THE VERBING OF NOUNS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Prioritize


Once upon a time in a land far, far away, you got your priorities in order. You set priorities. You decided what was your top priority, then you could change your mind forever but at least you knew there had been a priority.

You did not prioritize because the word “priority” was a noun. A noun was a thing. An item. A name. An object.

Marilyn as writer

One day, back in the 1970s or thereabouts, we ran out of grammar and punctuation. No one taught grammar in American schools. They hadn’t taught it is so many years that I had only learned grammar as an afterthought.

So it continued until we had the National Whatever-They-Were-Called-Back-Then exams that were supposed to determine what we did and did not know. I got amazingly good grades on everything, probably proving that all the teachers who called me an under-achiever were right on target.

I was much more interested in painting in the art room and reading books than doing “workbook” assignments. I, in fact, did not do workbooks. Once I discovered you could “fail workbook” for not coloring in the attached pictures, I thought “This is really STUPID” and flatly refused to do it. Rather than battle me to the death, they sent me to the art room which got me out of the way. No one was actually worried about whether I was getting educated. I apparently was educated enough to think the curriculum was stupid.

Remember this one?

I also refused to bother with the official school “readers.” I had already read them. In the second grade, I’d locked myself in the wardrobe closet (it was the size of a small bedroom and had lights) and read all the readers up through sixth grade.

Mrs. O’Rourke was furious and called my parents. My mother felt if I had read all the schools readers in less than two hours — in the closet in second grade — that they weren’t giving me an adequate education. For all practical purposes, they didn’t have a clue what an adequate education might be. I spent a lot of time in the art room.

All of this was fine until the high school sophomore year standardized tests when it was discovered no one in the super high IQ group, in which I was reluctantly included (high IQ, low grades), got better than a 60% score on grammar. Not a single one of us.

Louis B. Schuker, our principal called an assembly of The Smart Kids Expected To Go To College. He said we had all gotten grades of 98% or higher on every test they threw at us — except grammar. So the following year would be devoted to grammar. For all of us, even if we were planning on nuclear physics in our near future.

Jamaica High School

Thus during my junior and senior years of high school, I learned grammar — possibly as part of the last New York public school students to formally learn it. One of the things I learned is that you can’t just turn a noun into something else because you are too lazy to use the word properly.

It was hopeless. I might have gotten two years of parsing sentences, but the rest of the world didn’t parse.

The result is that today, we communicate with little tiny pictures known as “Emojis” and think “prioritize” is a real word. I guess it is a real word now. Everything is a real word, including Emoji.

Our language has no class. That’s why kids don’t talk to each other. They don’t know how.

DAILY PROMPTS: SUNSHINE LESSENED BY SUMMER LEAVES IS DAPPLED – Marilyn Armstrong

#FOWC – SUNSHINE LESSENED BY SUMMER

#RDP – CREATES TREES AND PATHS DAPPLED IN LIGHT


I am not confused by the dappling of the paths and lawns. That’s the way the shady part of summertime looks. My problem is entirely grammatical.

Sunshine lessened through summer leaves IS or ARE dappled?

Dappled deck

I keep thinking the “sunshine” is collective and should take “is,” but one of my three grammar fixers will always disagree with me. I was pretty sure I had the whole present tense issue locked up, but as it turns out, it’s more complicated than that.

And then, there’s the lawn …

How does anyone actually learn English when even the “machinery” used to check it can’t figure it out?

And the woods itself …

Getting past the grammatical confusion, I’m glad I took some wondrously leafy photographs last week … or was it just a couple of days ago? Time is fleeing past me so quickly, I don’t know whether I did whatever it was this morning or a week ago.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Lad with dappled unicorn!

Just so you know, there are lots of dappled horses and you can lessen anything that was at one time (or another) bigger. I just don’t know if I have any dappled horses or dogs, though I have ridden and kept many dappled creatures.

NATIONAL SPEAK IN COMPLETE SENTENCES DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

There is a day for everything, but I could not let this one slip passed unnoticed.


May 31 is NATIONAL SPEAK IN COMPLETE SENTENCES DAY.


No really. It is. I’m not sure most people actually know what a complete sentence should look like. What parts it should contain. Most of the people with whom I interact — not on WordPress where we have a shockingly high level of people who understand grammar and punctuation — but the rest of the world where no one knows what an adverb is or why they should avoid their overuse.

How could they know what an adverb is when they don’t know what a verb is either? For that matter, they don’t know what are an object, subject, clause … or the difference between a semi-colon and a comma (okay, that’s a tough one, so I’ll let that one slide).

Imagine if, for one day, everyone used complete sentences! I would like to add that imagine if they also used proper punctuation and ran the spell-checker before publishing anything.

And beyond that, imagine if we all turned off auto-correct and most of the things we wrote were really what we meant to say and not what the computer likes?

Okay, let’s not get carried away.

What Do You Call a Group of…?

Things you always wanted know and didn’t know where to look? Here’s the answer!

Science-Based Life

There is just no way you are not going to find this interesting. Below is a (semi) complete list of what you would call various groups of animals.

I absolutely love the Victorian flair. An exaltation of larks? A shiver of sharks? Fantastic.

Feel free to break these out in conversation. “Science is the poetry of reality”, after all.

Mammals

ApesA shrewdness
AssesA pace
BadgersA cete
BatsA colony
BearsA sloth, sleuth
BuffaloA gang, an obstinacy (I suspect these refer to old world buffalo; use “herd” for American bison)
CatsA clowder, a pounce; for kittens…A kindle, litter, an intrigue
CattleA drove, herd
DeerA herd, bevy (refers only to roe deer)
DogsA litter (young), pack (wild), cowardice (of curs); specific to hounds…A cry, mute, pack, kennel
ElephantsA herd
ElkA gang
FerretsA business
FoxA leash, skulk, earth
GiraffesA…

View original post 474 more words

IN A SUBJUNCTIVE MOOD

Ignoring the minor detail that they aren’t words, but semi-English local dialect, “shoulda” “coulda” “woulda” perfectly describe the essence of the rapidly disappearing subjunctive tense — or as some modern grammarians prefer it, mood.

All romance languages lavishly employ the subjunctive because it lets a verb indicate more than action (as verbs are wont to do). It includes a feeling about those actions. Longing, perhaps. Uncertainty. Hesitancy. Hope. Sometimes, it indicates “a hypothetical state or a state contrary to reality, such as a wish, a desire, or an imaginary situation.”  Which is something difficult to express if you don’t have a grip on the subjunctive thing.

Consider that a generous use of the subjunctive mood or tense can raise literature from the mundane to an art form. Wait, isn’t it supposed to be an art form?

In one of my favorite songs, Rod Stewart says “You are my heart, you are my soul. You’ll be my breath should I grow old.”

I love that he used the subjunctive to indicate the uncertainty of the future, that maybe he would not grow old, but IF he does, she will be his breath. That’s elegant. That’s subjunctive. He does not say “when I grow old.” He could have, but specifically chose to leave the matter up in the air, quivering with possibility. Saying so much by choosing this word rather than the other one.

75-FadedBooksFloatingWordsNK-004

We’ve been dumping parts of speech for a while now. Americans seem to feel we need to just get on with it. Stupid grammar, it just gets in the way of spitting out what you mean. We don’t need no stinkin’ adverbs. Or tenses, for that matter. Let’s just go with the present and ignore everything else. Simple, direct. Eventually, we can eliminate pronouns, too.

If you ever listen to sports on TV or radio, you’ll notice they speak their own version of English. Adverbs have been banished. These highly paid professionals don’t know an adverb from their elbow, a noun from nose hair, or a complete sentence from a sandwich. Nor do they care.

I am in a subjunctive mood today. Wistfully contemplating the resurgence of language as art.

IRRITITABLE VOWEL SYNDROME

Off to various doctors and hospitals today, so I thought a spot of humor might be in order. I got a kick out of this one and maybe so will you!

DCMontreal: Blowing the Whistle on Society

Irritable Vowel Syndrome – something has to change yventually!

©DCMontreal 2014 ©DCMontreal 2014

 Cause, Meet Effect.

Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

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BLAH BLAH BLAH

Verbal Ticks — Is there a word or a phrase you use (or overuse) all the time, and are seemingly unable to get rid of? If not, what’s the one that drives you crazy when others use it?


Were “very” banished from the language as well as “that” and “which,” my writing would be more elegant. Much of my editorial efforts are spent removing the aforementioned words after inserting them in nearly every sentence.

Daily Prompt: Whose Planet Is This?

It doesn’t take much to feel like a visitor from a foreign planet. Humans are  good at making anyone even a little bit different feel like an alien.

shadow me

My body is a great place to start. It is rebuilt, an imitation of a human body. Fake breasts with no nipples. Missing internal organs. No belly button.

Yet nothing makes me feel more out of time and place than reading posts on Facebook. The inability of average people to use any grammar, to write in full sentences, to understand that “loose” and “lose” aren’t the same word leaves me feeling as if I have been inter-dimensionally transported to “The Planet Without Grammar.” Forget typos. I get that. We all make mistakes and usually know it. How often I have wished I could go back and correct them.

No, I’m talking about all the millions of people who don’t even know they are doing something wrong because they never knew their own language in the first place.

Then there’s music. I sound like every member of every older generation throughout history, but this didn’t start when I became a Senior Citizen. It started when I was a young music student and had to listen to 12-tone music. This is music?  To me it sounds like Tom cats locked in a trash can to duke it out until only one emerges. Howling, banging, shrieks, crashing, thumping. No rhythm. No melody. Just noise.

I can get into rhythm without melody. I can enjoy melody without rhythm. When you remove both? What makes it music? Please, someone, explain. Where do noise and music part company? My inability as a young music student to grasp what it was about these sounds that made them admirable as music signaled a lifetime of “not getting it.” Whatever “it” has been.

There are so many things I don’t get. Politics. Ignorance. Movies without scripts. Books without plots. Published authors without talent. Illiteracy (voluntary). A society-wide lack of compassion. Environmental destruction for short-term goals which will have permanent devastating planet-wide repercussions. Genocide.

And that old standby, stupidity.

I said I’m an anachronism. I wasn’t kidding. I really am. And everyday, I get worse.

 

Write? Right?

After 35 years as a technical writer, I am discovering many aspiring writers secretly — maybe not so secretly — want to write user guides. While invoking a glamor by calling their work fiction, their truest heart’s desire is to write dry narrative. We, the readers, should fill descriptive gaps from the overflowing richness of our imaginations.

If description is not the author’s job, who needs the author? If I can find all that imagery in my head, why should I read your book?

Everyone wants to be Ernest Hemingway. I’d rather read William Faulkner. Never exclude the possibility that what you want to write is not what people want to read.

bookcase-1

A wholesale willingness to discard pieces of our language appalls me. I’m not looking for the leanest, cleanest text. I love description. I revel in complexity. I adore rich language, word play, emotional depth, color and texture. I want my authors to carry me to unexplored and previously undreamt of realms. I wish to be transported on wings woven of words, to undertake soaring flights I would never achieve on my own. In my opinion, that is an author’s job. If not that, then what?

I deplore the overuse of any grammatical structure, but to suggest the complete elimination of adverbs and modifiers? Much of the beauty of the English language is the huge vocabulary available to us. And unlike German, Russian, and many Romance languages, English grammar is flexible, offering a wide variety of constructions. You aren’t locked into any rigid forms. You can place modifiers as you please and modify verbs, nouns and just about anything else.

The quote from Stephen King “The road to hell is paved with adverbs” has been tossed around a lot.

But I am sure it was not intended to suggest we eliminate adverbs. Read anything Stephen King has written and discover he is one of the richest users of English, as per the following clip from 11/23/63. Count, if you like, the number of adverbs and adverbial clauses. If you can.

KingText

No author would advocate banning any part of speech. King’s admonition urges you to avoid overusing adverbs, not eliminating them because if you were to read a few lines further, he admits that ultimately, like everyone else he uses whatever parts of speech are right and most importantly, ensure that the reader understands what he means. Stephen King is not a great writer because his prose is so lean. He is a great writer because of its richness and creativity, the poetry of his words. Lean? Hardly.

Books need to be engaging, interesting. Writers need to love words. Everything ever written about writing is no more than a guideline. To write well you need to hear the music of words, the flow of them. You need to know when your narrative needs to be spare and when you need a glorious outpouring of rhythm and poetry. No one can teach you to write. It is a gift. You can learn to write better, but if you have no inherent talent for words, no amount of hard work will turn you into an author.

You can get away with virtually anything but if you bore your readers, they will never forget or forgive. And if by chance I’m reviewing your book? I won’t be counting your adverbs. Trust me, if I even notice parts of speech, you’ve already failed. Dismally (yes, it’s an adverb … cope).

Ultimately the only thing that matters is how your story and characters resonate with readers. You can create the most perfect text ever put on paper, but unless it’s interesting, readable, entertaining, gripping … I don’t care and neither will anyone else.

Worry less about style. Worry more about content.

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R.I.P. Adverb

Adverb, one of the most misunderstood parts of speech, was laid to rest yesterday following the Red Sox post game show. I’d seen it coming for more than five years. Quickly had turned into quick or even fast.  Well became good. Poorly devolved into poor.

Last night, for a solid half hour, sportscasters on a major sports channels, NESN or maybe, ESPN — honestly, I do not remember which station it was, but all of them massacre the language with equal verve — talked about the game. At no point did any of these professional announcers use an adverb, regardless of context, nor how appropriate an adverb would have been.

English: A visual depiction of the various gra...

“Where have all the adverbs gone?” I cried, despair in my heart  It was like chalk on a blackboard. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I ached to reach through the screen, shake them, and scream:”USE SOME DAMNED ADVERBS, YOU MORONS. HAVE YOU NEVER HEARD OF ADVERBS?” No. They haven’t.

In my heart, I know it is too late. Adverb is dead. All that remains is to hold his funeral.

Adverb was predeceased by Semi-colon and Subjunctive Tense. I fear for Colon . The population of remaining Colons may be reduced beyond the point of no return.

Please donate generously to the Save Grammar for Future Generations Foundation. We need to preserve the few remaining parts of speech lest our descendants never experience the richness of a properly constructed sentence.

Oh, who am I kidding? It’s a lost cause.

Farewell Adverb. I loved you well.

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