Author: Gary McCarty

Building Blocks of English XI: Auxiliary Verbs

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Main verbs often need helper verbs to complete their meaning, and these helpers are called auxiliary verbs.

For instance, you’re thinking of going out to dinner, so you say to your roommate:  "I may go out to dinner tonight and try that new restaurant."

If go is the main verb, what is the auxiliary?  Of course, it’s may.

Auxiliary verbs are often arranged into two groups, those that have to be joined to a main verb and those that can either stand alone or help a main verb.

Auxiliary verbs that can also be main verbs: be, being, been; am, is, are, was, were; have, has, had; do, does, did.

Auxiliary verbs that must appear with main verbs:  can, could; may, might; shall, should; will, would; must, ought (to).

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Essential v. Quintessential: Does Anyone Know the Difference?

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When you hear sports jock radio and TV hosts using the word quintessential, you have to wonder if the world really understands what’s essential and what’s quintessential?

In short, essential means "indispensable," while quintessential means "the most typical."

I think most people just opt for quintessential because it sounds so fancy-schmancy without stopping to think about what they really mean.

I have no ready examples, but the next time you hear someone use quintessential, ask yourself if that person means "indispensable" or "most typical."


Categories: Grammar Sucks

Lewt: Gamers’ Jargon

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They’re rewriting the English language to make it more phonetic.  That’s about the only conclusion I, a non-video-gamer, can draw when I come across words like lewt.

Which means?

Loot, of course.  Just like it sounds.

For further reference, check the site

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Building Blocks of English IX: Verbs

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I haven’t continued this series for a while because I had the sense that I was jumping around too much and wasn’t being very systematic, but since I tackled nouns last time, I guess I should tackle verbs this time.  After all, every independent clause must have a noun (or its evil twin, the pronoun) and a verb.

Saving tenses and voices for another discussion, let’s look at the three main types of nouns in English–transitive, intransitive and linking.

A transitive verb takes an object after it–it does something to something or someone else.  "Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs that year."  In this sentence, hit is the transitive verb and home runs is the direct object.

An intransitive verb does not take an object.  "He pouts a lot."  Pouts is the verb and a lot is an adverb, not an object.  If you just said, "He pouts," that would be fine also for this intransitive verb usage.

Finally, a linking verb merely connects a subject with a complement (not a direct object).  Linking verbs are often, but not exclusively, variations of the state-of-being verb to be.  "I am Gary" is an example of this type of state-of-being linking verb.  Other verbs take complements as well and link the subject with the complement.  "I feel fine" is an example of a linking verb being complemented (connecting to) the adjective I. 

The point to remember here is that linking verbs connect to adjectives, not adverbs.  If you’re not feeling well, therefore, you must say, "I feel bad."  If you said instead, "I feel badly," it would mean that your sense of touch or feeling is bad and would have nothing to do with your physical or psychological state as in the first example.

Do you feel confused–or bad–after reading all this?  Not to worry, just come back later and read it a couple more times for comprehension.  Repetition is the secret to success in any endeavor in life.


Categories: Grammar Sucks

It All Comes Down to This…

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The last day of baseball, still the national pastime even though NASCAR and football, brutal sports, have edged the boys of summer in popularity.

Baseball is now and forever will be the most lyrical and folkloric of all sports.  Who hasn’t heard or read the poem about "Mighty Casey"?

But I had the honor and privilege today of tuning in to the legendary baseball announcer [tag]Vin Scully[/tag], who quoted this from long-gone baseball commissioner [tag]Bart Giamatti[/tag], the man who fought [tag]Pete Rose[/tag] and won:

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.

"Just so," as my Irish ancestors would say.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Word Abuse: ‘Very Personal and Poignant’

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Just a few minutes ago as I flipped over to ESPN to catch the Phillies-Braves baseball game, the announcers turned the discussion to the Sunday altercation between San Diego Padre [tag]Milton Bradley[/tag] and an umpire, which umpire has since been suspended.

Referring to the umpire, commentator [tag]Orel Hershiser[/tag] said what got the ump suspended was not just his use of profanity but the fact that it was "personal and poignant."

Since I’m dedicated to pointing out abusers of the English language here, I must suggest that I believe Hershiser meant "pointed."

I doubt poignancy would get an umpire suspended.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

When Is Good English Bad English?

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Answer:  When you’re sitting at a bar having lunch and a loudmouth next to you is trying to score on the woman half his age next to him.  His English was grammatically fine, but I felt sorry for the young woman’s having to endure all his literate and literal nonsense.

Solution:  Don’t eat lunch at bar counters; take a table by yourself.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

‘U.S. Americans’: I Can’t Let This One Go By

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I swore I wasn’t going to bring up the topic of Miss Teen South Carolina’s bumbling question response, in which she concocted the NotPhrase U.S. Americans and generally managed to show an ignorance not only of English usage but also of world history.  To wit:

I personally believe the U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some, uh…people out there in our nation don’t have maps, and, uh, I believe that our education like such as South Africa and, uh, the Iraq everywhere like, such as and…I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., err, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future for our….

After hearing this the first time, I just felt bad for [tag]Lauren Caitlin Upton[/tag], but as time has gone on, her utterances have burrowed their way into our culture.  A local radio station here in Los Angeles even uses an imitator to run promos, urging "U.S. Americans" to tune in for this and that show.  It’s funny.

Now that she’s become legend, I’ll weigh in by offernig a video of her speech.  Enjoy:

(If the Flash doesn’t work, here’s a link to click.)

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Tempest in a Teapot Over ‘B’ Word

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In court testimony, New York Knicks General Manager [tag]Isiah Thomas[/tag] answered a question about the use of the word bitch in descriing or addressing a black woman.

Basically, he testified that it was less egregious if a black man used the "B" word on a black woman than if a white man did.

Now, to my way of thinking, this is true in certain usages, as black people often use the "N" word in addressing each other and certainly use the "B" word in rap music.  However, there is a whole brouhaha erupting over his testimony, with many commentators calling for Isiah’s head.

I thik this is definitely going overboard.

Interestingly enough, leaving this controversy aside, a man named [tag]Isaiah Thomas[/tag] was considered one of the greatest publishers of 18th century America and was a contemporary of fellow publisher [tag]Benjamin Franklin[/tag].

Categories: Grammar Sucks

NotWord ‘Mines’ a National Problem

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I have to apologize for my inactivity on the blog here, but I’ve been on a quick but arduous jaunt to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

It was in the latter city that I heard an utterance of "mines," confirming my fears that this vermin has infested the entire country.

In America, grammar does indeed suck, at least in terms of its practitioners.

Categories: Grammar Sucks