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March 4, 2008 4:48 PM   Subscribe

Zip up that dangling modifier--it's National Grammar Day! Let the ranting begin...
posted by laconic titan (37 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
its to late two post this,
posted by Dizzy at 4:55 PM on March 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shame, ain't it?
posted by furtive at 4:55 PM on March 4, 2008


...Me think.
posted by Dizzy at 4:55 PM on March 4, 2008


I thought the west coasters might appreciate it. It's also a shame it wasn't up here earlier; there haven't been many grammar posts on mefi. no demand, maybe?
posted by laconic titan at 5:00 PM on March 4, 2008


If we could all write well, there'd be a lot of editors out on the streets. This would not be acceptable. Please, keep them in their dusty, slovenly hovels and out of trouble buy righting pourly, alot.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:01 PM on March 4, 2008


I'd like to think that the lack (until now) of a mefi post about NGD was not so much an error of omission as it was an act of unspoken solidarity with the sane, right-thinking people of the world: let us refuse to even acknowledge the misguided, pedantic storm that is armchair grammar sniping, let us collapse once and for all the idea that there need be some self-righteous cheese-rolling competition played out, every day but especially today, on the downward sloping cobbled streets of untested presumptions and unvetted assertions about just what is and is not Ruining Language These Days.

Then again, if we do have the thread, I can grouse above as such, so I can't really complain either way.

Language Log on today; their pre-emptive note from last week.
posted by cortex at 5:11 PM on March 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


When dangling, don't use modifiers.
posted by pax digita at 5:21 PM on March 4, 2008


WAR! (ungh!) FOR WHAT IS IT GOOD?!
posted by Faux Real at 5:26 PM on March 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


I CAN HAZ GRAMR?
posted by caddis at 5:38 PM on March 4, 2008


My wife is a grammar enforcer. She got a card for her birthday this year with this bit of dialogue:

"Where is the party at?"
"It is improper to end a sentence with a preposition."
"Where is the party at, bitch?"
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:41 PM on March 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


My sister in law sent me the National Grammar Day link in an email, and I quickly submitted a web form to "complain" (tongue in cheek, of course) about the several sentence fragments on the home page. The response was quick and charming:

"Sentence fragments are OK! Really! In limited doses! Which we should try to remember..."

And no, I won't use smart quotes. So there.
posted by ZakDaddy at 5:45 PM on March 4, 2008


May I just say: W00t!!1!

Ending a sentence with a preposition: the sort of thing up with which I will not put.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:46 PM on March 4, 2008


National Grammar Day? Fine. Grammar me this one, grammarians:

There exists a boat. The boat belongs to me and to Bob. I would like to express this relationship at the outset of a sentence the ultimate point of which is to relate a nautical tragedy that has befallen the boat.

Query: is this the proper sentence? "My and Bob's boat sank." Or is it "Mine and Bob's boat sank"? Both sound awkward, and the second one strikes me as grammatically incorrect. But both sound worse than the more convoluted sentence "The boat belonging to Bob and me sank."

Also, if someone could once and for all explain to me when 'that' or 'which' is appropriate, I would be in your debt. For example, I wonder if in my second paragraph above, it should be "...to relate a nautical tragedy which has befallen the boat."

Maybe you help me out here, and then in return maybe I do up some triple integrals for you, real nice like.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:02 PM on March 4, 2008


Why are you's all seemingly to completely confusing bad grammar and spelling, but?
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:04 PM on March 4, 2008


The importance of the serial comma, demonstrated:

I dedicate this post to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

The importance of capitalization, demonstrated:

I helped my uncle Jack off a horse.
posted by eriko at 6:09 PM on March 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


Query: is this the proper sentence?

I imagine there are more nuanced answers available, but I'd say this: if it sounds awkward, rewrite it so it doesn't. "The boat belonging to Bob and me sank" works fine, but I wouldn't probably blink even at "Mine and Bob's boat sank" or "That boat of Bob's and mine sank" or no doubt other variations. If you want to play it safe, go with your longer version; if you aren't worried about tongue-cluckers, go with anything that reads okay to you.

Also, if someone could once and for all explain to me when 'that' or 'which' is appropriate, I would be in your debt.

See that Language Log link I posted upthread: the short answer, once again, is if it sounds okay, it pretty much is okay, with the caveat that using a comma in some cases can be a good idea if it reduces ambiguity. Beyond that, there are some well-trod rules out there for when you can use which vs. that, and the fun part about them is that they contradict each other and are pretty much stupid post hoc justifications that don't do anybody any damn good.
posted by cortex at 6:09 PM on March 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's okay to end a sentence with a preposition. Apparently it was a rule imported by the Latin-loving enemies of English.
posted by Brian B. at 6:09 PM on March 4, 2008


Bob's and my boat sank / *My and Bob's boat sank

Bob and I sank with it / *I and Bob sank with it
posted by aubilenon at 6:21 PM on March 4, 2008


Pastabagel: Query: is this the proper sentence? "My and Bob's boat sank." Or is it "Mine and Bob's boat sank"? Both sound awkward, and the second one strikes me as grammatically incorrect. But both sound worse than the more convoluted sentence "The boat belonging to Bob and me sank."

I'd say "Bob's and my boat sank." But I agree with Cortex -- the older I get the less I care about other people's grammar.

As for that and which: this is something that I've always dealt with intuitively, and thus I don't have a rule to hand you, but a couple of notes are:

- That is used when what you're talking about is being delimited in some way. "The boat that is poorly built [as opposed to those that aren't poorly built] is sinking."
- Which is used when you're describing the thing. "The boat, which is poorly built, is sinking."
- Which always comes after a comma.

I hope that made sense.
posted by loiseau at 6:24 PM on March 4, 2008


The best part is the congratulatory letter from President Bush -- who is, as we all know, a stickler for proper usage.
posted by mothershock at 6:25 PM on March 4, 2008


I helped my uncle Jack off a horse.

OK, where should the comma go? This is the sort of ambiguity up with which I will not put.
posted by longsleeves at 6:26 PM on March 4, 2008


These chuckle-heads should try translating some of the horrible Chinese officialese I get to see. You become as endlessly grateful for the elastic tolerance of our marvellous mother tongue as you are mortally dismayed by the butchery so many Chinese writers commit on their lovely language. Sometimes entire paragraphs consist of piled-up clauses that theoretically modify one another; not so much misplaced as missing presumed dead.
posted by Abiezer at 6:26 PM on March 4, 2008


Also a possibility: "Bob and me fucked our boat up but good."
posted by cortex at 6:26 PM on March 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


If we could all write well, there'd be a lot of editors out on the streets. This would not be acceptable. Please, keep them in their dusty, slovenly hovels and out of trouble buy righting pourly, alot.

My hovel is not slovenly, thank you very much.

Not that I really had to be the grammar police today - it was all about rounding up wrongly placed en-dashes and hyphens. They're wily.
posted by rtha at 6:42 PM on March 4, 2008


I guess some people do give a fuck about an Oxford comma.
posted by mike3k at 6:48 PM on March 4, 2008


I helped my uncle Jack off a horse.

OK, where should the comma go? This is the sort of ambiguity up with which I will not put.


No comma. And the uppercase 'J' eliminates the ambiguity you suggest.
posted by farmdoggie at 9:04 PM on March 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


But why did uncle Jack kill the horse? That's what I wanna know.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:24 PM on March 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Typo, that; an extra f snuck in somehow. His uncle actually hails from the county of Equishire, colloquially known as "the horse" by residents.
posted by cortex at 10:00 PM on March 4, 2008


Paging DFW ; Languagehat responds
posted by lalochezia at 10:27 PM on March 4, 2008


I can't believe no one's mentioned Mr. Language Person yet! (First link pdf.)
posted by mono blanco at 12:18 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


DOWN GRAMMAR WITH!

Add youself to a grammer-anti society we is formed there on an internets. Sure used words a longtime "normal" and "orthodox" and "proper" ways are enemy at thought freedom; is it late enough to stop? Not yet! So start to be joining it society "DOWN GRAMMAR WITH" called. You ask how I'll said; now. Simple to make application compote of words that for grammarians would pop their angries, fuck At which point me (life Presiperson and Chief DGW) of: it. And fee smaller than you didn't realised! Postwhich, members marched the capital and lighting fires up every bibliotheque ha. ha Ha. Bring flaming torch you will own, pitchforks, and, please.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:09 AM on March 5, 2008


Lalochezia thank you posting that DFW link. I love him. Mono Blanco, did you notice Mr. Language Person references Starbucks in the first paragraph, and Starbuck's in the next?

cortex, I'd call this the neverending battle of the descriptivists and prescriptivists, especially when it comes to Language Log posters, as you are no doubt well aware. I find both camps too extreme and like to count myself among your "sane, right-thinking people of the world."
posted by laconic titan at 3:11 AM on March 5, 2008


DO NOT WANT.
posted by languagehat at 5:53 AM on March 5, 2008


Such corrections are seldom friendly, welcome or necessary. They are usually self-righteous, irritating and misinformed.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:57 AM on March 5, 2008


(that's irony, for all you americans)
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:59 AM on March 5, 2008


The best authority for correct grammar these days is Dr. Streetmentioner's book. Of course, it weresn't been parwritten yet, but you coulden willbuy it in 2148.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:30 PM on March 5, 2008


Such corrections are seldom friendly, welcome or necessary. They are usually self-righteous, irritating and misinformed.

Three more adjectives: zany, gravel-voiced and undiplomatic.
posted by longsleeves at 9:33 PM on March 6, 2008


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