Monthly Archives: August 2008

Grammar Wednesday

This week’s musings are brought to us, for the first time, by Saintseester!  Last week, she wrote to me and said:

Three things have been bugging me, lately.  Why they are bugging me, I cannot reason.

Pleaded vs. Pled: I swear a long time ago, every used pled for the past tense, as in, “He pled guilty at his trial.”  Now, everyone uses pleaded.

Dreamed vs. Dreamt : same thing.  Dreamt sounds better to me. Which one is correct?

Finally, the proliferation of signs I see that have the word persons instead of people.   As in, persons should use the sauna at their own risk, or maximum capacity: 104 persons.   (That last one almost caused me a coronary.)   Why?  Isn’t people a perfectly good plural form of person?

Seester, I believe it’s true that I’ve asked the same questions about pleaded and pled and dreamed and dreamt (and, if memory serves, both questions came from Kizz).  Let me see if I can find the entries… hold please… ah, yes; here‘s the one for the forms of plea and here‘s where you can find a discussion about the dream/dreamt question.

As far as the persons/people debate, I’m with you.  I think of persons as being a hyper-formal form in a Law and Order or NYPD Blue sort of way, as in “the dispatcher said “there’s a break-in at the liquor store; unknown number of persons involved.”  The only time I don’t think persons sounds weird is when I’m talking to cops (and, since TCC is a sort of pre-cop school, I actually hear that plural form more than you’d guess).  I think, though, that in everyday speech – signs and placards included – people is a perfectly acceptable plural.

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!!


Filed under colleagues, frustrations, Grammar, out in the real world

Getting Ready

School for the girls starts on Wednesday (though, really, I don’t think it actually starts until next Tuesday.  Why the kids go back for two days this week only to have four days off makes no sense to me, but I’m not the one who sets the calendar, I suppose).  For the most part, we’re ready; they’ve managed to cull most of their needed school supplies from their craft center – I told them that there was no way I was bringing more markers and pencils into this house until we thin the proverbial herd from what we’ve already got spilling out of their drawers.  Beanie still needs a spiral notebook and Punkin’ has been a little slower on the hunt, so I’m not sure what she’ll need, but whatever can’t be had from the current supplies will be obtained in a supply run before they have to report for duty on Wednesday.

School starts for me next Wednesday (the students go back on Tuesday, but I have a M/W/F schedule),  Today, though (and Wednesday and Thursday), there are orientation “classes” for new adjuncts that I’m going to peek in on.  My boss at L.U. (I’ll call him Chaucer – the man got his Ph.D. in Old English literature) has told me that I don’t have to attend these sessions; I’ve got some teaching experience and Chaucer says the classes are intended for brand-new, never-taught-before graduate students who will be teaching sections of Freshman English as part of their own curriculum.  I’m going to go to at least today’s session, though, just to see if there’s anything in there that can be useful to me; while it’s true that I’ve taught before, I’ve not taught here before.  Besides, I’m hoping to get my rosters and the keys to my office this morning.

More – much more, I suspect – later.  Happy Monday!


Filed under colleagues, composition, I love my boss, Learning, Questions, self-analysis, Teaching

Back to School!

I found this at DrPrezz’s place.

Back To School Meme

Completed in Reference to (Self or Child): Self

1. Number of years teaching or your eldest child has been in school (k through college) ? 3, but this will be my first term at Local U.

2. Amount approximately spent on Back to School Items so far including clothes? For me? $0.00. I have everything I’ll need. The girls, however, are another matter entirely…

3. Number of Days until school starts in your area (+ or – if it’s started)? Technically, 12. As I don’t teach on Tuesday, though, my school year starts in 13 days – on Wednesday.

4. Approximate distance school is from your house? 6 miles, give or take. I have to tell you that I don’t know for sure – I think of it more in terms of time than mileage.

5. Amount of time it will take you or your child to get to school from your house by car or bus? Between 5 and 7 minutes, but that doesn’t include having to hunt down a parking space.

6. The actual or approximate number of students in the class you teach or your oldest child’s class? I won’t know this until I get my rosters next week.

7. The number of classes in your grade or your oldest child’s grade level? Oh, Lordy. There are more sections of Freshman English at Local U than any other class. Every incoming freshman has to take the course, so the university makes it readily available. I’m teaching two of those myriad sections.

8. The price to buy a full student lunch at school? Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of six bucks without a meal plan, I imagine.

9. Number of schools in your district? As I’m teaching at a college, this question doesn’t really apply.

10. Early dismissal days already built into the calendar? Again, not so much. I can tell you, though, that I’m teaching M/W/F from 8:10-9:00 in the morning and M/W from 5:40-7:00 in the evening.

11. Price paid for the most expensive back to school item so far? Again, zero dollars spent so far. I may have to spring for some whiteboard markers, though…

12. Time school day ends? 9:00 and 7:00


Filed under Uncategorized

Grammar Wednesday

Look, You Guys; it’s not like me to make fun of people, and you all know that. I recognize that English is a tough language to learn (hell, I’m a native speaker, and I still struggle with it some times). Please know that no insult is intended. Having said that, let’s lighten up and laugh a little.

I received this as an email the other day, and I very nearly fell off my chair laughing so hard. I love, and that someone took the time to take theses pictures and submit them cracks me up.


Ready for the Olympics? Looks like the Chinese have been working hard on their signs!

We see China is ready for the Olympics and the resulting influx of English speaking tourists…

Here, crippie, take my seat.

Great with flied lice

A separate entrance for Hos….why didn’t I think of that?

Sounds better than canned water doesn’t it?

Go over there to die, please. Thank you.

Good to know

Not nice. Some of my best friends are liquor heads.

Look up and down the aisle twice before proceeding…

Much tastier than the grown up variety

It would be once you start chewing on it

Starbucks should be very afraid!

I wouldn’t tickle this one

This is weird, because horsebeans sound delicious.

Where every fashion aficionado in China shops

I knew it!!


If there’s one thing we don’t need help with…

‘See you after the flight, Uncle Randy!’

This should be in front of half the hotels in town.

So this is where they all end up!


Filed under bad grammar, funniness, Grammar

A Little Bit of Geeky Nothingness

I rarely meme here, but since there’s been little happening on the professional front lately (I’m teaching a once-a-week lit. class and there’s really nothing exciting happening there, and the Local U. gig doesn’t start for another couple of weeks), I thought I’d do this fun little bit of nothingness found over at Colonel Colonel’s place.

Book Geek Test –

Have you ever deliberately bought another copy of a book because it had a different cover than the one you have?

No, but I’ve bought books thinking that I didn’t already have a copy. As a result, I’ve got duplicates of Suite Francaise, John Adams, Illusions, and Wicked.

Have you ever bought extra copies just so you could give them away?

THIS I’ve done; I’ve bought a book for a friend that I already owned but couldn’t bear to part with.

Have you ever spent more than 20.00 to replace a book you read as a kid?

As a matter of fact, I have. I tracked down an out-of-print copy of a book called Sugar Bee. It was one of the few books I remember from my childhood, and it was important enough for me to find so that my girls could read it, too.  I don’t remember if I paid more than 20 bucks for it, but if I did, it was worth it (even if I CAN get it for four bucks at Amazon now).

Have you ever pre-ordered a book as soon as it was humanly possible?

Um, yeah. Doesn’t everyone?

Have you ever maxed out your library card?

Um, yeah. Doesn’t everyone?

Have you ever tried to acquire absolutely everything an author has ever written including, text books, liner notes and book jacket blurbs?

Not so much with this one. I know that every author has his or her highs and lows (Grisham, for example, rocks the lawyerly fiction genre, but kind of sucks at everything else – well, in my opinion, anyway).

Can you sense whether there are books at a yard sale or a flea market booth before you get there?

I tend to not frequent yard sales or flea markets, but I might if I knew books would be there.

When you’re shopping with friends do they try to rush you past the books and then groan audibly when you stop?

No; almost all my friends are bookstore dorks, too (including Mr. Chili, which is damned handy, if you ask me).

Have you ever not heard your named called in a bookstore? On purpose?

No, not since I was little-little. I’m a pretty responsible addict now, especially since I’ve had children, and they’re often the ones calling my name.

Have you ever been asked to leave a bookstore because it was 10 minutes past closing?

Yeah. I’m not proud of it, but yeah.

Do you fix mis-shelved books in bookstores?


Do you help customers find books in stores you don’t work in?

Yes; again, all the time.

Have you ever stood outside a bookstore waiting for it to open?

I’ve not stood, exactly, but have sat in my car, so yes.

Have you ever scribbled a recommended book title on the back of your checkbook register or deposit slip?

I used to, but now I have a notebook application on my phone, so I actually have those recommendations with me when I’m next in a bookstore.

Have you ever made up fake plans so you could read undisturbed?

Not recently, but I have done this in the past, yes.

Have you ever stayed up all night to finish a book and then called in late the next morning?

No, but I have stayed up late enough to make the morning commitments very uncomfortable.

Have you ever started reading a book at the store and bought it so you could finish?

Yes (do you know how many of these questions are making me giggle in kind of a self-conscious way?).

Have you ever flung a book you didn’t like across the room?

No, but I have had to put books down because they were upsetting me so, whether for terrible writing or characters that make me crazy.

Do you turn magazines sideways so you can read the book titles in the picture backgrounds?


Do you surreptitiously try to get the titles off the books people are reading on the subway?

I’m never on a subway but for a few times a year when I go to Boston, so no. I DO, however, try to peek at what people are reading in waiting rooms. I think that’s my equivalent.

Do you wonder why the people on TV don’t have more bookcases in their homes?

Yes, and I love the shows with characters who DO have bookcases (remember Mad About You?  Paul and Jamie had great bookshelves).

Has anyone in your household encouraged you to open a bookstore so you can sell all the books cluttering up the place?

Not yet….

Have you ever used something for a bookmark that was important and forgotten what book it was in?

No, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find a one or five-dollar bill holding a place in my books.

Have you ever sat in the car in the driveway while listening to an audio book?

No, I tend not to utilize audiobooks, but I have sat in the driveway (well, the garage, actually) to listen to the end of an NPR story…

Have you ever sat in the car in the driveway reading a real book?

Yes, but most often I sit reading in parking lots while waiting to meet someone.  If I’m in my own driveway, I’d be much more comfortable on my couch than in my car.

Do you take more books on vacation that you could read in three vacations?

Not in THREE vacations, but yes; I take what I know will be a surplus, just so I won’t fear scarcity.

Do you have more than 4 unread books on your bedside table? more than 10? more than 25?

As a matter of fact, I JUST cleared out the bedside table. The only thing there is the book I JUST finished reading (In the Fall by Jeffrey Lent. I’d give it a solid B).

Do you have no bedside table, just a pile of books?

No, I have a bedside table. Sometimes I have a bedside table AND a pile of books….

Have you ever fantasized about a 10 minute bookshopping spree?

I think I fantasize about this more than I fantasize about sex, actually.

Do you know the home city of all the major publishers by heart?

When I was a student, I did. I’ve let those brain cells lapse, though, so not so much anymore.

(I added this one) Do you make notes in the margins of your books?

This is actually a quirk of mine. No, I don’t make notes in my margins, despite a good 6 or 7 years of English teacher training. Almost every one of my colleagues does, but I cannot bring myself to write in books, so I use mini Post-its and write my notes on them, then stick them in the margins. Type-A, I know, but I can’t help it. You should SEE my copy of Frankenstein. Wait – I’ll show you…

What about YOU? How do you hold up in a book-geek contest?


Filed under book geek, little bits of nothingness

Grammar Wednesday

You, know; the one on WEDNESDAY.

Seriously, You Guys; I don’t know what was wrong with me yesterday.  I’m back on track now, though; I know what day it is today.  Sorry ’bout that.

Okay, here’s a question from Kizz, who says:

I keep forgetting to ask for a review of complimenting vs. complementing. I’ve been seeing them used in ALL the wrong ways by people who should know better and in all the right ways by people who surprise me.

Compliment, with an i, is a noun meaning an expression of praise or admiration.  It’s also a verb which means to offer up such a comment:

I often receive compliments on how polite my children are, which leads me to wonder how other people’s kids behave.

She received compliments all night on her gorgeous earrings.

When you see her, don’t forget to compliment her for earning highest honors in the class.

Complement, with an e, is most often used as a noun which means something that completes or accentuates something else (there are a bunch of other meanings, too, but let’s not complicate things too much; it’s still early as I write this).  It’s also, as above, a verb meaning to complete or accentuate:

The wine was an excellent complement to the meal.

That scarf really complements your sweater, and it highlights the green in your eyes. (which, coincidentally, is a nice compliment, too!)

I actually DO have a clever way of remembering this one: the “e” in complement is reminiscent of the “e” in complete; if you’ve got an “i,”, it’s the “saying something nice” compliment – the “e” is the “finishing or accentuating” complement.
Get it?

Happy Wednesday (for real this time), Everyone!


Filed under Grammar

Grammar Wednesday *Edited*

Helping verbs!

One of my favorite lessons in my public speaking classes is the one about the First Amendment. To begin the lesson, I write the text on the board:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

(and, yes; I know it by heart. I’m dorky that way).

I ask them what it is that I’ve just written on the board. Most of them struggle with this, asking hesitantly if it’s from the Declaration of Independence, until someone stumbles on the First Amendment or, on rare occasions, someone knows what it is right off and we move on to step two, where I ask them what the First Amendment actually does. Most of them are quick with an answer somewhere along the lines of “it guarantees freedom of religion and the press.”

“Ummmm, not quite,” I say.

It’s at this point that the English teacher in me comes out, and she asks them to dissect the sentence. “What’s the subject of this sentence,” I ask, and most of them are able to produce “Congress,” for which they are duly praised.

“Ok,” I say, “what’s the verb?”

Never yet has a class been able to come up with the complete verb of shall make.

Helping verbs are verbs that are used in a verb phrase to show tense or emphasis, or form a question or a negative. Helping verbs are used to show the perfect verb tenses, continuous/progressive verb tenses, and passive voice. With only a few exceptions that I can think of (“I do” in wedding vows and such), these words never stand alone; they are always used with other verbs.

There are 23 helping verbs, and I learned them by rote in somewhat alphabetical order:

be, being, been
do, does, did
can, will, shall
could, would, should
has, have, had
may, might, must
am, is, are, was, were

I am planning to go the dance, but only if I have the right dress.

She is happy to see you, but she’d prefer you didn’t stare at her quite so intensely.

He has been to the show and found it to be somewhat disappointing.

Several of these helping verbs (can, will, shall; may, might, must; and would, could, should), are called modals. These are used to show possibility, necessity, or probability.

Jessica might take the job offer; she has not decided yet.

I can cook fantastic cakes, but my custards are less of a sure thing.

You should be careful around Dennis; he may turn on you when you least expect it.

Please notice in the first sentence immediately above and the second sentence in the first set of examples that “not” in “she has not decided yet” and “she’d prefer you didn’t stare” is not part of the verb phrases has decided and did stare. Not is an adverb used to express negation and is never part of a verb phrase.

Also notice, in the second sentence in the first set, that “she’d” is a contraction for “she would.” If you were to parse out all the verbs in that sentence, you’d (you would) need to include the modal would prefer along with did stare in order to get full credit.

Get it?

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!

*edited to include; am I the only one to notice that I posted this on TUESDAY?!  Don’t *I* feel like a moron for not knowing what frickin’ day it is!  You’ll get a double-shot of grammar this week; I’ll post the answer to a Kizz question tomorrow.*


Filed under Grammar