Proving Grammar Can Be Funny – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper


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“It is only in grammar that you can be more than perfect.” – William Safire

ROLLING FORK – No, I don’t see myself as the next William Safire, although this distinguished man of letters would certainly be a superior role model for anyone with more than just affection for the English language.

Safire, who graced some of the highest niches in American society from 1929 to 2009, was perhaps the last true man of the Republican Renaissance – author, master of distribution ‘, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, author of speeches of such talent that almost (if not quite) give a touch of eloquence to the words of Richard Nixon and lexophile par excellence.

He not only wrote a regular New York Times article on the language, but also a few books on the subject too often deemed too dry, which were drastically imbued with his sharp wit as the tip of a rapier.

So, do you think you want to write for a living? Do you think that would be a snap? Read “How Not to Write: Critical Grammar Mistakes” and be prepared to be both chastised and disillusioned with the notion.

I sometimes think grammar and parts of speech are like the opposite of algebra in the left / right brain discussion, except that if approached smart enough, the language can be made humorous, whereas there just isn’t a fucking funny thing. on math. To this end, with the enormous help of a dear longtime friend (please note that I did not fall into any of Safire’s word traps by calling her an ‘old friend’, for whom I do not. may not live long enough to deserve forgiveness.), the following are examples of what special attention can yield over all those years of studying English combined with some intelligence. Of course, I’m afraid this really points to the truth of what Kurt Vonnegut once observed: “If you want to break the rules of grammar, learn the rules of grammar first.”

And so, dedicated to hard-working English teachers everywhere, take advantage of:

• An Oxford comma walks into a bar where she spends the evening watching TV, getting drunk and smoking cigars.

• A suspended participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening goes smoothly.

• An oxymoron entered a bar and the silence was deafening.

• A bar was entered by the passive voice.

• Two quotes enter a “bar”.

• (One of my two favorites.) A Malapropism walks into a bar, hunting for all the heavy-duty uses like a wolf in cheap clothes, muttering epitaphs and throwing scatterings at his magnificent other, who takes him for granite .

• Hyperbole totally tears this insane bar apart and destroys absolutely everything.

• A question mark enters a bar?

• A non sequitur enters a bar. In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly.

• Papyrus and Comic Sans enter a bar. The bartender says, “Come out, we’re not serving your guy.”

• A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the writing on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.

• A comma splice walks into a bar, drinks a drink and leaves.

• Three intransitive verbs enter a bar. They sit. They converse. They leave.

• A synonym walks through a tavern.

• At the end of the day, a cliché enters a bar – fresh as a daisy, cute as a button and sharp as a bug.

• A fast-paced sentence walks into a bar and starts flirting. With a cute little phrase fragment.

• Falling gently, falling gently, the chiasmus collapses on the bar floor.

• A figure of speech literally walks into a bar and ends up being figuratively hammered.

• A hint enters a bar, despite the fact that alcohol is his Achilles heel.

• The subjunctive would have entered a bar, if he had only known.

• A lost modifier walks into a bar owned by a glass-eyed man named Ralph.

• The past, present and future enter a bar. It was tense.

• A dyslexic gets into a bra.

• A verb walks into a bar, sees a beautiful noun and suggests conjugation. The name declines.

• A comparison walks into a bar, as parched as the desert.

• A gerund and an infinite walk in a bar, drink to forget.

And being a fan, this one is my other favorite: a hyphenated word and a hyphenated word walk into a bar and the bartender almost chokes on irony.


Ray Mosby is the writer and editor of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.

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