Fool’s Gold: Grammar Sutra

April 07, 2015

Voices

I may have been a bit presumptuous last week when I declared my bottomless wealth via baseball card collection. My cards apparently require a bit more appreciation before I’m invited to spend the rest of my carefree life on Trillionaire Island. Lucky you, because I’m still here to talk about sex!

Actually, I’m here to talk about grammar. But by incorporating sex, I got you to keep reading. Numbers can be made to show that reader engagement increases by 152% if a first paragraph suggests free-range body parts and nothing at all about grammar.

The same fact is true for dating, incidentally. You typically should not discuss grammar on any date, from the very first one until death do you part.

Just because you shouldn’t discuss grammar on a date doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use good grammar to seduce your date. Notice I didn’t say CORRECT grammar. People who use correct grammar are like that kid in elementary school who invokes the infield fly rule during P.E. kickball: They have no friends. If they had friends, their adult conversations would sound like this:

“I need a shoulder on which to cry.”

“Why is that?”

“My sentences sound stilted; as such, no one will sleep with me.”

This conversation obeys the grammarian’s commandment Thou Shalt Not End Sentences with Prepositions, Nor Other Inappropriate Parts of Speech that Thou Knowest Not. But rules are made to be broken by innovators and heroes. So here’s what happens when that rule is broken:

“I need a shoulder to cry on.”

“Why’s that?”

“My crevasses are chafed. I never realized all the things two or more healthy adults could use fresh produce for!”

This conversation does not use correct grammar. But it uses GOOD grammar, which helps you make yourself understood while not standing out as a loser who cares about grammar. Talk good, and you’re halfway to getting it on with potential sexytime sidekicks!

For instance, even the simple act of suggesting “Hey, we should get it on!” ends with a preposition, so long as you ignore the exclamation point. I looked up what a preposition is for you; it’s a word that describes the relationship between other words. These terms come in handy in the bedroom, or wherever you prefer “getting it on.” So, if you want to put something “in” something else, or “through” it, or “under” it, or “between” it, you need a preposition as well as a prophylactic of choice.

This good-grammar communication strategy is a critical component of a healthy sexual relationship. Two or more adults must be able to relay their desires, limitations, and curiosities, not to mention addressing sexual acts by their proper slang terms. Use your imagination here and fill in the blanks:____ it off; ____ it out; and so on.

Our own distinct tastes determine what we slide in those blanks, but almost any truly adventurous sex act ends with a preposition. Think, like, “Knock it off!” or “Cut it out!” If one uses CORRECT grammar, those sentiments are impossible to convey concisely and accurately in the heat of the moment.

Yet GOOD grammar is about more than sex; it is about building a foundation of lifelong bliss by manipulating situations to get what you want. Let’s analyze the Prepositional Commandment using a familiar example.

EXAMPLE 1: “Honey, do you need a shoulder to cry on?”

QUALITY OF GRAMMAR: Good.

ANALYSIS: 87% likely to encourage spontaneous shoulder snot-stains now instead of later, when you have plans to watch the big game.

EXAMPLE 2: “Go cry somewhere else. You’re blocking the TV.”

QUALITY OF GRAMMAR: Correct; you might even say honest.

ANALYSIS: 100% likely you won’t watch the big game, or any game ever again.

Grammarians and other nuns will have you believe that correct grammar equates to strong morality. Whether you believe them or not, they are wrong. Correct grammar equates to sleeping at your brother’s house for a month, until the divorce is final.

Good grammar, on the other hand, is clearly flexible and beneficial. It’s only tricky because it changes depending on the context. The phrase “dual carb mod,” for instance, probably makes all kinds of sense in a mechanics’ shop or a nutritionist’s office, but it is not a phrase to use lightly around even reasonably proficient columnists. We earned English degrees precisely so that we could avoid such layman speak, and also crescent wrenches.

Wherever you roam, remember: the key to good grammar is to communicate clearly, by any means necessary. And finishing sentences with prepositions is what good communication is all about. If you disagree, you can just ____ off.

 

(Photo by Thomas Leuthard / CC)




This piece was written by:

Zach Hively's photo

Zach Hively

Zach Hively is the brilliance behind Fool’s Gold, the weekly column. He contributes regularly to the Durango Telegraph, and he is also a fiction writer, craft beer blogger, and work-for-hire editor. If you have nuggets to share, tweet @ZachHively or visit zachhively.com.

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