Good grammar is never out of style


The extremely heavy book in my lap as I write this column is titled National Encyclopedia of Business and Social Forms and Embracing the Laws of Etiquette and Good Society.

Written by James D. McCabe and printed by the Home Publishing Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1882, it contains 838 pages. This particular copy, according to a colorful frontispiece, was presented to Thomas W. Shurtleff by “His Wife” at Youngstown, Ohio, in 1883.

The various chapters make fascinating — and still applicable — reading and column readers will be enjoying more excerpts as the months fly by.

But this particular column addresses a very pet peeve of mine and is addressed in the chapter on “General Principles of Grammar” with specifics of “Common Errors In Writing and Speaking.”

On page 39, the sentence reads “There’s fifty,” is incorrect. It should be “There are fifty.”

Over and over, day after day and night after night, a political commercial for presidential candidate John McCain asserts in his voice, “There’s many, many solutions to these problems, blah, blah … “

I cringe every time I see and hear it. (And I hear the same mistake constantly from just about everyone..)

So much so, that when I received in the mail a “gimme-gimme” letter from the Republican National Committee, I found a telephone number and even though it wasn’t an 800-number, I called to express my disgust at the grammatical error by some speech writer, an error which would reflect on the education of the candidate. Unless, of course, the candidate didn’t know any better.

The bored man who answered wanted to know what the mistake was. I told him. I suggested it be corrected and hung up.

I also used the postage-paid envelope to return the money request. I taped a penny to the paper and wrote down the grammatical error and correction. Anonymously, of course. So there, too.

I must be getting very cranky in my old age, but I feel much better now that I’ve expressed my opinion and actually have done something about it!

While I’m complaining, I might as well yammer about a youngster whose picture was in the paper because he won an award for “best handwriting” and a sample was shown — not of cursive writing but of printing. Apparently today’s scholars are simply not taught cursive writing.

* * *

As Mother’s Day came and went without Mother Goose presenting any goslings, I am keeping a close eye on the nesting site on the bank of the pond. I marvel at her patience — imagine hunkered down on uncomfortable eggs for at least 30 days, without food and only an occasional dip in the water — and at her mate’s vigilance.

On an afternoon when they both began honking loudly, I hurried to see what the disturbance was about, and for the first time in months got a glimpse of Reynard, who was lurking behind the pasture fence.

Both geese were standing upright in a threatening manner and Reynard apparently got the message as he disappeared into the woods.

Several days later — May 12 — while sipping my morning coffee at the kitchen table, I decided the furry rump visible at the edge of the porch had to belong to a very fat groundhog. To my delight and amazement, the face at the other end was that of Reynard!

He had to have scented rabbits which come to munch birdseed and was hoping for hasenpfeffer instead of goose. No such luck, for either.

* * *

A robin who has built her nest deep within the barberry hedge at the front porch is in for a nervous summer. Everyone who comes to visit comes onto that porch and when I go in and out it is through the door opening to that porch.

Although I apologize to her, she is not accepting and flies chirping to perch on a nearby hitching post.

* * *

My Old True Love by Sheila Kay Adams and The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich make for pleasant reading after a day of chores and better than almost anything on television.

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