English is alive. It grows, changes. Mutating like the forgotten cheese hiding in the back corner of the refrigerator behind the blueberry beer bought two years ago (PMS impulse buy;) its once pumpkin orange skin, now a green and white mottled velvet. This was never more apparent than when my mom started beta reading Dead Dwight. It’s been over a half century since Mom’s academic career, and times have changed. So below are a few of the things driving her nuts:
Starting sentences with introductory, single word, adverbial clauses set off by commas: She feels these lonely adverbs need a real verb to complete them. But today’s modern, introductory adverbs are harlots that refuse to limit themselves to just verbs when they can modify the whole sentence. Hussies…
Starting sentences with conjunctions like ‘and’ or ‘but.’ Okay this myth annoys the fuck out of me. It’s always been okay to start a sentence with a conjunction. Apparently (sorry Mom,) sometime during the early 19th century teachers felt their students were over using these short little words. Unfortunately (again sorry,) instead of teaching them the judicious art of editing, these dilettantes chose to instruct their students to not to use them in this manner… Ever!
Commas between consecutive adjectives. Okay this one’s not cut and dry. It depends the adjectives’ order and usage:
English adjectives come in eight flavors:
- Determiner (articles: a, an, the… some adverbs and other limiters)
- Observation (these assign authenticity: real prick, perfect scumbag or subjective value: beautiful, gross, fascinating or an objects relative value: best, most, worst, cheapest)
- Size and Shape: Objective values: large, small, huge and physical properties: fast, hard, cold)
- Age (young, old, 100-years-old, ancient)
- Color (cerulean, crimson, amber–blue, red, yellow for you macho guys… My husband tried explaining male color theory to me, but he lost me at “Blah, blah, b-blah, blah)
- Origin (France, Canada, New York, London)
- Material (wood, plastic, brick…)
- Qualifier (these are considered part of the noun: rocking-rocking chair, knitting- knitting needle, passenger- passenger van…)
If the adjectives act independently, they are coordinate adjectives. They add to, but don’t change, the noun’s intended meaning, so use a comma between them. (The sentence should still make sense if their order is changed.)
Round, wet, sweaty beads rolled down its dark, shiny skin warming in the kitchen’s moist heat. (Eggplant does a body good. You can switch the order ‘round, wet and sweaty,’ or ‘dark and shiny’ and the sentence still works.)
On the other hand, if the adjectives are cumulative (directly defining the following word,) they’re treated as a single unit, so leave the comma out (also sometimes commas between adjectives from different orders are left out unless they’re needed for clarification:)
Delia’s pussy found the cock’s early morning rising strangely rousing. (Delia lives on a farm, you perve, and so does her cat. Changing the order of ‘early and morning’ screws up the sentence.)
What’s tricky, is when adjectives acting on a noun, can play more than one role depending the comma’s placement.
For the early rising cocks, crowing is a deep, religious experience.(Priapic early birds have a religious experience crowing.)
For the early rising, cocks crowing is a deep religious experience. (Roosters’ crows are a deep and religious experience to the early risers.)
Below are some other commonly held grammar myths and outdated practices…
Split infinitives: This is another myth born in the 19th century. It seems some upper-crust Victorian jackasses—I mean scholars—felt applying Latin grammar rules to the English language was appropriate… And since infinitive verbs aren’t split in Latin, we shouldn’t split them in English… Never mind that English is not a Latin based language… Jackasses.
Ending a sentence with a preposition: This myth goes to Robert Lowth, another fucking Latin scholar. He’s credited with writing the first grammar book. I guess he considered Milton and Chaucer grammar hacks.
Double negatives: You can blame that Lowth bitch for this one as well. When constructing backhanded compliments, it’s not only not wrong, but appropriate—bless their hearts.