It's Monday, so it is time for the first Grammarphobe lesson! I know you all are excited about this. I know you have workbooks, I know you have sharpened your pencils and put ink in your pens. Let us begin.
Back when I was in grade school, we usually started with nouns. What are nouns, boys and girls? Let's say it together: A noun is a person, place or thing. Some example are...
Person: Mother, Father, President Bush, and Elizabeth Taylor are nouns.
Place: Your House, Buckingham Palace, and the Sears Tower, are nouns.
Things: Your class ring, clock radio, and a teddy bear are nouns.
So far, so good, right? Now what do we need to know about nouns?
According to the illustrated Elements of Style, most nouns have a plural form and a possessive form. Plural is more of something, possessive is nouns and pronouns that indicate ownership or possession. You make a noun possessive by including an apostrophe and the letter s.
Now here's a story for you: Last year I was at a rally to keep a war memorial near my house. A group there was less than thrilled about the memorial and us. A woman held a sign that said, "This hillside was designed by leftist bigot's." Okay, there was the English major part of me that wanted to tell this woman that she should have left out the apostrophe. However, I changed my mind when she yelled at an eighty-two year old woman that she was ruining America.
Let's move on! Elements of Style says nouns sometimes can be used as verbs. Sometimes it's fine, sometimes it's clunky. For instance, is it okay to say you googled someone? Google is a thing, and it is an action. In addition, since Google is so popular people instantly get what you are saying. How about "She summers in Venice?" Yes, that could work because it's less wordy than "During the summertime, our heroine spent her time in Venice." We get the fact that she summers in Venice, bada bing, bada boom, enough said. The latter is too wordy. Nevertheless, sometimes it can be too causal, too loose. I'm sticking with Stunk and White here that yes, you can do it, but be careful.
Now let's discuss pronouns. Strunk and White say it changes shape as they function as an object or a subject. Now this is when I start to blink and smile a lot, pretending what the person is saying. Deep breath. Okay.
This is when you bring in the singular pronoun and the plural pronouns. When you use such words as each, every, every one, don't use the word "they." I can get behind this. Now this is the time to use a pronoun. More examples...
Everybody knows where they were when they found out Princess Diana died.
Okay, yawn. Vague. Let's try this.
Everybody knows where he and she were when Princess Diana died.
The latter is tighter. We know we aren't talking about gremlins. We are talking people who knew where they were when Princess Diana died. Stunk and White talking about pronouns always refers to the pronoun "he." Of course, women roared, and we deserve equal billing, therefore "he and she." The second "they" was not necessary. It's extra fat from the bone. We get to the point faster.
Nouns are nifty, aren't they? It's fun! I learned something; I hope you did as well. I'm off to pat my kitten. She's a noun, a singular and cute one.
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