Today is Monday, July 28, 2014

Flodden Field and Fused Participles!

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By ANNE DONNELL

Here’s something for your column. Should you say “your coming over” or “you coming over”?  -A Close Buddy

 

With lengthy apologies to Sir Walter Scott (in Marmion, Canto VI, stanza 17): Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we analyze the grammar about which QP of T (Question Person of Today) asks. 

[ATA (According to Anne] – The famous quotation reads, “Oh what a tangled web we weave/ When first we practice to deceive!” Deception’s never my aim, however apt the first line.  Marmion is an epic poem about the Battle of Flodden Field (1513) between the English and the Scots. It involved more soldiers than any other battle between those two kingdoms. King James V of Scotland was killed, the last British Isles monarch to die in battle. (The rest learned to stay back or stay home!)  In less than a century England and Scotland would be united under another King James, (of the King James Version of the Bible), successor to Elizabeth I. The poem also deals with some very warm romance featuring Lord Marmion. Sir Walter Scott, 1771-1832, Scottish writer, considered the father of the historical novel, gave us Ivanhoe, Quentin Durward, Waverly (yes, the name’s more than fabric). In a punning mood, I’ll add we covered this material recently.] 

ONLINE DEPARTMENT “A Farmer’s Advice – They Did It Right in the Old Days” (Thanks, JA) • Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight, and bull-strong. • Keep skunks, bankers and lawyers at a distance. • Life is simpler when you plow around the stump. • A bumblebee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor. • Words that soak into your ears are whispered not yelled. • Meanness doesn't jes' happen overnight. • Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads. • Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you. • It doesn't take a very big person to carry a grudge. • You cannot unsay a cruel word. • Every path has a few puddles. • When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty. • The best sermons are lived, not preached. • Most of the stuff people worry about isn’t going to happen, anyway. • Don't judge folks by their relatives. • Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer. • Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time. • Don't interfere with somethin' that is not botherin' you. • If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'. • Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got. •The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with watches you from the mirror every mornin'. • Always drink upstream from the herd. • Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment. • Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back in. • If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around. • Live simply.  Love generously.  Care deeply.  Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.

Our grammar construction is called by some a “fused participle,” by others “a noun combo” (fries and big drink, right?), and by the rest of us a gerund with possessive pronoun. A gerund is a verb form ending in ing used as a noun. (There are other uses of verb forms ending in ing, but today we’re sticking with use as a noun.) 

Taking the phrase suggested by our alert (and always amiable – I speak from experience) QP of T, we’ll have a sentence reading like this: Your coming over today is not a problem.  Or should it be You coming over today is not a problem?  Looking at what’s being said here, is it you that’s not a problem, or is it coming over today that’s not a problem? I’m for coming over today as the culprit. 

That matters because it’s telling us to use the possessive form of you (that would be your) in front of the gerund. CORRECT VERSION: Your coming over today is not a problem. 

The gerund is the subject of the sentence and takes the possessive pronoun which actually functions as an adjective (modifying a noun). I warned you about the tangled web business!  Some of you used textbooks that referred to possessive pronouns (my, his, its, her, our, your) as adjectives. 

Neglecting to use the possessive form of the pronoun with a gerund is a common error, and, remedied, is a quick fix to eloquent language. My ear is attuned to it, even though rarely hearing it. 

Do this, this use of possessive with gerund, with or without understanding. Well, some are flipping light switches with no comprehension of what’s happening in the wires.

BW (Bigtime Word) cacophemism – the opposite of euphemism; a harsh expression used in place of a milder one. Hey, what’s so bad about that? 

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