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Loosening the tongue

Oh, I forgot: on Monday I took the grammar quiz that's doing the rounds at the moment. I was going to write it up here, with reference to Ford's Law of blogging—in the absence of a cat, I thought I'd get all LiveJournalesque on you and put up a Stupid Quiz Result. But I was at work at the time, and like I said, I forgot. Until just now anyway, when I was chasing another link from Ford's site and was reminded of it by this rather satisfying decomposition.

The quiz confirmed my long-held suspicions: I am indeed a Grammar God. I have a picture to prove it somewhere... Ah, here it is.

You are a Grammar God

It seems that grammatical divinity comes pretty cheap, to be honest. Kelly had a shot, and in spite of answering at least five questions differently to me, she was also adjudged a heavenly grammarian. In fact I've yet to hear of anyone not blitzing the test—is this the author's secret intention, to reveal the organic flexibility of the language? I will presume that isn't their intention, because as profound as the point might be, the test would still kinda suck.

Anyway, my first edict as newly enthroned deity is to command the author of the quiz to read Strunk and White. Therein they will find that most of the questions have multiple valid answers, both within and without the choices one is offered. In fact, for most of the questions, one would be far better off rephrasing the whole sentence. Some of them are truly ugly.

A few specific objections:

  • On the question of possessives after an "s", Americans appear inclined to stick to the basic rule of "apostrophe-s". In other backwaters of the English language, like Britain and my own little island, we are more inclined to leave off the final "s", rendering something belonging to Jesus, Jesus'. It's contextual; they're both right.
  • We have well and truly gone beyond the point of caring about split infinitives. You know, that whole "to boldly go" or "to go boldly" thing. Just *go* already!
  • Question 7 reads: __ faced turned a bright shade of red. Now, it doesn't matter what word you choose to fill in the blank there, it still will not make sense.
  • Question 16 on punctuation, like most dilemmas of punctuation, depends entirely on which Style Manual you prefer.
  • Bill Poster covers most of my other objections.

As you can see, the quiz raised my hackles a bit. But I got through it, and at the end, I was rewarded with my divine crown of thorns, and this little exhortation:

If your mission in life is not already to preserve the English tongue, it should be. Congratulations and thank you!

Oh dear. This is even funnier if you've read the wallowsong. I do think my mission in life is thoroughly tied up in the English tongue. But not preserving it—I've got better things to do than swim against tidal waves.

I think my mission is to loosen it.

Joseph | 7 Apr 2004

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