Tag Archives: Grammar
If you’ve ever painted a picture more than a colouring book or a paint-by-number, chances are you’ve learned something along the way about layers. Layering is also a digital graphics technique in programs such as Photoshop, and as each layer is made, the image changes, taking on the shapes or colours as you add the consecutive elements.
Besides being a writer, I am also a vocal coach. I only take on students who are already in bands, or preparing for recordings or competitions, and one of the things I teach them is layering within a vocal performance: The nuances of thoughts, the power of imagination, the colouring of the vocals through not only the physical placement of the tone within their instrument (their body), but the placement of their imagination. One can communicate boredom or interest or empathy with the exact same wording by merely varying the intonation, and that comes through the layering of the performance.
Writing is much the same way: It is through the employment of grammar, spelling and punctuation that we signal the reader to prepare for a particular experience; as Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
Oh, the difference between, “It was rainy last night,” and “It was a dark and stormy night”!
So the next time you feel like your manuscript or poem is falling flat, take a minute to think about the layers, and see what creative brush strokes you can give your work.
The following sentences are taken verbatim from comments on unwitting websites; I’ve collected them as I’ve come across them since Autumn of 2013. Sometimes I couldn’t help myself and put my comments in parentheses; other comments there are simply reference to the context. I have dozens more, but certain things in life are better in small doses…
- “Don’t look like you like didn’t eat it all” (man, late-50s)
- “I just havta buy some…” (woman, 18)
- (Headline): “Welfare Check Leads to Homicide Investigation” (Referring to a response of officers to check on a suspicious situation, and not a monetary cheque…)
- “I love London. Especially the countryside.” (face palm…not strictly bad grammar; just ignorance…)
- “Now this statement I like – we are Ameica and our language is English – you want6 to live hear learn our language. And go by our rules.” (Concerning a sign that said, “Welcome to America. Press 1 for English; Press 2 to disconnect until you learn English.” Clearly they missed grammar and spelling lessons.)
- “Lively up yourself.”
- “Who’s agree with us?”
- “Sorry hand finger bad cut bleeding after topaz scared and did it. sorry it not up in the morning. Sorry sorting it I hope” (Whaaat??)
- “I think it gonna b 2 these 4 me 2nite.” (Clearly.)
- “That is the days I go shopping even if I don’t buy nothing hoping the family left at home do something.” (Hopefully the family is learning better grammar than this mother did…)
Recently I asked my Facebook connections if they could help me with a Latin phrase; the phrase has to do with the computation of days in the Julian calendar (calends, ides, nones, etc.). Here is my exact post:
“Calling all Romance Language speakers (French, Italian, Spanish, etc.): Does the following phrase (any of its words) render something similar in your language, and if so, what do those words mean? The phrase is in Latin, “Principium mensis cujusque vocato kalendas” I understand the first and last words, but am curious about the three middle words… Thanks for any help.”
Quite a discussion ensued; but I still don’t know if there is an etymological equivalent or relative to “cujusque.” One person suggested the connection of mensis (month) with the medical term – which I should have thought of as the German slang term is “Mens” for women’s monthly cycle. But all other entries tried to help me with the first and last word, and I spent more time explaining my request than I saved by asking in the first place.
This is a trend I’ve noticed on the rise on Facebook in particular, but I am aware that it’s also happening across Cyberland; too often people skim over a text and assume they’ve understood it well enough to make an informed contribution to a discussion. It’s harmless when it only has to do with topics of grammar and language; but when it also enters the formation process of people’s opinions in the political or social arenas, society beware. I usually ignore such discussions with a healthy dose of eye-rolling; but sometimes I have to intervene in the propagation of half-baked ignorance, or I won’t be able to sleep at night.
The illustration is a perfect example of this vague exactitude; people took the time to reply, but they did not take the time to properly read, to inform themselves of the actual task at hand. I have only two words to add: STOP IT!
Having lived on both sides of the Puddle (that’s the Atlantic, for you Americans), I can confirm that English truly is a language that separates the Old World from the New. While the American language seems to be simplifying through the school system and mass media (and don’t even get me started on the spelling!), I doubt that will ever happen in the UK… the language is far too entertaining to let it get boring. Click on the image below for a few gems like “Donkey’s Years”, “it’s monkeys”, “to have a butcher’s”, and “up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire”.