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Quotations about Grammar


..the flesh of prose gets its shape and strength from the bones of grammar... ~Constance Hale, Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose, 1999

Our language is our mother tongue;
To use it properly ere long,
This grammar teaches you...
To speak our language properly,
And spell and write it too
~Mrs. Lovegood, "English Grammar," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854

Because my spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places. ~A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh, 1926

Devotees of grammatical studies have not been distinguished for any very remarkable felicities of expression. ~A. Bronson Alcott, "Culture: IV.—Mother Tongue," Tablets, 1868

...a man must be a d—d fool, who can't spell a word more than one way. ~Author unknown, 1855, anecdote from Jamestown Journal  []

"Correct" spelling, indeed, is one of the arts that are far more esteemed by schoolma'ams than by practical men, neck-deep in the heat and agony of the world. ~H.L. Mencken, The American Language, Supplement II: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States, 1948

      Woman's great intellectual task is teaching the language. The grammarians and their substitutes, school-teachers and professors, fancy that they are the masters of language, and that, without their intervention, men's language would perish in confusion and incoherence. They have been maintained for ages in this illusion, yet there is none more ridiculous. Women are the elementary, and poets the superior artisans of language, both unconscious of their function. The intervention of grammarians is almost always bad.... He teaches grammar. He does not teach language.
      Language is a function. Grammar is the analysis of this function. It is as useless to know grammar in order to speak one's native tongue, as to know physiology in order to breathe with one's lungs, or to walk with one's legs.
      ~Remy de Gourmont, "Women and Language," Le Chemin de Velours, 1902, translated from French by William Aspenwall Bradley, 1921

You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does — but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you'll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it's the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so; it's the sickening grammar they use. ~Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad

Would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of bar-room vernacular, that is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed but attentive. ~Raymond Chandler, letter to Edward Weeks, 1947 January 18th

And all dared to brave unknown terrors, to do mighty deeds, to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before and thus was the Empire forged. ~Douglas Adams, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Fit the Third, 1978

I believe that every English poet should read the English classics, master the rules of grammar before he attempts to bend or break them, travel abroad, experience the horror of sordid passion, and — if he is lucky enough — know the love of an honest woman. ~Robert Graves, 1961

Princess Hallycarnie. That is not grammar, as we're taught in schools.
Youwarkee. A soul like mine won't fettered be by rules!
~George Thorne and F. Grove Palmer, Peter Wilkins, or Harlequin Harlokin and the Flying Islanders, 1883

I referred to the need for learning to punctuate properly because in a work of art punctuation often plays the part of musical notation and can't be learned from a textbook; it requires instinct and experience. ~Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, letter to Rimma Vashchuk, 1897 March 28th, translated from Russian by Michael Henry Heim, 1973

There is no element in which language resembles music more than in the punctuation marks.... Exclamation points are like silent cymbal clashes, question marks like musical upbeats, colons dominant seventh chords... ~Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969), "Punctuation Marks," Notes to Literature, Volume One, translated from German by Shierry Weber Nicholsen

Not long ago, I advertised for perverse rules of grammar.... The notion of making a mistake while laying down rules is highly unoriginal, and it turns out that English teachers have been circulating lists of fumblerules for years. As owner of the world's largest collection, and with thanks to scores of readers, let me pass along a bunch of these never-say-neverisms:
   • Use the semicolon properly, always use it where it is appropriate; and never where it isn't.
   • Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it when its not needed.
   • Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
   • Avoid commas, that are not necessary.
   • And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
   • If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
~William Safire, "On Language," New York Times, 1979 November 4th  #apostrofail

@tttention! Its Natonial Prooofreding Da?y! Braking news. #nationalproofreadingday #typoApersonality ~Sandra Boynton, @sandra_boynton, Instagram post, 2020,

If sometimes you can't hear me, it's because sometimes I'm in parentheses. ~Steven Wright, A Steven Wright Special, 1985,

There are grammatical errors even in his silence. ~Stanisław J. Lec, Unkempt Thoughts, translated from Polish by Jacek Gałązka, 1962

His words may accord with the rules of grammar, but his actions do not accord with the harmonious laws of the soul. ~Agnes Leonard Hill, "Economy of Force," in America, 1889 September 19th

Grammar is a piano I play by ear, since I seem to have been out of school the year the rules were mentioned. All I know about grammar is its infinite power. ~Joan Didion, "Why I Write," 1976

Grammar Checker – A software program that is not needed by those who know grammar and virtually useless for those who don't. ~Richard E. Turner (1937–2011), The Grammar Curmudgeon, a.k.a. "The Mudge," from "The Curmudgeon's Short Dictionary of Modern Phrases," c.2009

Syntax means joined together, dear,
Arrange the words then written here
By marking out each stop.
They're parts of punctuation—see
You'll understand them readily,
They must not be forgot.
~Mrs. Lovegood, "Punctuation," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854

Grammar is politics by other means. ~Donna J. Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, 1991

After all, when a thought takes one's breath away, a lesson on grammar seems an impertinence. As Ruskin wrote in his earlier and better days, "No weight nor mass nor beauty of execution can outweigh one grain or fragment of thought." ~Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Preface to Poems by Emily Dickinson Edited by Two of Her Friends, Mabel Loomis Todd and T.W. Higginson, ©1890

You find out who your real friends are when your autocorrect mixes up your and you're. ~Keith Wynn

A period's the longest stop,
Altho' it is a little dot...
~Mrs. Lovegood, "The Period," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854

The comma is the shortest stop,
Look at this little curly dot,
'Tis used most frequently...
~Mrs. Lovegood, "The Comma," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854

Style takes its final shape more from attitudes of mind than from principles of composition, for, as an elderly practitioner once remarked, "Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar." This moral observation would have no place in a rule book were it not that style is the writer, and therefore what a man is, rather than what he knows, will at last determine his style. ~William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style

The colon seems a little strange;
Not quite so easy to arrange;
Two periods you see:
Twice over I had made a dot,
Yet something more had been forgot,
And colons there must be.
~Mrs. Lovegood, "The Colon," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854

Do not be surprised when those who ignore the rules of grammar also ignore the law. After all, the law is just so much grammar. ~Robert Brault,

The rules of punctuation seem arbitrary. How can they not, when an apostrophe looks like nothing in this world so much as a comma that can't keep its feet on the ground? Or when, by simply placing next to that wafting comma its twin, one creates (of all things) a quotation mark? ~Richard Lederer and John Shore, Comma Sense: A Fun-damental Guide to Punctuation, “Introduction,” 2005

Guard against this tendency of adjectives to march in pairs. They love to do it but it destroys all finer cadences. ~Edith Foster Flint, c.1904

Who climbs the Grammar-Tree; distinctly knows
Where Noun, and Verb, and Participle grows...
~Decimus Junius Juvenalis, Satire VI, translated by John Dryden, 1693

      What really alarms me about President Bush's "War on Terrorism" is the grammar. How do you wage war on an abstract noun? How is "Terrorism" going to surrender? It's rather like bombing "murder...."
      How will they know when they've won it?
      With most wars you can say you've won when the other side is either all dead or surrenders. But how is "terrorism" going to surrender? It's well known, in philological circles, that it's very hard for abstract nouns to surrender.... Abstract nouns simply aren't like that. I'm afraid the bitter semantic truth is, you can't win against these sort of words—unless, I suppose, you get them thrown out of the Oxford English Dictionary. That would show 'em.
      ~Terry Jones, "The Grammar of the War on Terrorism," in Voices for Peace: An Anthology edited by Anna Kiernan, 2001

I hate the guts of English grammar... ~E.B. White, 1979, letter written while working on a revision of "The Elements of Style"

Let school-masters puzzle their brain,
With grammar, and nonsense, and learning;
Good liquor, I stoutly maintain,
Gives genius a better discerning.
~Oliver Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer: Or, The Mistakes of a Night

Dorothea's faith supplied all that Mr Casaubon's words seemed to leave unsaid: what believer sees a disturbing omission or infelicity? The text, whether of prophet or of poet, expands for whatever we can put into it, and even his bad grammar is sublime. ~George Eliot, Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life, Volume I, Book I—Miss Brooke, 1871

If Mr Robert Montgomery's genius were not too far free and aspiring to be shackled by the rules of syntax... ~Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1830

Prince. Here we have herbs of all sorts, and some curry.
Wisewitz. We have verbs of various kinds—see Lindley Murray.
Prince. Come spread the cloth, and be of plates collective.
Wisewitz. As Regular, Irregular, and Defective.
Prince. Don't down my throat of grammar be a stuffer.
Wisewitz. Auxiliaries "To be," "To do," "To suffer."
~E.L. Blanchard (1820–1889), Cinderella; or, Harlequin and the Fairy Slipper, 1878  [Lindley Murray (1745–1826) was a noted grammarian. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out. ~Oscar Wilde, variously worded paraphrase  []

Another sport which wastes unlimited time is Comma-hunting. Once start a comma and the whole pack will be off, full cry, especially if they have had a literary training. ~F. M. Cornford, "The Conduct of Business," Microcosmographia Academica, 1908

You have entirely missed the point of the poem, because, I must tell you, you have used an edition of the text that is inauthentically punctuated.... Do you think the punctuation of the last line of this sonnet is merely an insignificant detail? The sonnet begins with a valiant struggle with death, calling on all the forces of intellect and drama to vanquish the enemy. But it is ultimately about overcoming the seemingly insuperable barriers separating life, death, and eternal life. In the edition you chose, this profoundly simple meaning is sacrificed to hysterical punctuation:
      And Death—capital D—shall be no more—semicolon!
      Death—capital Dcomma—thou shalt die—exclamation point!...
Gardner's edition of the Holy Sonnets returns to the Westmoreland manuscript source of 1610 — not for sentimental reasons, I assure you, but because Helen Gardner is a scholar. It reads:
      And death shall be no more, comma, Death thou shalt die.
(As she recites this line, she makes a little gesture at the comma.) Nothing but a breath—a comma— separates life from life everlasting. It is very simple really. With the original punctuation restored, death is no longer something to act out on a stage, with exclamation points. It's a comma, a pause. This way, the uncompromising way, one learns something from this poem, wouldn't you say? Life, death. Soul, God. Past, present. Not insuperable barriers, not semicolons, just a comma. ~Margaret Edson (b.1961), W;t: A Play, 1991–1999  [Spoken by Professor E.M. Ashford. You can read John Donne's poem on my page of quotations about Death. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Grammar: The grave of letters. ~Elbert Hubbard, The Roycroft Dictionary Concocted by Ali Baba and the Bunch on Rainy Days, 1914

As he sat there, his thoughts flew over the bridge of years, and he was wafted on the wings of memory to other and happier Yuletides... Ten hours passed rapidly thus…
*   *   *   *   *
      [AUTHOR. I put stars to denote the flight of years.
      EDITOR. Besides, it will give the reader time for a sandwich.]
~A. A. Milne, "The Making of a Short Christmas Story," 1907 [The section break of stars is called a dinkus, no joke. Its clustered cousin, the asterisk pyramid, is known as an asterism. –tg]

Mary had some little dots,
She kept them in a row. . . .
In every thing . . . that Mary wrote . . .
Those dots . . . were sure . . . to go . . . . . . . . .
~"Fiction à la Mode," LIFE, 1922

On the page, punctuation performs its grammatical function, but in the mind of the reader it does more than that. It tells the reader how to hum the tune. ~Lynne Truss, "That'll Do, Comma," Eats, Shoots & Leaves, 2003

Editor — Do you wish a position as proofreader? Applicant — Yes, sir. Editor — Do you understand the requirements of that responsible position? Applicant — Perfectly, sir. Whenever you make any mistakes in the paper, just put the blame on me, and I will never say a word. ~Gesta Typographica: or, a Medley for Printers and Others, collected by Charles Thomas Jacobi, 1897

We have not time to notice the innumerable beauties of this headless and endless sentence... those who study the works of the Major must take such grammar as they can get, and be thankful. ~Thomas Babington Macaulay, "Major Moody's Reports," 1827

A man's grammar, like Cæsar's wife, must not only be pure, but above suspicion of impurity. ~Edgar Allan Poe, critique of Edward Bulwer-Lytton's "Night and Morning," in Marginalia

      The printer, who is, in many cases, possessed of some ambition, cannot afford to sacrifice the face of the book, its physical appearance, to the whims of it mental creator, the author. He declines to submit to the grammatical rules imposed upon him by the scholarly writer, believing that it may be well to consider antecedens and posterius, and the small regiment of auxiliaries, grammatical subordinates, as there are commas, semicolons, colons, periods, etc., in the text, the soul of the book, but he will never consent to permit these important little giants to terrorize him in the composition of the title page.
      It makes the heart bleed to see one of these little marks spoil the symmetrical proportions of an otherwise perfect title page composition; to see the beauty of the picture, its æsthetic value, subordinated to and ruined by the predominance of cold-blooded grammar. Imagine a curve-line ending with a comma! Imagine such a grammatical terror on the end of every second line! How awkward! How disgusting!...
      Whoever must rely upon comma, colon and period to understand the sense of a title, ought not to attempt to try to understand what follows the same; let him drop his literary ambition and seek shelter in a house for the care of idiots.... Sapienti sat.
      ~Gustav Boehm, "A Discourse on Title Page Composition," in The Inland Printer (Chicago), March 1886

One who uses many periods is a philosopher; many interrogations, a student; many exclamations, a fanatic. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

An exclamation point looks like an index finger raised in warning.... A colon, says Karl Kraus, opens its mouth wide: woe to the writer who does not fill it with something nourishing. Visually, the semicolon looks like a drooping moustache; I am even more aware of its gamey taste. With self-satisfied peasant cunning, German quotation marks [« »] lick their lips.... Every text, even the most densely woven, cites them of its own accord — friendly spirits whose bodiless presence nourishes the body of language. ~Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969, a.k.a. Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund), "Punctuation Marks," Notes to Literature, Volume One, translated from German by Shierry Weber Nicholsen, 1991 (Noten zur Literatur, original copyright 1958)

We make this mark of admiration
To show we've used some exclamation
To indicate surprise...
~Mrs. Lovegood, "Admiration or Exclamation," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854

The mark of the fool is the exclamation. The mark of the wise man is the question. ~William Arthur Ward, Thoughts of a Christian Optimist, 1968

The serious dash.... mute lines into the past, wrinkles on the brow of [Theodor Storm's] text.... set bald and naked between the events they draw together, they have something of the fatefulness of the natural context and something of a prudish hesitancy to make reference to it. So discreetly does myth conceal itself in the nineteenth century; it seeks refuge in typography. ~Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969), "Punctuation Marks," Notes to Literature, Volume One, translated from German by Shierry Weber Nicholsen

A dash indeed is quite abrupt,
'Tis put almost to interrupt...
~Mrs. Lovegood, "The Dash," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854

"I — just — wish — I could — dig — out — the corners — of — her — soul!" she muttered jerkily, punctuating her words with murderous jabs of her pointed cleaning-stick. ~Eleanor H. Porter, Pollyanna, 1912

Say what?! You mean
That's not why they call it an
Em dash? — those Dickinson
Hyphens between?
~Terri Guillemets, "Poetic Wordplay," 2005  [Yes, I know, modern convention is en dashes for Emily's marks, but it just made no sense to my little giggle-poem. —tg]

Among the losses punctuation suffers through the decay of language is the slash mark or diagonal... ~Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969), "Punctuation Marks," Notes to Literature, Volume One, translated from German by Shierry Weber Nicholsen

If the English language had been properly organised by a businessman or Member of Parliament, then there would be a word which meant both "he" and "she", and I could write, "If John or Mary comes heesh will want to play tennis", which would save a lot of trouble. ~A. A. Milne

Language is always lagging behind the development of thought. Every form of speech has its deficiencies as well as its happy inventions. Drastic proposals for grammatical changes — the provision, for instance, for a neutral pronoun like thon  for 'he or she' — however beneficial from an ideal point of view, are impracticable at present and our Society has wisely confined its activities to reforms which have some chance of succeeding. ~Logan Pearsall Smith, "Needed Words," 1928  [a little altered —tg]

The test of a writer's sensitivity in punctuating is the way he handles parenthetical material. The cautious writer will tend to place that material between dashes and not in round brackets.... Dashes... block off the parenthetical material from the flow of the sentence without shutting it up in a prison, capture both connection and detachment. ~Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969), "Punctuation Marks," Notes to Literature, Volume One, translated from German by Shierry Weber Nicholsen

Look! here is a parenthesis,
It means—there's little use for this;
But since we've put in here,
We'll place this mark (before, behind),
And when you read these words, you'll find
They might be out, my dear.
~Mrs. Lovegood, "The Parenthesis," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854

I lately lost a preposition;
      It hid, I thought, beneath my chair.
And angrily I cried: "Perdition!
      Up from out of in under there!"
Correctness is my vade mecum,
      And straggling phrases I abhor;
And yet I wondered: "What should he come
      Up from out of in under for?"
~Morris Bishop, "The Naughty Preposition," c.1947

      Years ago, students were warned not to end a sentence with a preposition; time, of course, has softened that rigid decree. Not only is the preposition acceptable at the end, sometimes it is more effective in that spot than anywhere else. "A claw hammer, not an ax, was the tool he murdered her with." This is preferable to "A claw hammer, not an ax, was the tool with which he murdered her." Why? Because it sounds more violent, more like murder. A matter of ear.
      And would you write "The worst tennis player around here is I" or "The worst tennis player around here is me"? The first is good grammar, the second is good judgment...
      ~William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style

He gave us a ham in flip-flops. On his feet, not on the ham. ~Tom Hanks, "A Month on Greene Street," Uncommon Type: Some Stories, 2017

With ungrammatical defiant
Ecstasies that tripped some giant
Neatly in a puckered phrase...
~Joseph Auslander, "Letter to Emily Dickinson," 1920s

The great logical, or grammatical, framework of language, (for grammar is the logic of speech, even as logic is the grammar of reason,) he would possess, he knew not how... ~Richard Chenevix Trench, "On the Study of Words," lecture to the pupils of the Diocesan Training School, Winchester, c.1851

Two words are often joined in one,
When that's the case, see what is done—
A hyphen's put between
Thus—custard-pudding, apple-pie,
Or blind-man's-buff, perhaps high-spy,
Sweet-pea, or kidney-bean.
~Mrs. Lovegood, "The Hyphen," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854

It's all right to break your word if you use a hyphen. ~20,000 Quips & Quotes, Evan Esar, 1968

SEMI=COLON:  a half Colon, a stop or Point in a Sentence between a Comma and a Colon; which is thus marked (;) expressing a Pause greater than the former, and less than the latter. ~The New World of Words: Universal English Dictionary, or Compleat Glossography, compiled by Edward Phillips, Gent., seventh edition, revised by John Kersey, philobiblist, 1720

The story of life may be told in a sentence, the punctuation of which runs thus:  babyhood, a comma; youth, a semicolon; manhood, a dash; at fifty, a colon; at seventy, a period; later, an interrogation point. ~Gesta Typographica: or, a Medley for Printers and Others, collected by Charles Thomas Jacobi, 1897

Making love to me is amazing. Wait, I meant: making love, to me, is amazing. The absence of two little commas nearly transformed me into a sex god. ~Jarod Kintz, Love quotes for the ages. Specifically ages 18-81.

My aunt added, "There are pumpkins, plums, apples, and mince meat for pies. There are pears, and quinces, and boiled cider, apple butter, plum butter, and pound sweets for sauces. There is pig, chicken, and goose. And mint, sage, marjorum; cookies, candy, cakes, crullers, and tarts, and." Now, my aunt, who lived alone near by us and was one of us on all hearty occasions, did not believe there was an end to anything; so she always ended, or undertook to end, what she would say with an and. It put all she thought into a circle. It was an intellectual doughnut... ~Edward Payson Powell (1833–1915), "An Old-Time Thanksgiving," 1904  [a little altered —tg]

Only in grammar can you be more than perfect. ~William Safire

Th' interrogation's put to show
There's something that we wish to know...
~Mrs. Lovegood, "The Interrogation," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854  [the question mark —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

The writer is in a permanent predicament when it comes to punctuation marks; if one were fully aware while writing, one would sense the impossibility of ever using a mark of punctuation correctly and would give up writing altogether. For the requirements of the rules of punctuation and those of the subjective need for logic and expression are not compatible... The conflict must be endured each time, and one needs either a lot of strength or a lot of stupidity not to lose heart. ~Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969), "Punctuation Marks," Notes to Literature, Volume One, translated from German by Shierry Weber Nicholsen

Grammarians squabble, and will squabble long. ~Horace (65–8 B.C.), De Arte Poetica, translated by George Colman, 1783

laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis
~E.E. Cummings

The dinkus is a line of three asterisks (* * *) used as a section break in a text. It’s the flatlining of an asterism (⁂), which in literature is a pyramid of three asterisks and in astronomy is a cluster of stars... Dinkus likely evolved from the Dutch and German ding, meaning “thing.” To the less continental ear, dinkus sounds slightly dirty, and I can confirm that it’s brought serious academics to giggles. ~Daisy Alioto, "Ode to the Dinkus,", 2018

W's a well informed wight
Who loves to set everyone right.
      If a word you misspell
      Or misquote—he will swell
With Chastened and Holy delight.
~Oliver Herford, A Little Book of Bores, 1906

Language, never forget, is more fashion than science, and matters of usage, spelling, and pronunciation tend to wander around like hemlines. ~Bill Bryson, The Mother Tongue: English & How It Got That Way, 1990

[Grammar] is divided into four.
The first's Orthography;
Then Etymology and Syntax;
(These long big words look so like intakes);
The last part's Prosody.
~Mrs. Lovegood, "English Grammar," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854

A pedant is a bookish thing
That makes a mighty clamour
To plait a wreath from dead men's bones,
And strangle thought in grammar.
~John Stuart Blackie (1809–1895), "Pedantry"

A semicomma, we should note, doesn't exist; we just made the word up. But it sounds like a punctuation mark that should exist, doesn't it? ~Richard Lederer and John Shore, Comma Sense: A Fun-damental Guide to Punctuation, "Introduction," 2005

When writing, you may oft forget
Words here and there—then you must let
A caret mark that place,
And over it put the word,
Which, if neglected, how absurd...
~Mrs. Lovegood, "The Caret," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854

The Other Woman, who by this time deserves the deference of capitals, came out from behind the bowlder triumphantly. ~Kate Trimble Sharber (b.1883), "Petticoats — Or None," 1912

"We come here as Old Souls — many of us. I am a very old soul... so old that this is my Last Time." Again there was the implication of capitals in Adele's manner. ~Katherine Metcalf Roof, "The Reincarnate Greatness of the Walter Smiths," 1918

      The Swamp Monster abhors the extra keystroke. That is "so 20th-century" (or even more antiquated); writing complete words, capital letters, and punctuation marks should have gone out of fashion with the quill pen. We don't have time for that in our super-efficient world of electronic communication, any more than the we have time to bother with archaic rules advanced by Neanderthal grammarians, who are completely out of touch with modern reality. How else will we find time to text trivial messages, post videos of dancing hamsters on YouTube, share gossip on Facebook, and tweet platitudes on Twitter?...
      When we grammarians attempt to defend traditional rules and usage, we are accused of denying that language changes as if we were idiots with no awareness of the history of language. The truth is that most people who are interested enough in a language to learn its grammar in depth are probably more aware of the changes that have taken place over time than are those who merely mimic what they see and hear....
      This is where the Grumpy Grammarian sighs, shrugs, and heads for the exit. I shouldn't let it bother me. Almost all the defenders of traditional grammar are old coots like me, so we won't be around when the English language devolves into grunts, pictographs, and hand gestures.
      ~Richard E. Turner (1937–2011), The Grammar Curmudgeon, a.k.a. "The Mudge," The Grumpy Grammarian, September 2010

In using phrases not our own—
Words spoken by some other one—
We quote their words you know.
Thus, when we quote from Solomon
"A father should chastise his son,"
These marks are put to show.
~Mrs. Lovegood, "The Quotation or Inverted Comma," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854

Grammar, which even rules o'er kings and princes
And with high hand subjects them to its laws!
~Molière, Les Femmes Savantes/The Learned Ladies, 1672 (Act II, Scene VI, Philaminte), translated from French by Curtis Hidden Page, 1908  [Molière's learned ladies' (précieuses') attempts to purify speech were based on real life. The French Academy was working to publish an authoritative dictionary to fix the standards of proper usage. Vaugelas, one of its members, wrote that not even kings or emperors have the right to create new words. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Belise: Materialism
            Quite rules your genius, it must be averred!
            I, is first person, notice; talks is third.
            Why will you outrage grammar all your life?
Martine: Who wants to outrage gram'ma, eh? or gran'pa?
Philaminte: O heavens!
~Molière, Les Femmes Savantes/The Learned Ladies, 1672 (Act II, Scene VI), translated from French by Curtis Hidden Page, 1908

Belise: Grammar, I tell you, teaches us the laws
            Of verb and subject, adjective and noun.
Martine: Well, all I say is, I don't know those gentry....
Belise: Those are the names of words;
            And we must see to making them agree.
Martine: Let 'em agree, or fight it out, who cares?
~Molière, Les Femmes Savantes/The Learned Ladies, 1672 (Act II, Scene VI), translated from French by Curtis Hidden Page, 1908

[B]ut why care for grammar as long as we are good? ~Artemus Ward (1834–1867), Pyrotechny, "V.—What This Young Man Said"

Linguists are no different from any other people who spend more than nineteen hours a day pondering the complexities of grammar and its relationship to practically everything else in order to prove that language is so inordinately complicated that it is impossible in principle for people to talk. ~Ronald W. Langacker (b.1942), Language and Its Structure, 1973

No one can write perfect English and keep it up through a stretch of ten chapters. It has never been done. ~Mark Twain

For children find it difficult
To travel Grammar's road,
And feel it quite impossible
To carry such a load
Of nouns and pronouns, adjectives,
And prepositions too,
Conjunctions, interjections, verbs,
And adverbs not a few.
~Mrs. Lovegood, "A Letter in Verse to My Little Readers," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854  [The authoress is believed to be Jessie Connell. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

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