ seems to tag along with ‘and’ far too much for my taste.”

Maven gave three examples:

  • He had dinner, dessert and also a glass of port.
  • She was head of Markitup Corporation, and also she held a degree in ergonomic engineering.
  • The group traveled to Italy, Austria, and also the Czech Republic.

“It does seem to be annoyingly present where there is no need for it, but ‘also’ isn’t doing anything illegal,” Grammar pointed out.

“But those aren’t the only situations! ‘Also’ shows up with ‘not only…but,’ too.”

Grammar typed in the three examples Maven gave her:

  • Not only were the verbs boring, but they were also in the wrong tense.
  • He had not only rushed into the room, but also tracked mud on the Persian rug.
  • It was not only redundant but also irritating.

“Maven, not only is it legal for ‘also’ to be there, it is [also] very difficult with these examples to make a case for stalking.”

Maven glanced nervously around the room, licked her lips, and [also] tightened her grip on her laptop.

“But it’s everywhere!

“Our hands are tied,” Grammar explained, “but I’ll see if our patrol squads can be more visible. Maybe that will keep ‘also’ from showing up so much.”

Maven left, grateful for that little bit of assurance. Grammar didn’t see where it would make much difference.

She finished her now cold coffee and [also] turned the verb tense cases that were more pressing.

Pursuing Prep. Phrase Perps

Prepositional Phrase mug shot

Grammar Smith had had a long day and an even longer night. All she wanted was a nice glass of Chardonnay and to go to bed. But she was still directing the roundup of the Prepositional Phrase Gang going on by the Department of English Language Offenses.

Grammar sighed and rubbed her eyes. The Prepositional Phrases were members of one of those families every community has: for the most part law abiding but with one large branch that can be depended upon to cause trouble.

In most cases, the PPs stirred up disagreement between Subjects and Verbs (which had problems getting along much of the time anyway). Throw PPs between them, and it all turns into a hopeless mess.

She looked at the operations file before her.

A couple of weeks ago at the Hunt and Peck, a Subject and Verb were at the bar, perfectly agreeable, when a Prepositional Phrase got between them and mixed things up. It pretty much spread like wildfire from there.

Grammar flipped through the reports.

The flower [subject] among the weeds {prepositional phrase} were blooming [verb].

Gusts [subj.] of frigid air {pp} chills [v] the nose.

The rays [subj.] of the alien gun {pp} spreads [v] and kills [v] quickly.

Each [subj.] of the criminals {pp} were [v] repeat offenders.

Of course, the longer things went on, the worse they got.  The DELO raids were trying to stop an epidemic.

Grammar was sipping on a cup of mud passing itself off as coffee when Det. Dis Connect radioed in.

“We’re in Tense City, and we’re having a hard time tracking down the ringleaders,” Dis said.

Wally Wordorder, head of the Fugitive Syntax Squad and with his own mug of mud in hand, knew the apartment complex well.

“Check out the Third Person Present Tense area,” he radioed back. “That’s usually where they hang out.”

“Will do!”

By early afternoon, the stream of Prepositional Phrases being charged and processed had slowed to a trickle. Grammar, Dis, and Wally walked into the bright sunshine heading for home and knowing that, in another few months, they would likely have to do it all again.

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.”

Dash Masquerades as Hyphen — Criminally

mask-875534_1280

As she walked into the squad room, Grammar Smith glanced over at Dis Connect’s desk and saw Henrietta Hyphen slumped in a chair.

Henrietta was a “frequent flyer” at the Dept. of English Language Offenses.

“What have you done this time?” Grammar asked as she ambled up to Dis’s desk.

“I haven’t done anything!” Henrietta snapped. “I’m here filing a complaint against my cousin, En Dash.”

Grammar raised an eyebrow. Dis nodded his confirmation.

“What’s the problem?” Grammar asked.

“En has always been jealous of me, and now she’s stolen my identity! She keeps popping up in phrases where I should be. She’s stealing my thunder!” Henrietta fumed.

“There’s evidence.”

Dis showed Grammar the file:

Exhibit A: the 25 – year – old lawyer

Exhibit B:   The antique — book collector pounded upon the first edition.

Exhibit C:  She could be a full – or part – time worker.

“There are many more instances we’re still tracking down,” Dis said.

“Why is En doing this?” Grammar asked.

“It’s infuriating,” Henrietta ranted. “En hates that she’s not actively part of a phrase or sentence. She doesn’t accept that she’s used to set aside and emphasize ideas. I think she’s afraid of not being essential. That’s why she’s always butting in where she doesn’t belong.”

“Just because she appears where she shouldn’t doesn’t make it criminal,” Grammar explained.

“She’s not just showing up where she shouldn’t. She’s pretending to be me. She’s stealing my livelihood.”

“That is criminal – very tough,” Grammar admitted. “Good luck.”