Grammar Moses Speaks
by Dennis Bohr
I’m Grammar Moses with a few rules for writers. Rule #1: Break all the rules. Rule #2: All the rules have exceptions, including this one.
Educators often teach phonics in first grade, but phonics is not an illegal substance you can get hooked on. Phonics is the way words sound. To spell words correctly in English, you must (a) memorize all words; (b) flip a coin; or (c) buy a computer with spell check.
The main difference between “affect” and “effect” is that “affect” has an ‘a’ and “effect” an ‘e.’ They are often used interchangeably, and they are usually pronounced the same, but “affect” is a verb. “Effect” can be either but is usually a noun.
The best way to remember “lie” and “lay” is to equate all forms of “sit” (“sat”/ “have sat”) with all forms of “lie” (“lay”/ “have lain”), and the forms of “set” (“set”/ “have set”) with “lay” (“lay”/ “have laid”). You can lie down for a nap, and you can lie to get laid, but you can only lay down for a nap if it was yesterday.
Concerning “who” and “whom,” when you want to sound intelligent, use “whom.” The same applies to “I”: “Whom is the dastard that mailed the fish to Mabel and I?” Both are incorrect but are highly entertaining to grammarians.
Keep in mind that Grammar Moses did not invent these rules. During the Dark Ages, monks named George Noun and Tommy Verb had just finished their X-rated version of Beowulf. Concerned about career choices, they found a way to ensure steady employment: correct, standard grammar. They proposed that educated people had to know grammar in order to get into the best restaurants, and the Pope agreed, decreeing that only educated people could become priests and only Fat, White Men could enter the Patriarchal Ship of State.
Lastly, here’s an example of the idiosyncrasies of the language: The word “like” can be used as each part of speech except a pronoun:
Tommy has his likes [noun] and dislikes [noun], but he especially likes [verb] bombastic oratory, and it is unlikely [adverb] that he will be a likely [adjective] candidate for sainthood since he drinks like [preposition] a fish and acts like [conjunction] he has toast for brains, and I’m, like [interjection], wow, man, like [interjection], what miracles has he performed?