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The Maltreatment of Grammar

What is the difference between an old fuddy-duddy and an esteemed keeper of pure culture?

If I were French (and please notice the use of the subjunctive), I would always know how to tie a scarf around my neck in a most alluring and sophisticated manner, but more to the point, I would guard my proper French grammar with pit bullian severity. And I would love the Academie Francaise, the august body that determines which new words may enter the French lexicon.

 But I am American and my scarves fall off.  Nevertheless, I would like to start an American Academy for the Preservation of Grammar.

Mrs. Sullivan, my fifth grade English teacher, was very clear about this: the subject and verb must match! If one is singular, the other also must be. If one is plural, so must be the other. Therefore, I ask you: What is up with this his/her/their??!!

People now say things like, “One person’s grammar book is missing. Where could their grammar book be?”

Their grammar book?!?! It is his or her grammar book!  “Their” is plural! People have obviously lost their grammar books! But a single person has lost his or her grammar book. Or maybe it is not lost at all. Maybe he or she is just too lazy to consult it! Yes, I know some believe that saying “his or her” is too hard. But just because something is hard does not make it ok to do it wrong, does it?  

Oh, I could go on and on about the maltreatment of grammar. Unfortunately I must now pick up my scarf from the floor and try to tie it again in an elegant French manner. Please note that I am an esteemed keeper of pure culture. An old fuddy-duddy would not wear elegant French scarves.


© 2011 Margery Leveen Sher




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