Sent from a friend via a relative (or something like that):
An English professor wrote the words:
“A woman without her man is nothing” on the chalkboard and asked his students to punctuate it correctly.
All of the males in the class wrote:
“A woman, without her man, is nothing.”
All the females in the class wrote:
“A woman: without her, man is nothing.”
Punctuation is powerful!
I’ve heard this comparison made incorrectly enough lately that I thought it worth mentioning, namely that sarcasm and irony and are not exactly the same thing. The sarcastic comment is one that has a bite to it — a little bite or a big bite, but it’s still a bite — whereas the ironic comment is broader and, while it may encompass sarcasm, it’s certainly not limited to sarcasm.
In The King’s English, Fowler writes, “any definition of irony—though hundreds might be given, and very few of them would be accepted—must include this, that the surface meaning and the underlying meaning of what is said are not the same.”
Telling someone “Great Job” when they screw something up is sarcasm — in fact, it’s pretty vicious in my opinion. Yes, there’s irony there.
There are different types of irony … there’s verbal irony and there’s situational irony. Situational irony is a wonderful literary device … things can happen by coincidence or fate, and the unexpected can result.
Driving down the road, not paying attention to the lights, and rear-ending a vehicle that happens to be a tow truck … now that’s ironic. It’s situational.
Being at a band concert where the tuba player suddenly becomes ill — thus requiring the need of a substitute — and knowing I play the tuba AND happen to have my mouthpiece with me … well, that’s ironic too.
No, none of those things has happened to me … just day dreaming.
The study of irony would be interesting … that may be something to tackle someday. For now, I just want to point out that when someone says something ironic, it may or may not be sarcastic. Look before you leap.
Back in the day, I suppose as part of my early preparation for joining the Grammar Police Force, I used to watch any of the several police shows that were on television. My favorites would have been: Hawaii 5-0, Mission Impossible, Dragnet, and One-Adam-Twelve. There were others, too — Kojack, Shaft, Columbo, and others — but these first three or four were, for me, the definitive shows.
Putting the bad guys behind bars — that’s what it was all about.
And so in this day and age, when we have the luxury of focusing our attention on the breaking of our English grammar laws (“Sorry son, but I clocked you speed-reading at over 1000 words per minute”), it’s easy to carry the same level of, um, seriousness (not necessarily a bad thing) and severity of punishment (definitely a bad thing) with grammar as we did earlier with bank robberies, etc.
In the middle of raising 4 kids, and having spent several years in management and a few years coaching mighty mite and youth football teams, I can assure you that the way to correct errors, change habits, and push toward reform is NOT through constant nagging / harping / teasing of the person and his errors, but offering encouragement, help, guidance, training, and all that neat stuff.
Instead of being the brutal Grammar Cop who tears the language offender to shreds, be the firm but encouraging officer who corrects, provides examples, reminds again later, and pulls the person(s) back into the fold.
My experience tends to be something along the lines of … As soon as I point out someone else’s mistakes, my little pile of grammar flaws will turn into a mountaintop, ready to tumble down into the valley and out into the sea.
So, be kinder and gentler out there, folks! You might be the next one to commit an infraction!
“Book him Danno, Grammar One.”
Thom Gunn once wrote of “the dull thunder of approximate words.” And Horace gave us the formula: we should instill profit through pleasure. Joel Schnoor has written an excellent book (not for our shelves but for our desks) that delights and informs and helps us to get the right word in the right place.
On the battlefield or in the courtroom imprecise communication can be disastrous: “CEASE FIRE!” “SAY AGAIN ALL AFTER CEASE!” “FIRE!” “ON THE WAY!”
In ordinary, everyday life the proper use of the English language adds dimensions of clarity and pleasure to both the speaker and the listener.
Joel Schnoor has done us all a favor by writing this excellent book. In fairness I should disclose that I once met his Aunt Ruth, who assisted in the solving of a most perplexing crime, purely by applying the rules of grammar. Perhaps Schnoor will favor us with that story at some time in the future.
In the meantime, I (and the young attorneys and staff who work for me) will become very, very familiar with this modern masterpiece of diction and grammar.
John Stevens Berry, Sr., Fellow, American Board of Criminal Lawyers
Author, Those Gallant Men
Are you in love with the English language and have more than once been tempted to demand the Grammar Police deliver one of your erroneous or felonious friends to our already overcrowded prisons? This is the book for you! In his humorous and irresistible style Joel Schnoor makes lie and lay and its and it’s clear to us in a way too funny to forget.
Joel Schnoor’s “I laid an Egg on Aunt Ruth’s Head or Conquering the English Language and its Ruthless Ways” made me laugh and cry and that isn’t because I actually did know the original Aunt Ruth.
After all, Aunt Ruth is “She for whom the Bell tolls” for each and every one of us.
Glenna Luschei, PhD, OFB (Order of the Folies Bergere)
Author, Unexpected Grace
If you are looking for something different to read, this could be just what you need. This book can be read as a collection of amusing stories, or as a way of improving your English grammar.
The author covers many of the common mistakes people make and shows how amusing the results can often be.
So, if you want to be entertained by Aunt Ruth and get educated at the same time, this is the book for you, a well written and organized book for students and adults.
Author, Peter and the Black Dog
So the other night I was talking to my daughter on the telephone (why is it, when I hear or use the word telephone, I still think of the old rotary dial phones that were part of my youth?) and I asked her how school was going. As a new freshman, she’s adapting well and loves school.
Anyway, she responded that she had “beasted” a test that morning. I paused and then I asked her the obvious (to me, anyway) question, namely, is beasting a test a good thing or a bad thing?
I suppose it should have been obvious to me, but I didn’t know if “beasting” something meant that you place it in that particular category. I’m thinking of beasting, in this case, as being analogous to knighting. Can’t you imagine a royal dance party in which the guests are introduced as they arrive, and the greeter introduces a nice looking couple as the Beast of Gloucestershire and his wife, or something like that.
The other thing that beasting could be is when you become the beast to whatever it is that you’re beasting. “I beasted the quiz” might be a way of saying that I became like godzilla and marched into the center of that Quiz City and toppled all the tall buildings, destroying it.
So anyway, I asked the question as to whether beasting is good or bad, and she repeated the question for the benefit of those others who were in her nearby vicinity at that moment. I heard raucous laughter in the background and then I was informed that her friends were laughing at me — correction, laughing with me — so I began to laugh too, to make sure that was true.
I think I kind of like the concept of beasting. With Halloween so nearby, perhaps we should call it Monstering. After all, verbing / verbizing has always been scary to me!
Complete the title of this post. Should it finish with “I” or “me”?
So, which is it?
1. Do you love chocolate more than me?
2. Do you love chocolate more than I?
3. Do you love chocolate more than I do?
It’s certainly the case that “than” has been used as a conjunction for eons (or as we’d say back in the Midwest, “for a coon’s age”). The third example above uses “than” to join the first thought with the second thought; that is, “do you love chocolate more” is being joined with “I do.”
Given that example, it seems reasonable to assert that you could also say, “Do you love chocolate more than I,” because in that case you are implying the final “do.” But it also sounds a bit pretentious (“Pretentious? Moi?”) and maybe a little awkward.
Now, there’s evidence that some of the greats used “than” as a preposition — even William Shakespeare and John Milton. The problem with that (“… more than me”), at least in this context, is that it is interpreted as questioning whether the person being spoken to loves chocolate more than she loves me. Do you love chocolate more than me? Do you love chocolate more than you love me?
Certainly there are grammarians (Madame Librarians) who believe “than” can only be a conjunction. My brief look around, though, seems to indicate that most grammarians are fine with calling “than” a preposition.
It just depends what you mean.
That being said, now I’m wondering if you really do love chocolate more than me.
“I’m in a query,” she said, mystifying me.
Phone conversations with Aunt Ruth were often difficult.
“So … someone is asking a question about you?”
“No, wait … I don’t mean query. I mean quarry.”
“Ah, that’s better. So you are digging up rocks and gems and things. Pretty cool. Hey, if you find any pieces of obsidian, I’m trying to build up my collection.”
“Okay, I guess I don’t mean quarry either. Oh, I’m in a quarrel.”
“Are … listen, we’re arguing. You are in a quarrel indeed, and I guess I’m part of it.”
“Hm. I guess I’m not in a quarrel either. What am I in?”
“Are you in that yellow polyester pant suit that is five sizes too small, and when you walk it looks like there’s a mountain lion in there trying to escape?”
“Are you in a pickle?”
“Something like that. It begins with ‘q.’”
“You are in a quandary.”
“Yes, precisely. I am in a quandary.”
“About what is your quandary?”
“If only I knew.”
“If only you knew?”
“Aunt Ruth, if only you knew, then no one else would know. You would be the only person to know. Just you would know.”
“Whatever it is that you want me to know.”
“But I do want you to know. That’s why I mentioned it.”
“Right, but then you said ‘if only I knew,’ meaning what it says … if only you knew, not if someone else knew.
“Dear me, I’m getting confused.”
“Me too. Let’s sort through this and lay it out in a way that makes sense.”
“I think what you meant was, ‘if I only knew.’”
“But doesn’t ‘if I only’ mean the same thing as ‘if only I’?”
“No, not quite. The word only generally modifies the word directly after it.”
“Oh great. I think I need some examples.”
“Coming right up, my dear aunt.”
“I only have a dog. That is, you only possess the dog. You don’t love the dog, you don’t feed the dog, you don’t walk the dog, and you don’t tell your dog to attack the neighbor who is having a wild party on his (or her) back deck at two o’clock in the morning.”
“You don’t. Now, if you have only a dog, then you have a dog but you don’t have a cat; nor do you have an elephant, a hippo, or a purebred Guernsey cow.”
“What if I have a dog and a cow?”
“Then you say you have a dog and a cow.”
“Wow, I might be able to handle that. But, I have a question. If I say I have only a dog, then does that imply that I have nothing else at all? I have a dog, but I don’t have an alarm clock; I don’t have a pair of gym shorts; I don’t even have an umbrella.”
“Well, it needs to be in context, doesn’t it? I mean, if you say I have only a dog, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a nose. Everybody knows you have a nose.”
“How would everybody know I have a nose?”
“Everybody knows you have a nose because you smell.”
“No need to get offended. I just meant you smell with your nose.”
“How do I smell?”
“Quite well, I presume.”
“If my nose were cut off, would I still smell?”
“How would I smell?”
It’s a funny thing, this language. It’s odd how we know the things we know, and it’s even odder how we don’t know the things we don’t know. I suppose I could veer off into a discussion of learning at home (growing up) versus what we learn under the guidance of an educational system, but I won’t do that here. We just pick up some things, and we miss other things.
One thing I picked up along the way was how to use bring and take. I’ve never seemed to have trouble with it, and I have always been baffled at how people could get it wrong.
Then — here’s the gotcha — someone pointed out to me that he had never struggled with lie and lay, while I had been struggling my entire (long, as my kids remind me) life with the proper conjugation of those rascally verbs. Leave it to the offspring to help a parent keep his (or her) humility in check.
So … bring and take? What’s the deal?
When you transport something from point A to point B (these are the same points A and B that you used to see in Algebra II, so you’re familiar with them), you are taking it from A and bringing it to B.
Simple examples will help.
Aunt Ruth wiggled her nose in disdain and said, “Please take that wretched thing from this table at once. It smells disgusting.
I smiled a smile I had been longing to smile, and I replied, “Dearest aunt, but that is the fruitcake that you brought me.”
That’s fairly simple, it seems. Oh, we should pause here to point out that in spite of the verb ring having its past tense as rang and its past participle as rung, the past tense and past participle forms of bring are not brang and brung. They are brought and brought (sounds like a law firm). I’ve heard arguments that say using bring / brang / brung is a regional thing. The flu can be regional too, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.
I guess I think of bring and take as being analogous to come and go. When you come, you bring, and when you go, you take.
Suppose my children are packing for a trip. My wife is going on the trip and I am not. My daughter comes in and asks whether she should bring her pillow. That’s fine (I think) … the one who is doing the coming is also the one doing the going. She’s leaving point A and will be arriving at point B.
Now, from my wife’s perspective, since my wife is going on the trip, she could say, “Yes, bring it with you.” Well, that is, of course, unless there are too many pillows already at the destination or perhaps there’s not enough room in the car for an extra pillow.
From my perspective, since I am not going on the trip, I could say, “Yes, take it with you,” again with the same caveats. (I love caveats, especially on crackers with a little dollop of cream cheese).
Oh, just so you know, points A and B were always twenty miles apart.
Catch the latest Aunt Ruth thriller here! I posted this on Associated Content earlier this week.
It’s Aunt Ruth the Superlative Super Relative
I Laid an Egg on Aunt Ruth’s Head, featuring the adventures of Aunt Ruth as a way to humorously teach English grammar and usage, is available! You can order it directly from me here (sales tax is included for NC residents). If you’re ordering outside the U.S., it’s probably easiest to do it through Authorhouse.