March 4: There’s a National Grammar Day? So, three pronouns walk into a bar . . .

“National Grammar Day is Wednesday,” I told my eleven year old daughter.

She looked up and said with deadpan delivery, “Every day is grammar day.”

I winced. I chuckled.  She’s poking fun at ME, but she’s doing more than poking; she’s taking a jab at me. She’s the same daughter who gave me this T-shirt for Christmas.

Grammar T

What can I say? I’m misunderstood.

When you home school your children and teach English, OK LOVE English, they mistake you for a grammarian. My daughter has lumped me in with that lot. I do find the occasional sign or bureaucratic memo or punctuation error amusing.  But I’m forgiving and understanding generally, because it’s easy to make a mistake or typo.

I’m not as forgiving with my own children, because frankly who else will teach them?

I love language and words and syntax and diction and what makes sentences work or not work.  University of Iowa Professor Brooks Landon describes it this way.  Grammar deals with the rules underlying our understanding of language, the machinery of a sentence.  Rhetoric or style deals with how sentences actually work, or what makes a sentence effective. Effectiveness and elegance in writing are both rhetorical issues and grammar alone can lead to neither. (Link to Elegant Sentences and the Difference Between Grammar and Rhetoric)

Hemingway wrote:

My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible. The game of golf would lose a good deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green. You ought to be able to show that you can do it a good deal better than anyone else with the regular tools before you have a license to bring in your own improvements.  (Selected Letters)

Humor helps with learning.  Grammar jokes help  my children recognize mistakes in usage, punctuation, and effectiveness. So here are several.

“Let’s eat Grandma!”  “Let’s eat, Grandma!”  Commas save lives.

The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar.  It was tense.

Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar.  They sit. They drink. They leave.  (Grammarly.com)

A gerund and an infinitive walked into a bar, drinking to drink.  (Grammarly.com)

When I shared these with my family, I often got blank looks.  So I came up with a couple of my own and they listened. They even smiled.

Three pronouns walked into a bar and got into a fight.  She let him have it.

An interjection walked into a bar.  Ouch!

This week, my son made up this joke at the table. “Mom, four demonstrative pronouns walked into a bar.  They ordered this and that and these and those.”

How’s that for progress?

In the words of the late Richard Mitchell:

“If you cannot be the master of your language, you must be its slave. If you cannot examine your thoughts, you have no choice but to think them, however silly they may be.”  (Less Than Words Can Say link)

Mar 4, 2015

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

Stay Up to Date

Become a better reader and writer today and try the TreeHouseLetter for free. Always learning with a bit of fun.

Latest Posts

“Good Luck and Smooth Sailing” in the Year of the Cat

3 min read Lunar New Year Vietnamese Zodiac, Cat vs Rabbit Year 2023 Writing tip, lyrics, backstory on Al Stewart's hit song * AVAILABLE ON PODCAST on SPOTIFY * Chúc mừng năm mới 2023!! Happy Lunar New Year! * It's the Year of the Water Cat according to Vietnamese...

New Year, New Habits: THL on Instagram

2 min read Writing community Marketing platform 4 Instagram posts * It's a New Year with new habits: I am on Instagram! I know, it's hard to contain the excitement but please take a minute to check the posts below before you click over. They are drawn from...

How to Capture a Life in 400 Words

3 Min read The Obituary AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * Writing an obiturary is a sobering task. I'm not sure if it is harder to write one for someone you know, because I haven't had to do that. My husband wrote his parents' obituaries and my father had written...

Punch In, Punch Out: the Profession and the Side Hustle

3 Min read 1 Book rec Writing Originality and Passion AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * So you want to write? Do you like words? I finished reading Murakami's book Novelist as a Vocation which was published in 2015 and translated to the English in 2022. As of the...

“Pithy and Practical” – Time in Memoir

4 Min Read Time as a Literary Element The Divided Self Christmas and the Solstice Readers Call to Action AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * Not to toot my own horn, but I'll let my cousin do so. She wrote in her Christmas card that she loved the TreeHouseLetter...

Which Part of Speech Makes Up Most of the English Language?

4 Min read Toolbox, Parts of Speech 1 Book rec, grammar guide Word nerd alert Ages 9 to 99 * Let's talk about the parts of speech. As for the seven words in that sentence, the first two-- let's talk--are a sort of conundrum. They're not spoken at all, though I am...

Giving Thanks for Dissent and Cookies

3 Min read True Story On Gratitude and Dissent 1 Cookbook rec AVAILABLE IN PODCAST SPOTIFY APPLE PODCASTS * Giving thanks this time of year is a practice in gratitude. Gratitude is vogue, hip, lit. It's handy and eternal, an ever-ready virtue, making an appearance at...

Topics

Become a better reader and writer today and try the TreeHouseLetter for free. Always learning with a bit of fun.