Unique Good Cheer


Mrs. Grammar Person would not abandon you to your own devices simply because the holidays are upon us. To the contrary, it is the time of year when Mrs. G.P. frets most about her devoted fans. During this, the gift-giving season, you must remember that, try as you might, you will never find the most unique gift for that special someone. Unique means one-of-a-kind; therefore, one gift cannot be more or less unique than any other. But, whichever gift you choose, Mrs. G.P. is sure that you will delight the recipient!

In addition to gifts, the holidays provide us with bountiful treats. Everybody loves these treats and nobody can pass them up. Mrs. G. P. finds it curious that the word everybody is followed by a singular verb despite the fact that it refers to many people. Nevertheless, she diligently follows all of the rules of grammar, even the silly ones.

Likewise, it is correct to say that all of them enjoyed their cookies, but each boy enjoyed his cookie. Our favorite grammarian is proud of her ability to home in on these grammatical mishaps, but she cannot hone in on them, since that makes no sense at all.  To clarify, Mrs. Grammar Person would not imply that you would make such egregious errors and prays that you have not inferred as much from her writings. She is confident that you would never confuse the meanings of imply and infer. Mrs. G.P. knows that you follow her musings out of a mutual love for perfect grammar and that you lend her your attention willingly. Of course, you couldn’t loan her your attention because loan is a noun and lend is a verb. But you already knew that. Like Mrs. Grammar Person, you are an expert grammarian who advises others of the logic (and sometimes illogic) of proper English. Whether they choose to take your advice is up to them. Isn’t it a marvel how one letter can change the meaning of a word? An airplane hangar transforms into a simple clothes hanger, an apple peel becomes the peal of a bell, and the act of being stationary in one place transforms into stationery for letter-writing. Mrs. G.P. cannot discuss the difference between naval and navel because it always gives her a fit of the giggles to compare the Navy to a belly button.  Once the holidays are over, we strengthen our resolve to eat properly and exercise after the over-indulgence we have all succumbed to. Mrs. G.P reminds us that we should also endeavor to strengthen our writing and eliminate the passive tense whenever possible. Thus, instead of saying, “The cookies were eaten by the boys” you should say, “The boys ate the cookies.” Whose cookies are we discussing? The boys’ cookies, of course. The apostrophe indicates the possessive (the cookies belong to the boys) and the apostrophe follows the ‘s’ because the cookies belong to all of the them. Were Mrs. G.P. to speak of a single boy and his cookies, she would write, “the boy’s cookies”.  This leads Mrs. Grammar Person to answer a final question that she has been asked recently, to wit, “what gift would she like to receive?” Feeling humbled, our beloved grammarian hesitates, deep in thought. Finally, she responds that she would like a “grammar-repair kit”, a toolbox filled with apostrophes, hyphens and an endless supply of White-Out so that she may fix the mistakes she encounters daily. But the gift she wants most of all, she adds with a smile, is the gift of your continued friendship throughout next year and beyond. A happy holiday to all of you, my dear grammarians!

Barbara Venkataraman