The Harnett County Library in Lillington, NC, was host for a visit by me (Joel Schnoor) this past Monday, and I had a wonderful time! The librarian, Angela McCauley, did a superb job in advertising and getting the word out, and over 60 people were in attendance for the event!
The adults were given a short grammar quiz on the conjugation and usage of lie and lay, and the young kids were introduced to the Grammar Police and were given a few words that are commonly misused.
I then recited the title story from the book I Laid an Egg on Aunt Ruth’s Head, and that was well received.
We talked about writing; I told them what I thought the most important two things are as a writer (and if you want to find out, you can come to my next library storytelling event ; and I read from my manuscript “Spoonful of Dirt,” based on the life of my great-grandfather as he traveled by covered wagon from Eastern Iowa to Western Nebraska.
I played a couple of songs on my tuba to which the kids could sing along, and boy the kids enjoyed it. I’ve never before played my tuba in a library.
I then finished by doing another Aunt Ruth story.
The library graciously allowed me to sell the book and the CD, and sales went quite well.
1. The library and staff were the epitome of hospitality. I mean, they were WONDERFUL.
2. They do what they say and they say what they do. They told me they would advertise heavily, and they did!
3. The kids were VERY well behaved. The event lasted over an hour, and the kids sat and listened. They even looked enthralled.
4. I would drive down to Lillington again in a heartbeat for another event. I hope they ask me.
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
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.
You’ve asked for it, and you’ll be getting it. Coming soon, ready to thrill all students of the English language, young and old, are the Aunt Ruth Grammar Worksheets!
The worksheets correspond with the material in each chapter of I Laid an Egg on Aunt Ruth’s Head and will be the perfect supplement to the book.
Do you want to try examples to make sure you understand the grammar lesson for a particular chapter? Do you want to be entertained and educated at the same time? Do you want a real cool sheet of paper with which to make a paper airplane and throw it out your apartment window while your neighbor (and the perfect target), Mrs. Applethorpe, is working in the garden?
Well then, these worksheets will be perfect for you. Stay tuned and watch this space!
We native English language speakers (and writers) have some bad habits, not the least of which is a general propensity for using adverbs incorrectly.
In particular, I’m thinking this morning about “hopefully” and how it is often (incorrectly) used to actually mean “I hope that.”
Before we look at incorrect usage, let’s demonstrate correct examples. To do something hopefully means to do it in a hopeful manner. That being the case, I think that the following are all correct uses of hopefully.
I hopefully fished in the pond last night. That is, I was hopeful that I would catch a fish.
I hopefully baked a lemon meringue pie this morning. Why was I hopeful? I was hopeful that the meringue topping would not burn.
I hopefully planted the apple seed. That is, when I planted the seed I was hopeful that an apple tree would grow.
Another way of stating this is: Hopefully I planted the apple seed. I planted the seed in a hopeful manner. Note that I am not saying that I hope I planted the apple seed.
Let me state that again in case you missed it. Look at the following:
Hopefully I applied for the new job.
This means that I applied in a hopeful manner for the new job. I was hoping I would get the job.
It does NOT mean that I hope I applied for the job.
So where do we hear incorrect usage of hopefully? We hear it everywhere.
Hopefully the mail will arrive this morning.
What’s wrong with that sentence? Well, first of all, as an inanimate object, mail cannot think or feel, let alone hope. Why would the mail arrive in a hopeful manner? Would the mail be hoping that you might read it? I don’t think so. What the utterer of that sentence would mean is, “I hope the mail will arrive this morning.”
“I hope” and “hopefully” are not the same thing.
Hopefully a tuba will not fall from the sky and land on me today. Again, why would the tuba be hopeful about anything? I should say, “I hope that a tuba will not fall.”
Even with something like this:
Hopefully she will arrive on time.
The word hopefully applies to the manner in which she arrives. Is she arriving in a hopeful manner? If you know that she is hoping that she will arrive on time, then the sentence is fine. But if what you mean is that you hope she will arrive on time, that’s something different.
Got it? Hopefully.