I misplaced my modifier

In seventh grade, I had to take a grammar class. I wonder if kids today are still dragged to the blackboard and forced to diagram a sentence the length of a football field. There was always that one girl in the class (since boys typically communicated through grunts and armpit farts) who could do it without breaking a sweat. I was not that girl.

In tenth grade, I took a remedial grammar class. It started out with the sentence, “Birds eat.” We were asked to identify which word was the noun, and which was the verb. I figured I stood a 50/50 chance of getting it right. The point is that it took me twelve years and a college Spanish grammar class to learn the English language.

The average American would rather eat rusty nails than try to conjugate a verb, so I know that your mind has already wandered off and you are thinking about pizza (thin crust, extra pepperoni). Bare with me. (Translation: let’s get naked together. Also acceptable, Bear with me: let’s go hunting grizzlies. Don’t get me started on “pair.”)

I know I’ll probably be tarred and feathered for this, but I think all Americans should learn a second language. I learned most of my English grammar in Spanish class. As it is, we’re very egotistical about the merits of a language which few people can speak properly. I would suggest Hawaiian, except that they have a definite shipping problem with consonants. They have a strict quota, and once you run out, you have to make up shit like auauieia (translation: the pig ate my socks).

Respect grammar for what it is: a boring exercise in language arts. I’ll leave you with this thought. In my remedial grammar class, a boy, who was sweet on my friend, used one of the most unusual pick-up lines ever. He turned to her and said “Fart is a verb.” (Fart, farted, farten).

Grammatical gripes

In the classic work, Dante’s Inferno, hell is made up of rings, each one with a punishment more terrible than the last. For example: Cigarette smokers are consigned to the fourth ring, where they will forever have to roll their own because of soaring prices on their favorite filter tips.

“I feel sorry for the much maligned –ly words,” she said wearily. I just got my manuscript back from my editor, and was dismayed to see the number of adverbs which must get the axe. When did we decide that in writing, adverbs belong in the fiery abyss of hell?

I personally have nothing against jauntily, quickly, and quietly, yet I’m sent on a search and destroy mission to eradicate all such offensive language. I get the impression from my editor, that if I use an adverb after dialogue, I open myself to almost certain alien abduction and vigorous probing.

I read a blog recently, in which the writer tackles the “absolute” rules of writing.

Thou shalt not use an adverb

Thou shalt only write what thou knowest

Thou shalt not write unless ye be in a place that serves overpriced coffee

That last one is problematic in that I invariably spend my first five minutes there trying to figure out why the smallest size cup is called a “tall.”

But I digress.

Agents want to see descriptive verbs, so I have little choice but to pull out my Thesaurus and try to decide if saying something loudly should be written as “exclaimed, vented, asserted, spluttered, articulated, growled, or proclaimed.”

So weigh in and let me know what your favorite adverbs are, your least favorite grammatical rule, or what size I should order if I want the largest cup of coffee.

Schoolhouse Rock

Joe turned to my friend in English class and said, “fart is a verb.” Joe was kind of sweet on her and thought this would be a good pick-up line. In point of fact, fart can be either a verb or a noun. I won’t bother to conjugate it for you, or come up with adjectives and adverbs to describe it. I shall simply point out the obvious: grammar is not the way to a woman’s heart. Continue reading