Friday, September 26, 2008

The Grammar of Assent

I have the care of a mission parish 15 miles due west of me. As I was driving to today, I spotted a message posted at one of the local ecclesial communities that proves my obsession with grammar and its usage is not sick, but necessary. Fr. H gets a kick out of one of my favorite comments about disagreements I have with folks sometimes. The line, "I would like to agree with you, but if I apply the standard English definition for those words, then it just won't work" gets him roaring before I am done. That and "I understood what each of those words meant but when you strung them together in that order, you lost me."

Before I post about the sign, let me mention who diagnosed me. It was a book by Lynne Truss entitled Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. It is a hilarious examination of grammar and goes a long way to explain the significance of grammar in communication. It is a worthy and swift read, but you will not look at grammar the same way again. Back to the story...

I drove past the sign at low warp heading back to my principal parish. The sign read "That Love Your Neighbor Thing. I mean't it. Signed, God." Now, look closely at the sentence. You'll notice a misplaced apostrophe. I don't have an Oxford English Dictionary so I don't know if such a contraction could be formed. As I drove, I had to turn off the radio because I became fascinated with the error. After all, in standard English (there it is again), a contraction formed that way means "include not." Did the author mean to write, "That Love Your Neighbor Thing. I mean not it"?

How one communicates is as important as what you are trying to say. Now, don't misunderstand. I tried to call the place and no one answered. I am the king of typos. But it does remind me not in small part of the famous incident of the Murderers' Bible. In this early edition of the post-Gutenberg Bibles, a typesetter left out the "not" from "thou shall not kill." Please bask for a moment in the chaos this would cause. You see, I'm not that crazy after all.


dave said...

There's a billboard on I-35 between OKC and Dallas that says


If I was going to get a Tattoo (a dubious proposition at best), I certainly wouldn't get it from this establishment.

(Unless the proprietor's name is Tattoo, I suppose)

Mrs. Gelzer said...

I get so frustrated by grammar that I started a blog to poke a bit of fun. I'm getting ready to take a picture of a hotel's sign that hasn't been fixed in ages. Mostly, it's a case of missing letters, but you'd think they'd eventually buy a new set or some replacements.