Guaranteed to improve your English

You Don’t Need Two Coordinating Conjunctions

I met one of my 98 followers the other day at a party. She came up to me and told me that she liked my blog, especially since English is not her first language. I really liked that. It makes writing this worthwhile.

Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I asked her if she had any ideas. Her response: “and so. You don’t need both.”

I had never thought about conjunctions in this way. About the only time I think about conjunctions is when I’m thinking about Schoolhouse Rock and the great Bob Dorough song “Conjunction Junction.”

About the only time I think about using and so together is when I’m quoting Bugs Bunny in the 1946 cartoon “Hair-Raising Hare,” in which Bugs says, “And so, having disposed of the monster, exit our hero through the front door, stage right.” Then he says, “And so, having re-disposed of the monster …” Then he says, “And so, having re- re-disposed of the monster …”

But I looked up and and so. Both are coordinating conjunctions whose purpose is to link two independent clauses. Each has its uses: and suggests an idea is sequential, the result of another, and in contrast to another. So, however, can be used instead of “as well” or “in addition.” It also is used to sum up things.

In all cases, only one is needed.

Thanks to Bella F. for the idea.

Until next time! Use the right words!

January 5, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bemoaning the Dying of the Adverb

At a networking meeting this morning, a fellow networker told me about how she sees  adverbs, the -ly suffix in particular, disappearing from everyday language. The example she gave: A newsreader says that something is real hard when he/she means really hard.

She has a point. I remember the “Schoolhouse Rock”  song, “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here.” It didn’t explain a part of speech as well as the songs about nouns, pronouns and verbs, but it did a good job of showing how -ly makes a word an adverb.

Then another networker came up to me and said he never forgot a gift he received when he was 13: a wallet marked  “genuine artificial leather.”

I laughed. Since genuine means “actually having the reputed or apparent qualities or character,”  I suppose that something artificial is genuine. But in reality, the correct word is genuinely, an adverb. Artificial is the adjective; genuinely modifies an adjective, as “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly” dutifully explains.

I miss “Schoolhouse Rock.” I also wonder if people know what a suffix is.

Until next time! Use the right words!

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Know Your Prepositions!

I love Schoolhouse Rock. Growing up, I watched Saturday morning cartoons, and I knew that between the shows on ABC, I would see a bus driving some children to a little schoolhouse. Then the youngsters would get out and walk on the snowy path to the house. Then my brother and I would guess what we would see: Multiplication, Grammar, America or Science Rock.

Thanks to Multiplication Rock, I knew my “times tables” (multiples of 2 through 12) inside and out, and I could quickly recall the answer to any multiplication problem on the tables. This helped me dominate my fifth-grade class contest. I beat everybody in my class of about 35 by shouting the answer before my opponent.

Thanks to America Rock, my wife would hear people start singing the preamble to the Constitution in class.

And thanks to Grammar Rock, I knew my parts of speech: A noun is a person, place or thing; adjectives describe, verbs are action words, pronouns are shorter than nouns, conjunctions join words, etc.

But there was no song about prepositions. Not until 1993, when Bob Dorough, who wrote 20 of the three-minute songs, penned “Busy Prepositions.”

By definition, a preposition is a word (and a part of speech) that shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence. The “Schoolhouse Rock” song about prepositions says “nine or 10 of them do most all of the work” and then lists 11: of, on, to, with, in, from, by, far, at, over, across.

But wait a second. Far? Far is an adverb , so I could go to Lolly and get it there. Far also is an adjective, so I could find it hiking with my turtle friend. I would not find far with the other prepositions.

Some comments I have received since I first posted this tells me it is very likely that Dorough wrote and Jack Sheldon sang for, which is a preposition, but the video clearly shows the word far. Another listen to the song confirms this.

Bob Dorough is still alive. I wonder if he knows. Somebody find him and ask him!

In the meantime …

Until next time! Use the right words!

March 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Kelsey Grammer Could Teach Us About “Grammar”

I have never met Kelsey Grammer, but I hope he sees this and is proud of how I have made him into a blog post and teaching moment.

It’s his last name. People who misspell it as Grammar likely never watched “Schoolhouse Rock” as youngsters because one of the schoolhouse subjects was “Grammar Rock.” If I could, I would ask him how often his last name is misspelled.

His last name does NOT mean “the study of the way sentences of a language are constructed.” That’s grammarGrammer is not a word, but if it was, it probably would mean something like “A Sideshow Bob Boss who Cheers, ‘Back to You, Frasier’ and wins Emmys.”

As for his first name, it’s his middle name. He was born Allen Kelsey Grammer.

Until next time! Use the right words!

June 15, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Words Behind How a Bill Becomes a Law

I’m just a Bill/yes I’m only a Bill/and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill.

People of a certain age know exactly what that’s from, and while I’m not going to spend space explaining the Schoolhouse Rock song, I will explain certain words’ correct usages.

This post’s genesis was a conversation I had with my daughter, a fifth grader. She told me today that she thinks she will be learning how a bill becomes a law. I told her in two sentences: “Congress passes a bill. The President signs it into law.”

But am I correct in saying “passes a bill?” The answer is yes.

There are four words that often accompany stories or conversations related to legislation: adopt, approve, enact and pass.

Bills are passed. Laws are enacted. Everything else is either adopted or approved.

Remember that the next time you vote in favor of a ballot proposition.

Until next time! Use the right words!

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


%d bloggers like this: