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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Saturday, October 15

Old Timers & Grammatical No-No's

I usually don't like to pass on jokes I get over the Internet, but this one is too good to skip. Thanks, Larry.

Four old retired guys are walking down a street near NC State in Raleigh, North Carolina. They turn a corner and see a sign that says, “Old Timers Bar--ALL drinks 10 cents.” They look at each other and then go in, thinking, This is too good to be true.

The old bartender says in a voice that carries across the room, “Good afternoon–glad you came in. What'll it be, gentlemen?"

There's a fully stocked bar, so each of the men orders a martini. In no time the bartender serves up four iced martinis—shaken, not stirred—and says, "That'll be 10 cents each, please."

The four guys stare at the bartender for a moment, then at each other. They can't believe their good luck.

They pay the 40 cents, finish their martinis, and order another round. Again, four excellent martinis are produced, with the bartender again saying, "That's 40 cents, please." They pay the 40 cents, but their curiosity gets the better of them. They've each had two martinis and haven't yet even spent a dollar.

Finally one of them says, "How can you afford to serve martinis as good as these for a dime apiece?"

"I'm a retired tailor from Charlotte," the bartender says, “and I always wanted to own a bar. Last year I hit the Lottery jackpot for $125 million and decided to open this place. Every drink costs a dime. Wine, liquor, beer—it's all the same."

"Wow! That's some story!" one of the men says.

As the four of them sip at their martinis, they can't help noticing seven other people at the end of the bar who don't have any drinks in front of them and haven't ordered anything the whole time they've been there.

Nodding at the seven at the end of the bar, one of the men asks the bartender, "What's with them?"

The bartender says, "They're retired people from Florida. They're waiting for Happy Hour when drinks are half-price."

How true, how true.

Some more about grammar and grammarians. In the past, stodgy traditional grammarians would warn students about the things they shouldn't do in their writing: never split infinitives, never end a sentence with a preposition, never write as a sentence something that doesn't have at least a subject and verb, and never begin a sentence with "and" or "but." I'm telling you now that that's all a bunch of hooey. To split an infinitive is to insert one or more adverbs between the "to" and the verb. For example, "I told him to never leave the house without a jacket." See, the "never' split the infinitive, and it might be better not to do it unless it's necessary, thus you'd have, "I told him never to leave the house without a jacket." But then there are instances where there's no other place to put the adverb without ambiguity. For example, "Provisions are made to immediately isolate students suspected of carrying contagious diseases." It's either ambiguous or awkward to put "immediately" anywhere else. Another example from a newpaper headline: "Fad Toys Said to Often Bore Children." Again, either ambiguous or awkward. So much for splitting infinitives. Don't do it if you don't have to; do it if you have to.

Then there's the old dictum against ending a sentence with a preposition. Winston Churchill had this to say about it: "This is a form of pedantry up with which I will not put." So, if you must end with a preposition, go ahead. "Now there's a woman who's good to look at." A perfectly acceptable sentence. But to avoid the final "at," you'd have "Now there's a woman who's good at whom to look." Yuck! Suddenly she's ugly. As for never writing a sentence as a sentence without at least a noun and verb, I just did when I said, "A perfectly acceptable sentence." That's acceptable. And as for never beginning a sentence with "and" or "but," I just did. But it's still acceptable.

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