Archive for the ‘Good Grammer: Them’s the Rules’ Category

What Kind of a Fool?

In Good Grammer: Them's the Rules on January 31, 2015 at 3:32 pm

What Kind of a Fool?

Devotees of old Broadway show tunes still remember this: What Kind of Fool am I? from Stop the World-I Want to get off. [1962] It later was a big hit song for Sammy Davis, Jr.

From WordPlay’s point of view, this song could serve also as a good “object lesson” in a finer point of English usage. It happens rarely, but the song writer got it right.*

It would be wrong to ask “What Kind of A Fool Am I?”


*Sammy’s song, Who Can I Turn To? goes awry grammatically.  To Whom Can I Turn? would be proper, but it might not be “cool.”







Us the People

In Good Grammer: Them's the Rules on December 5, 2014 at 3:13 am

Us the People

The U.S. Constitution’s “Preamble,” thank goodness, is still familiar to many Americans as of 2014.

“We the People” are three words fiom the Preamble heard most often. Ah, patriotism…It’s a good thing, right?

Well… As used in the Preamble, “We the People…” is just fine. It’s the subject of its sentence.

Where many go wrong, however, is in using these three words as an object.

Example: “Here in America, the real power lies with we the people.”

It should be thus: “Here in America, the real power lies with us, the people.”



The Situation is Worse than We’ve Been Let to Believe

In Good Grammer: Them's the Rules on November 2, 2014 at 4:36 pm

More mistakes from our misguided media…

The situation is worse that we’ve been let to believe

 I don’t prescribe to that idea.

We’re in the thralls of summer

 With its new Chess Hall of Fame, St. Louis is becoming the new epic center of the chess world.

















You Can Run, and You Can Hide

In Good Grammer: Them's the Rules on August 31, 2014 at 10:26 pm


You can run, but you can’t hide.  The source of this  little aphorism is unknown to me.  Possibly it was launched by one of the “reality” television shows, like Cops  or Most Wanted,  popular in late twentieth century America.
Whatever the source, this statement is not completely true.  You can hide.  What you can’t do, sometimes, is hide successfully.


Hearing is Believing?

In Good Grammer: Them's the Rules on August 2, 2014 at 10:47 pm

"I have no inclination what he meant,"
said a local politician on my car radio, critiquing a rival politician's recent speech.
I had no inclination, either. What I had was an inkling.

Look these two words up in a good dictionary, if you want to check the differences in their meanings.
Right now, I'm not really concerned about their meanings. I'm just pointing out the similarity of sound between these two words, "inclination" and "inkling."

My guess is that the politician, like many Americans today, was not much of a reader.He had only heard these words, either in casual conversation or on electric media. Going only by verbal context, he didn't know their spellings or true meanings.

Nor did he care, probably...Most of his audience didn't know or care, either.

What worries me is this: Someday some duly elected fool like this may be signing-on to laws and treaties he (or she)never read.   Wait a minute...Is that day here already?



Well-done! Three cheers from your old colleague,
-Claude Hopper

-Thanks, Claude. BTW-Where's that twenty bucks you owe me?




It’s You and I, Babe

In Good Grammer: Them's the Rules on July 5, 2014 at 12:24 am

Let us go, then, you and I
When the evening is spread out against the sky…
from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock




Nobel Prize-winning poet, T.S. Eliot was educated at Harvard, Oxford and the Sorbonne.   Whatever we may thnk of his poetry,  he certainly should have known the  rules of English grammar.

In spite of his impeccable credentials, however,  Eliot got the first  line of his famous Prufrock poem quite wrong.  Any sharp freshman English student could tell you that the line should read, Let us go then, you and ME.

Okay, T.S., “I” rhymes with “sky.”  We get that.  But couldn’t you  have changed  “I” to “me”and “sky” to “sea?”

One Nobel Prize and you can get away with anything.







Old Saws, Old Teeth

In Good Grammer: Them's the Rules on June 11, 2014 at 4:43 pm

No man putteth old wine into new bottles… New wine must be put into new bottles.
No man also having drunk old wine straightaway desireth new, for he saith, “The old is better.”
-St. Luke 5:37-39

As always, Jesus had it right.

Just as old wine should not get new bottles, old saws should not get new teeth.  Consider the following  classic aphorisms recently  misquoted (and obviously misunderstood) by today’s media,
politicos and celebrities…

At the same token

The Truth is in the pudding

Every stone went unturned

That’s untrue in the face of it












Less vs. Fewer: A closer look

In Good Grammer: Them's the Rules on May 27, 2014 at 1:34 am

In a previous article, WordPlay made clear a simple distinction between the words “less” and “fewer:”

“Less,” as a descriptive adjective, pertains to amounts. “Fewer” pertains to numbers.

Examples: “There is less gin in the bottle than there was last night.” “There are fewer tar balls on the beach this year.”

A basic understanding of this principle is quite sufficient–most of the time. What is one to do to do, however, with a dilemma like the following?

A. We have less than two hours.



We have fewer than two hours.

Two hours, certainly, is a matter of numbers, not amounts. Or is it?

Actually, neither A nor B is the correct answer. Either C or D, below, are grammatically acceptable:

C. We have less than two hours’ time.

D. We have less time than two hours.








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In Good Grammer: Them's the Rules on May 9, 2014 at 1:25 am

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To Be or To Not Be?

In Good Grammer: Them's the Rules on March 28, 2014 at 12:16 am

Some churches still have Latin masses, even though no one in the congregation understands the words. Shakespeare in the Park, similarly, still turns up on summer evenings all across America. Who knows why?

Well, Hamlet does provide us with the best-loved example of an un-split infinitive in English Literature: To be or not to be?

“To not be,” on the other hand, is a “split infinite,” unloved by English teachers since Shakespeare’s day.

I doubt it matters much, but I’d still avoid the split infinitive for old times’ sake.