Monday, December 15, 2014


Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person will not abandon you, despite the fact that it is the busiest time of year and she hasn't finished making her cookies. Nay, Mrs. G.P. knows that if grammarians don't remain vigilant and make every effort to ensure clear communication, then civilization will surely fall. And, while many civilized people prefer to use the word insure instead of ensure, Mrs. G.P. assures us that ensure is preferable, unless, of course, you sell insurance.
As it is the season for childlike wonder, Mrs. G.P. stops to wonder why childlike connotes a return to happier times, while childish is an insult used for adults who embody the worst aspects of childhood, such as whining, tattling, or tantrums. This is indeed a mystery, one that we don't have the capability to solve, although we surely have the ability to use both words correctly. The words ability and capability are often used interchangeably, but are not the same. Capability usually means extremes of ability or potential ability, while ability refers to a current level of achievement or skill. Likewise, the word capacity may refer to a talent one was born with, while ability is a skill one must learn. Isn't it addictive to learn the nuances of grammar and word usage? Some would say it's addicting, and although Mrs. G.P. would applaud the sentiment, she would disagree with the word choice.
Not wanting to start an argument, our favorite grammarian would defuse the situation by offering the person one of her addictive home-baked delicacies. Her only wish is for good grammar to be diffused across the land, but, if she cannot have good grammar, she will settle for good cheer, especially during holiday time.
Speaking of time, Mrs. Grammar Person always spends some time answering e-mails from her devoted fans, as well as those from sometime grammarians, whom she refers to as dabblers. It has been some time since Mrs. G.P. received such an e-mail, but it did happen again sometime yesterday. This particular dabbler proclaimed there to be no difference between the words, everyday and every day and challenged Mrs. G.P. to prove otherwise. Always up to a challenge, our favorite phonetic fanatic rolled up her metaphorical sleeves and wrote:
            My Dear Sir,  

            It is not an everyday (ordinary, daily) occurrence for me to receive a

            request such as yours. If it happened every day, then I would have no

            time for my baking. Everyday is an adjective, while every day is an

            adjective followed by a noun. Whenever you are unsure as to which

            form to use, may I suggest that you substitute each day and, if that

            makes sense, then every day is the correct choice.  

            All the best,

            Mrs. Grammar Person 

As you might imagine, Mrs. G.P. has heard nothing further from him, not even a thank-you, but, no matter, she has much to prepare and her mind wanders farther from the rules of grammar than she would care to admit. She must choose between baking and wrapping gifts, but since decisiveness is among her many talents, she bustles off to wrap gifts.  To her consternation, she notes that the pajamas she bought for her niece are marked inflammable but that the incense she bought for her yogi is marked flammable. What unnecessary confusion! To clarify, Mrs. G.P. writes identical cards to attach to the packages. The cards make it clear that each gift will catch fire quite easily. 

Exhausted from so much activity, Mrs. Grammar Person sinks into an overstuffed chaise lounge in her drawing room. Her furniture is a soothing rose color because chintz makes her dizzy. She is startled to hear the doorbell ring and, flustered, she rushes to answer it. Who is it, but her new friend, Mr. Syntax, holding a bottle of champagne wrapped with a bow. With a broad smile and a happy glow, our favorite grammarian invites him in.

"I hope you'll pardon the intrusion," the gentleman says, shyly. "But I was in the neighborhood and wanted to bring you a holiday gift. Something as bubbly as you are."

Mrs. G.P. notices that this is no ordinary champagne, but, in fact, the most expensive French variety.  She hesitates to take the bottle.

"But, Mr. Syntax, I cannot accept something so valuable. It's too much…"

Looking crestfallen, Mr. Syntax replies, "Mrs. G.P., I consider your friendship invaluable and this is but a token of my appreciation." He looks so sad that even his moustache droops.
Our favorite grammarian has an idea. "I cannot accept this expensive gift, but I am happy to drink it with you."

"Brilliant!" he replies, bouncing back to his old self. He pops the cork while she fetches the champagne flutes.

They sit next to each other in front of the fire crackling on the hearth.

"To a beautiful friendship!" says Mr. Syntax, raising his glass.

"To a wonderful new friend!" says Mrs. Grammar Person. Glasses clink and delicate champagne bubbles float away, right into the new year.



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