Monday, July 26, 2010

Grammar: Prepositions

It's that time again!

Ending sentences in a preposition. Ah, of course you know this one, good reader! That's incorrect!

All right, can you tell me why?

*crickets, crickets*

...Right. The best explanation I have ever heard is one for the clarity of the sentence in question. This being clear, obviously a sentence changed around to avoid putting a preposition at the end when this makes it more difficult to understand is something up with which one should not put.*

The explanation that I believe is that some scholars thought that Latin was superior to language because...because it is! It's older, and it's the scholarly language!

But English has Germanic roots. Trying to make it look like Latin is going to end up being silly, confusing, or both.

The point of language is, and always has been, communication. The idea of knowing proper grammar is that this allows one to use it. There are instances where grammatical inaccuracies are meaningless, and therefore we can assume them to mean the closest correct thing. There are places where they mean something else, and what a reader/listener should be able to assume is that the statement being made is the one the writer/speaker intends.

On these grounds, I would say that clarity should be valued above accuracy. This does not mean accuracy is valueless. Accuracy feeds into clarity. If both the person communicating and the person understanding agree on what is correct, it will make communication and clarity much easier.

On these grounds, I would say that both

"What did you step on?"


"On what did you step?"

Are perfectly fine. The former might be slightly easier to understand, but both should be understandable to a fluent English speaker.

Unnecessary prepositions are improper regardless of their placement. For instance:

"I fell off of my bike,"

can simply be

"I fell of my bike."

Even though the preposition is in the middle of the sentence, that preposition is still sloppy, because it is an additional syllable that gives no additional information. The one exception to this would be when and author is establishing an accent. Then it is still wrong, just not sloppy. It adds information.

Incidentally, there is one type of sentence where the preposition at the end burns me. Dad, if you're reading this, you're going to wince.

"On what did you step on?"

Just...gah. The person is trying to correct the sentence--because there is no accent I know of that would start the sentence with, "On what," like that, I will assume this--and then goes on to make the 'mistake' that person was trying to avoid.

Beginning, end, middle, just don't sandwich.

* I am perfectly aware that the original quote could have been rendered, "I will not put up with that sort of pedantry." But this raises the question of why that is any more correct than, "That is the sort of pedantry I will not put up with," in the first place.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Glimmers in the Den

The stories that get told from bad times can be dark indeed. But sometimes the most memorable are the flashes of wisdom, hope...

We weren’t happy. Who would be? Forced here, where we were basically food. If we got lucky, we died or became one of them. And what if becoming one of them meant a shift in thought so huge that we became…well, like them?

I touched the stones in my pocket. As I went through the day I saw a girl yelling at the guards. I handed her the varied brown one that said wisdom. Her lips twitched and she nodded; fell back. She tucked the stone in her pocket.

A few days later, a little boy was hiding in the corner. He was sobbing his clear, too-old gray eyes out. I took his hand and pressed the pale green stone into it. He looked at it, then at me. He clung to me and we held each other until he stopped crying. I convinced him to start washing and eating again.

Barely a few hours after that, I was flipping the last one over and over. It was black, and polished very smooth. I think it had been like that since the start. I might just have come to it for comfort enough.

A woman was praying. Before, I had heard her saying she wouldn’t pray anymore. It didn’t surprise me that she was. We were all going back to old comforts, and until she said she’d stop a few days after coming here, she’d prayed every evening. She said she had since she was six.

The topic didn’t really surprise me either. It wasn’t even covered in pretty language anymore. “I’m trying. I’m trying. But I don’t understand why.”
I looked around, checking for anyone obvious. The fact that I couldn’t see them wasn’t really pertinent. When they wanted to be seen, we obeyed every rule perfectly because they were cementing their power. Most, though, just wanted to make sure none of us were trying anything too dire—-like escaping—-and get on with it.

No one I could see. It crept down off my bunk and over to hers. By the time I got there her prayers had stopped, she was just crying. It hurt—I mean it physically hurt—to see someone so broken. I hoped the outburst would help her, but I was worried she’d just fall farther.


She jerked up and looked at me. “What?” she asked sharply. Then she closed her eyes and softened. “Sorry. Yes?”

I took a breath. This was my last, but it was worth it. But it was my last, so I better make it count. “I’m Amelia.”


“When I was little, I got these stones. They’ve got words on them, and they help me remember what I want to do, or be.”

She nodded. “I’ve seen you giving them out. How many have you got left?”

“Just the one.” I held the small oval of polished black out. In the dark, it was nearly invisible, though it reflected a lot of light.

A few phrases ran through my head. ‘(I think) It’ll do you more good than me.’ ‘You need it more than I do.’ But that wasn’t what I wanted to say.

“I want you to have it.”

She took it, solid black indent up. “What’s it say?”

“Turn it over.”

She looked at me; then turned it over.

“If you ever need me, just ask.”

She stared at the stone for a moment. Tears welled up in her eyes, but she smiled a little now. “Thank you.” Her eyes went to mine. “The same goes for you.”

I smiled. “Thank you.”

That last one said trust.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Some Fall

Falling from grace
He keeps apace
Silently watching the drift.

Falling to low
Has to go slow
But good from the bad he can't sift.

Perhaps here is the wonder
Perhaps the song
We've sought for so long
So long.

And here we go
Murmuring too low
In the quiet of the riot
In the eye of the storm.
One false step, one left torn.
That's the bargain, now don't feel what you've borne.

Slowly wheedling at your core
Now wait, just a second more.
Here, you see? Here you fell
But here now, it is not your Hell.

Oh, no, don't watch me so
You asked and then you paid in full.
I heard you beg; I heard you plead
From the oven-baked to the dough you knead
You want it back, then that's your way.
You've given; I never said I'd taken away.
© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart