Jack Kerouac: Definitely Not a Beatnik

As I prepare for my upcoming Route 66 catharsis, or journey to discover my roots (something I should’ve done 40 years ago, not now), I’ve been reading all the "road" books I can find, including On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

One of the great ironies of American literature–and history–is that Kerouac is regarded as the progenitor of the Beatniks, which is about as far from the truth as possible.

Kerouac was a Catholic who dabbled in Buddhism and throughout it all was a William F. Buckley type of political conservative.  He wore no beard and no jeans but did smoke tea, as he called marijuana–and of course, drank a lot.

When he referred to the Beat Generation, he described its inhabitants as being "beat up and beat down"–in other words, a generation that had been pushed under and asunder and dealt severe blows, socially, psychologically and financially.  He even equated being "beat" with "Beatific."  In other words, when you’ve been "beat up and beat down" enough, you become angelic.  You’ve aspired to one of life’s highest realms by virtue of your suffering.

Now, this is all a far cry from the Beatniks and Hippies and the reckless doping and abandonment with whom and with which he’s been mistakenly identified.

Stay tuned for more on Kerouac–and  a bit after that, details on my own journey on the road.

More Peculiar English Found at My Local Park

As I was walking my dog through the park this morning, I noticed a sign that said, "Curb and Clean-Up After Your Dog." 

Why is this peculiar?  A couple of reasons.  For one, whoever created the sign used the compound adjective form (clean-up) rather than the verb form of clean up. Of course, the meaning was still clear:  If your dog poops, scoop it up and dispose of it.

The other reaon lies in the use of curb.  What does that mean?  After your dog defecates, assign him to the curb until the poop police arrive?  Or worse, take yourself and your dog to the curb and wait there for the park police to exonerate you?

I have no idea why one would take a dog to a park to curb it.  Can someone please explain that to me?

TV Title ‘Newlywed, Nearly Dead’ Not Nearly English

The new Fine Living Network series called Newlywed, Nearly Dead, though aiming at a cute word contrast, instead does nothing but murder the English language.

The combined word newlywed refers to someone who has been recently married, not to the act of being newly wed, while nearly dead refers only to the act of being almost expired.

Therefore, the construction is completely unparallel.  Instead, it should be written Newly Wed, Nearly Dead so that it refers to two parallel acts, not to one person or persons and one act.

Newlybutchered, newly wrong.

‘Reason Why’ and ‘About How’

I received an interesting e-mail from a reader named Todd, who was enquiring about the propriety of using the constructions about how and reason why.

I replied that their biggest sin is their utter redundancy.  How, reason and why can, depending on the sentence, stand by themselves and do the job solo.  About how is also unspecific and therefore unclear in most instances.

Todd himself later mailed some good examples, one of which I’ll shamelessly repeat here:

Original:

"The Usual Suspects is a 1995 film about how five criminals are brought together and embark on a crime spree, with a spectacular plot twist at the conclusion."

Todd’s revision:

"The Usual Suspects is a 1995 film about five criminals who are brought together and embark on a crime spree, with a spectacular plot twist at the conclusion."

(The sentence could further be rendered more readable by deleting and embark.)

Todd didn’t provide any reason why examples, but here’s a particularly egregious one:

"The reason why I’m hungry is because I haven’t eaten in two days."

First off, you can’t follow a linking verb (is) with an adverb (because), so that whole part is out.  Second, and back to my main point, either reason, because or why is sufficient by itself.

Revisions:

"The reason I’m hungry is that I haven’t eaten in two days."

"I’m hungry because I haven’t eaten in two days."

So much for my diet, eh?  LOL

NotWord Quandary: A, O or I?

I rushed this site into existence to take over for Grammar Sucks for a few reasons, one of them dealing with server-side issues.  I was switching servers and wanted to retire Grammar Sucks (and use it as a 301 redirect only).

Thus, I slapped this site together and got it up quickly.  When it came to titling it, my official URL was and is GrammarSource, but that doesn’t say much about what the site is all about, even with a subtitle under it.

I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea to create my own word to signify that this site was all about English writing and grammar usage, so I coined the word Englishapedia.

My first impulse was to use Englishipedia, copying Wikipedia, but I thought that would be too obvious a rip-off.  Then I toyed with Englishopedia, morphing the generic word encyclopedia.

Now that I look at what I have wrought, and I hate the "a" version.  The other two seem much more suited.

If anyone would like to influence my choice over the next few days, please just e-mail me.

Catching Up With Everything

Welcome to my new site, which takes over for Grammar Sucks.

The latter site was great and dates back to 1997 or so, but with sucks in the title, my e-mail box was constantly filled with every spammy sexual-perversion offer in the universe.  I just got sick of it.

So, welcome to Grammar Source. 

I should be back on track here soon with new and substantial postings.  To make an excuse, I switched servers this past week, whichI thought that would take a day or less to do.  It ended up consuming at least four days, and there are still glitches.

So, to solve the problem, I’m placed Grammar Source on an entirely new hosting service.  Things should be fine from now on.