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Was or were, right or wrong, not to worry, just read on

On a day not really all that far back in time—22 June, 2009—I submitted a letter to our local daily newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, the only daily newspaper in the seventh largest city in the United States in the hope that it would be published. An offer was made to publish it but the editor e-mailed me to say that certain parts would be cut out. In an e-mail I told him to not publish the letter, and I chastised him for his response to a long-time subscriber to the paper. What follows is the initial response from the public editor.

From: BRichter@express-news.net (the public editor of the paper)
Mon, Jun 22, 2009 1:34 PM
H.M. – Thanks for your letter. May we publish it? I think I’ll cut all the whining about your letters not getting published when they strike a nerve. We’ll just go with the criticism of the photo in question (which I didn’t really think was so bad).
Bob Richter

I rejected publication because the public editor slimed me—well, perhaps slimed is a bit too strong—let’s just say that he whined me and because of that whining, the same label he placed on my submission, I vowed to never submit another letter to the public editor for consideration, but instead post my whining on WordPress, a far more appreciative audience than the Express-News. I have never had a submission rejected or criticized.

Now to get to the crux of this posting—everything I’ve said up to this point was intended to explain my criticism of the public editor’s grammar in his article that appeared in Metro of the Sunday edition of March 6, 2011.

Yes, grammar—with all that supposed talent he has at his beck and call, he started and finished an article he wrote by improperly using the verb was. The article centered on budget cuts proposed by Rick Perry, the governor of Texas that involved disabled Texans, and much to his credit he began the article with disclosing that his son has disabilities and lives in a group home that receives state aid.

I can readily understand and admire the title of his article:

Budget Cuts: What if it was your kid?

The final paragraph is a one-sentence closure with a wish from him and a question for Governor Perry:
What I wish is that Perry would put himself in our shoes:

What if it was your kid, Rick?

The verb was is the subjunctive mood of the verb to be, a mood suggesting that something is not or perhaps may not be. The subjunctive mood gets really complicated if one digs too deeply, but one does not need to dig deeply, or even pick up a shovel in order to determine whether was or were should  be used.

There is an incredibly simple way to remember whether to use was or were. If the word if is lurking anywhere in the sentence, whether visible or concealed, the proper usage is were, and if if can neither be seen nor assumed, the proper usage is was. Please forgive me for the double if in the previous sentence—I just couldn’t resist it—when read aloud it sounds like a puppy barking.

The article’s title should read, What if it were your kid?

The ending should read, What if it were your kid, Rick?

Some more examples of the subjunctive verb were:

What if the copywriters were better versed in English?
What if the current public editor were reassigned?
Were he reassigned
, would it lower the paper’s ratings or raise them?
Was
he reassigned?
No, he was not reassigned.
Note the absence of if in
the last two sentences above.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: In all fairness I must state that, in my somewhat unlearned opinion, the public editor’s article was highly cogent, nicely constructed, timely and well presented, with the only exceptions noted in this posting.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Revisited: Be aware—be very aware . . .

Readers of this post will note that I discuss, in some detail, the star rating system provided by WordPress. Readers will also note, just in case they wanted to vote, that the voting system is not available, neither for this post nor for any others on my blog. It is not available because a reader rated one of my literary efforts with a vote somewhere less than five stars—four stars, perhaps, but also perhaps only one star. I removed the rating system because I feel that if someone does not like an entry, they should tell why they believe it rates less than five stars, and not hide in the bushes and take pot shots at a blogger. If a reader is not satisfied with an entry on WordPress, then that reader should use the comment feature to criticize. I can only speak for myself, but if the criticism is valid and expressed in good taste, I will cheerfully approve it and cheerfully respond to it. Well, perhaps not so cheerfully, but I will respond, and that response will be in good taste.

As the title indicates, this is a revisit to a previous post—the original is as follows:

Be aware—be very aware . . .

I have just learned a new word. Given the remote possibility that one or more of my viewers may be unfamiliar with the word I will use it in a sentence, for their benefit and to help spread the word far and wide. At this point, in the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that when I first saw the word I figured it referred to some sort of alcoholic drink because of its resemblance to the Spanish word sangria, “. . . a delicious, fruit-based wine “punch” with its traditional heritage well rooted in Spain.

First, the presentation and definition of that word—to paraphrase Sarah Palin, “Here’s a new word for ya!”

san·gui·nar·y (adjective)

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sanguinary”>sanguinary</a&gt;

1. Accompanied by bloodshed.

2. Eager for bloodshed; bloodthirsty.

3. Consisting of blood.

1. sanguinary—accompanied by bloodshed; “this bitter and sanguinary war”sanguineous, slaughterous, butcherly, gory bloody—having or covered with or accompanied by blood; “a bloody nose”; “your scarf is all bloody”; “the effects will be violent and probably bloody”; “a bloody fight”

2. sanguinary—marked by eagerness to resort to violence and bloodshed; “bloody-minded tyrants”; “bloodthirsty yells”; “went after the collaborators with a sanguinary fury that drenched the land with blood”–G.W.Johnson—bloodthirsty, bloody-minded bloody—having or covered with or accompanied by blood; “a bloody nose”; “your scarf is all bloody”; “the effects will be violent and probably bloody”; “a bloody fight”

Here is the new word (example #2 in bold) properly used in a sentence:

The sanguinary talking heads on cable’s MSNBC, labeled PMSNBC by Rush Limbaugh, comprise a group of professionals, a group in which all, in varying degrees, launch verbal and vicious attacks on everyone and everything they consider to be standing on, or even leaning towards, the political right in our nation’s political spectrum.

I neither condemn nor praise the speakers on MSNBC. In an attempt to understand both sides of political issues, I attempt to devote equal viewing and listening time to MSNBC and another network, a network that claims to be fair and balanced, saying We report, you decide—catchy and lofty phrases, but phrases that one should not accept whole cloth—the facts and opinions expressed on that network should be compared to facts and opinions expressed on other networks.

For anyone that may need their memory freshened on the meaning of whole cloth, the following definition is furnished—the bolding of certain words is mine:

WHOLE CLOTH <a href=”http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sanguinary”>sanguinary</a>

[Q] From an anonymous correspondent: Do you have any information on the meaning or origin of the term whole cloth?

[A] Literally, the phrase refers to a complete piece of cloth as it is first made, as opposed to one which has been cut up to make garments. It goes back at least to the fifteenth century in that sense. Down the years, it has been used in a variety of figurative senses, but in the early nineteenth century it began to be employed in the US in the way that we now know, of something that is wholly fabricated or a complete lie. The implication seems to be that a thing made from whole cloth has no previous history or associations, that it is created from a blank sheet in the same way that a total lie is invented.

And finally this posting has come to its end, or at least it is nearing its end. Whether it is a noble or ignoble posting must be decided by its viewers. Each viewer will have the opportunity to rate the posting at its conclusion with five levels—stars—to use for voting.

Note that a vote to the far right star means excellent, and a vote to the far left star means poor, and I believe that one could surmise that the star in the middle stands for average—the center, if you will.

The positioning and the relative value of the stars is either a startling coincidence or a really well thought out and well developed voting system furnished by WordPress. Color me wary and susceptible to subliminal messages, but I seem to fixate on a particular star for voting purposes, and I rarely deviate from that position. Could it possibly be that the voting system reflects the the far right, far left and center positions on our political scale?

I report, you decide.

You should be aware and cognizant of the stars’ positions and their relative values before you vote. You will not have the option of changing your vote, so please don’t vote erroneously and paint yourself into a corner, so to speak—you may leave a posting with a specific label, other than the one to which you adhere, attached to your lapel—so to speak.

I just noticed that in my typing above I inadvertently omitted the first A in be aware and failed to space, thus combining the words be and aware. I corrected the typos but not before I noticed something significant that resulted from my errors. Can you guess what resulted? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two won’t count.

Give up? Fail to space between the words be and aware and omit the a and the two words are converted to beware. I have just created a maxim, namely that, “If one does not be aware of all possibilities of certain situations, one should beware,” shortened to “Be aware, or beware!

That admonition qualifies as outstanding poster material and should be posted in every work center, on every street corner, on every marquee, on the giant digital billboards in Times Square, on auto license plates, on Hallmark’s greeting cards, on home wall decorations and prominently displayed on ladies purses as a reminder to the lady that purse snatchers prey on women, and as a warning to potential purse snatchers that the lady is very much aware of that fact. The possibilities are endless—as is, apparently, this posting.

How about that? I probably should copyright that maxim and charge for its use—I could profit significantly from my creation! No, not really—as the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun, and I’m sure my creation is not new—knowing that it is not new does not preclude my claiming to be its discoverer—it’s in my nature!

If this posting garners a significant number of votes, the results may be worthy of a subsequent posting, so I urge all viewers to follow the example of many that vote in our local, regional and national elections:

Vote early and vote often!

I welcome and will respond to all comments, whether positive or negative, but please be gentle.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: Since posting this dissertation I have deleted, from all my postings, the counter that allowed viewers to vote on the content and quality of my postings. I took this action because a viewer, perhaps more than one viewer, cast something less than a vote of excellence—less than five stars.

 

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Be aware—be very aware . . .

I have just learned a new word. Given the remote possibility that one or more of my viewers may be unfamiliar with the word I will use it in a sentence, for their benefit and to help spread the word far and wide. At this point, in the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that when I first saw the word I figured it referred to some sort of alcoholic drink because of its resemblance to the Spanish word sangria, “. . . a delicious, fruit-based wine “punch” with its traditional heritage well rooted in Spain.

First, the presentation and definition of that word—to paraphrase Sarah Palin, “Here’s a new word for ya!”

san·gui·nar·y (adjective)
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sanguinary”>sanguinary</a&gt;

1. Accompanied by bloodshed.

2. Eager for bloodshed; bloodthirsty.

3. Consisting of blood.

1. sanguinary—accompanied by bloodshed; “this bitter and sanguinary war”sanguineous, slaughterous, butcherly, gory bloody—having or covered with or accompanied by blood; “a bloody nose”; “your scarf is all bloody”; “the effects will be violent and probably bloody”; “a bloody fight”

2. sanguinary—marked by eagerness to resort to violence and bloodshed; “bloody-minded tyrants”; “bloodthirsty yells”; “went after the collaborators with a sanguinary fury that drenched the land with blood”-G.W.Johnson—bloodthirsty, bloody-minded bloody— having or covered with or accompanied by blood; “a bloody nose”; “your scarf is all bloody”; “the effects will be violent and probably bloody”; “a bloody fight”

Here is the new word (example #2 in bold) properly used in a sentence:

The sanguinary talking heads on cable’s MSNBC, labeled PMSNBC by Rush Limbaugh, comprise a group of professionals, a group in which  all, in varying degrees, launch verbal and vicious attacks on everyone and everything they consider to be standing on, or even leaning towards, the political right in our nation’s political spectrum.

I neither condemn nor praise the speakers on MSNBC. In an attempt to understand both sides of political issues, I attempt to devote equal viewing and listening time to MSNBC and another network, a network  that  claims to be fair and balanced, saying We report, you decide—catchy and lofty phrases, but phrases that one should not accept whole cloth—the facts and opinions expressed on that network should be compared  to facts and opinions expressed on other networks.

For anyone that may need their memory freshened on the meaning of whole cloth, the following definition is furnished—the bolding of certain words is mine:

WHOLE CLOTH <a href=”http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sanguinary”>sanguinary</a&gt;

[Q] From an anonymous correspondent: Do you have any information on the meaning or origin of the term whole cloth?

[A] Literally, the phrase refers to a complete piece of cloth as it is first made, as opposed to one which has been cut up to make garments. It goes back at least to the fifteenth century in that sense. Down the years, it has been used in a variety of figurative senses, but in the early nineteenth century it began to be employed in the US in the way that we now know, of something that is wholly fabricated or a complete lie. The implication seems to be that a thing made from whole cloth has no previous history or associations, that it is created from a blank sheet in the same way that a total lie is invented.

And finally this posting has come to its end, or at least it is nearing its end. Whether it is a noble or ignoble posting must be decided by its viewers. Each viewer will have the opportunity to rate the posting at its conclusion with five levels—stars— to use for voting.

Note that a vote to the far right star means excellent, and a vote to the far left star means poor, and I believe that one could surmise that the star in the middle stands for average—the center, if you will.

The positioning and the relative value of the stars is either a startling coincidence or a really well thought out and well developed voting system furnished by WordPress. Color me wary and susceptible to subliminal messages, but I seem to fixate on a particular star for voting purposes, and I rarely deviate from that position.

You should be aware and cognizant of the stars’ positions and their relative values before you vote. You will not have the option of changing your vote, so please don’t vote erroneously and paint yourself into a corner, so to speak—you may leave a posting with a specific label, other than the one to which you adhere, attached to your lapel—so to speak.

I just noticed that in my typing above I inadvertently omitted the A in be aware and failed to space, thus combining the words be and ware. I corrected the typos but not before I noticed something significant that resulted from my errors. Can you guess what resulted? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two won’t count.

Give up? Fail to space between the words be and aware and omit the a and the two words are converted to beware. I have just created a maxim, namely that, “If one does not be aware of all possibilities of certain situations, one should beware,” shortened to “Be aware, or beware!

That admonition qualifies as outstanding poster material and should be posted in every work center, on every street corner, on every marquee, on the giant digital billboards in Times Square, on auto license plates, on Hallmark’s greeting cards, on home wall decorations and prominently displayed on ladies purses as a reminder to the lady that purse snatchers prey on women, and as a warning to potential purse snatchers that the lady is very much aware of that fact. The possibilities are endless—as is, apparently, this posting.

How about that? I probably should copyright that maxim and charge for its use—I could profit significantly from my creation! No, not really—as the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun, and I’m sure my creation is not new—knowing that it is not new does not preclude my claiming to be its discoverer—it’s in my nature!

If this posting garners a significant number of votes, the results may be worthy of a subsequent posting, so I urge all viewers to follow the example of many that vote in our local, regional and national elections:

Vote early and vote often!

I welcome and will respond to all comments, whether positive or negative, but please be gentle.

That’s my  story and I’m sticking to  it.

 
 

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They invited you and I to the party. Right or wrong?

Wrong.

The sentence should read They invited you and me, or They invited me and you—either is correct.

A complete sentence consists of a subject, a verb and an object (quite often the object is unseen and unheard, but is understood by the reader or the listener). An example would be, “He is almost as handsome as I.” In that sentence the last word is am, as in “He is almost as handsome as I am.” The am is unseen but is understood.

In the title sentence above, you and I is a compound object that takes the action of the verb invited. This is a very common mistake, one that can easily be avoided by a simple—extremely simple—nay, stupidly simple—process.

There are no complicated rules of grammar to learn. To determine the rightness or wrongness of the sentence, simply delete each of those invited—you and I— in turn, then read the sentence and listen to the sound.

Delete the I and the sentence reads, They invited you, an obviously correct sentence.

Delete the you and the sentence reads, They invited I, an obviously incorrect sentence.

The same simple process may be used when the sentence involves plurals of personal pronouns such as we and us. Were my brother and I conversing and I said, He is almost as handsome as we, the unseen and unheard word would be are, as in we are. We would not say He is almost as handsome as us are.

Special note: The statements regarding relative handsomeness are not necessarily true.

I said it was a simple process–-need I say more?

 

 
 

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