Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person will not fill your head with verbs today for she is filled with melancholy. Having heard dreadful news of a dear friend's illness, Mrs. G.P. feels despondent. Not even a pot of tea and a visit from her favorite cat, Mr. Malaprop, has served to lift her from the doldrums. And so she turns to you, her admirers and, dare we say, friends, in her hour of need because chatting with you always makes her smile.

Why, yes, Mrs. G.P. would be glad to explain the origin of her cat's name--and she thanks you for the distraction. A malapropism is a funny thing, indeed, and is defined as a misused word or a verbal slip. An example is, "he put out the flames with a fire distinguisher". Mrs. G.P. recalls an amusing malapropism from a young child who, after seeing a commercial about lactose intolerance, declared that he, too, was "black toast intolerant". Another interesting word ending in -ism is solipsism, which means egotistical self-absorption. Mrs. Grammar Person shudders to think that this term would ever be used to describe her.

To lighten the mood and banish dark thoughts, our favorite grammarian would like to tell you about spoonerisms, words in which some of the parts are switched, either through error or wordplay, with humorous results. Named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner, who was famous for these gaffes, an example of a spoonerism can be found in this question he once posed, "Is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?" Unlike other men of the cloth who focused on proselytism (converting others to your religion or way of thinking), this good reverend could not be taken seriously.

On the subject of being taken seriously, a true grammarian would do well to avoid anachronisms in his writing. From the Greek root word, khrono, an anachronism is something or someone that is out of chronological order. Thus, were you to write about Colonial times, you would not include a reference to television--unless, of course, your story involved time travel.

Another serious topic is plagiarism. When Mrs. G.P. was a girl, her mother warned her to never lie for she would always be caught. The same can be said about plagiarism. But do not despair, your beloved grammarian is sympathetic and understands that with so many ideas whirling about your brain, it is difficult to distinguish which are original and which are borrowed. Enter the internet, a 'place' where any phrase may be tested for originality. By using this safeguard, you may rest assured that your witticisms, symbolism, epigrammatism, and lyricism will always be your own creation and that you will never be accused of charlatanism. To express that in simpler terms, don't be a Luddite.

With a sense of absurdism, Mrs. G.P. reports that there are 887 words that end with -ism, including the word ism. But, unlike Don Quixote, your beloved grammarian will not fall prey to quixotism (being caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals), and attempt to discuss all 887. That would be a terrible example of didacticism on her part! Instead, Mrs. Grammar Person will dispense with her defeatism and pessimism, at least for today, and focus on the spiritualism and humanism of her followers and friends, and thank them for their altruism in lifting her spirits. Until the next time, your favorite grammarian sends you gratitude and affection.


  1. Well I learned something new today MRS. GRAMMAR PERSON!!!!

  2. Mrs. G.P. is delighted to be of assistance and sends you her very best!