Tag Archives: grammar

Five Grammar Rules (for You to Poop on)

Ah, there can be no more promising start to an article than a reference to the Insult Comic Dog.  This blog is both hilarious and timely!

Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog“Joanna has a great grasp of current pop culture…FOR ME TO etc. etc.”

Anyway, to business.

If there’s one thing my years as an SAT/ACT grammar tutor taught me, it’s that the English language has a lot of rules.  If there’s a second thing it taught me, it’s that I knew precisely none of them.  Thanks to a nifty phenomenon called Universal Grammar, I had been able to understand and use proper English without ever explicitly learning how.  Consequently, my first day teaching was spent alternately mumbling: “So that’s what a participle is!” and refusing repeated requests for refunds.

Violent studentKid, if your parents are rich enough to pay for a private tutor, they’re rich enough to pay me to fart around on grammar.com for forty-five minutes.

I know English grammar inside and out now, of course.  Four years spent drilling kids in preparation for a bullsh*t standardized test will do that to a person.  But as I picked up the rules, I happened to pick up something else: the realization that some of what we’re taught in English class is absolute crap that can and should be ignored.  For example…

1. “Don’t end a sentence in a preposition.”
We can blame Latin for this one.  Once upon a time, English had a perfectly functional native grammar that allowed speakers to use terminal prepositions with impunity.  Then a bunch of jumped-up Classicists got a hold of it, furrowed their brows and declared: “Nah, bruh.  Latin.

Roman bath houseYou love the Classical period so much, why don’t you, uh…do whatever the hell it is they’re doing in this picture? (from english-heritage.org.uk)

But Latin is not English and never will be.  For starters, English is a Germanic language, not a Latin/Romance one.  Furthermore, the practice of grafting Latin rules onto an English framework was based in the misguided belief that Latin was pure–at least, purer than whatever mouth-farts the Anglo-Saxons had been lobbing at each other.  You can see why that’s an arbitrary and chauvinistic justification.

2. “Don’t split your infinitives.”

Benedict Cumberbatch, "Don't split your infinitives."Darling, I love you, but I will throw down over this one. (from uproxx.com)

This one also comes to us courtesy of the Classicists, who never met a Latin rule they wouldn’t take to bed and press against their clammy loins.  The most famous example of a split infinitive occurs in the opening narration of Star Trek: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

“Actually,” the fussy prescriptive grammarian pipes up, “it should be: ‘Boldly to go,’ or ‘To go boldly!'”  To which I respond: “Boldly go on this!” while extending my middle finger.  Everybody laughs and high-fives me.  I am finally popular.

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