Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Obama grammared

I'm pleased I scored so highly on the silly old Facebook grammar quiz, since educator Lisa VanDamme reckons you need good grammar to make yourself understood -- and it looks like the ObaMessiah himself don't have no grammar.

Turns out the Great Communicator doesn't know grammar any better than Dan Quayle knew how to spell, making the common blunder of inverting "me" and "I."  Doesn't matter?  Says VanDamme, mastery of the rules of grammar add great precision both to your thinking and your communicating.  And it may avoid scandal, for example:

    Rather than the innocuous, "President Bush graciously invited Michelle and I," what if President Obama had said, "Michelle likes President Bush better than I." Is this a mere difference of opinion about the former President, or a scandal? The ambiguity is resolved with a universal understanding of the rules of grammar.
    "Michelle likes him better than I," as my grammar students can tell you, contains an elliptical adverb clause with "I" as the subject, and means, "Michelle likes him better than I like him." On the other hand, "Michelle likes him better than me," contains an elliptical clause with "me" as the direct object, and means, "Michelle likes him better than she likes me."
     So, if you whose children are gaining a thorough mastery of the rules of grammar have ever asked yourselves, "Does my child know grammar better than me?" the answer is no, he should know you better. And by the time he graduates, he will know better than to ask the question like that.

Straightforward, huh.

And these students of whom she speaks, by the way, are Year 4 at her school.  Like I said, she's an educator.


  1. Straightforward, hmm, if you have been told yes!

    Maybe you should sprinkle a few grammar posts among the economic ones, master.

    I for one would appreciate it, and can certainly learn from t.

  2. I've just read the story from the Economist that Lisa mentioned in the article, which reminded me of an article I came across a few months ago where the author was complaining that since he's been using the internet on a daily bases, his writing skills have somewhat changed: his sentences got much shorter and less complex. He though it was caused by the different way we "read" internet as opposed to reading books - book is a book, you either read it or not. But on the internet you divide your attention between a number of short stories and therefore also our ability to create a complex text is limited more and more.

    I've realised that reading a book for hours is not as easy for me as it used to be. Could the internet and the way we use it have anything to do with it? I'd say yes.

  3. Berend, the I versus me thing is easiest remembered by this example as to which is correct:

    "Are you coming to town with Jackie and me?", (or)

    "Are you coming to town with Jackie and I?"

    A: "Me" is correct, whereas many people mistakenly use "I".

    How to remember? Remove the "Jackie and" bit and straight away you can tell which is correct.

    I gave my 12 year old nephew Con Iggulden's "The Dangerous Book for Boys" for his birthday last year. Described as being "for boys of eight to 80", it's fab with short chapters on all sorts of things from the rules of cricket to famous battles to flags of the world, etc.

    It also has several chapters on basic grammar, too. Highly recommended! :)

  4. Grow up, the Obama's are incredibly articulate and literate degree holders in areas which require high levels of literacy.

    They can use grammar, but are not entirely inerrant.

    They have made a couple of real mistakes. This isn't one of them.

  5. Are you commenting as anonymous because you haven't got a clue about English usage yourself and don't want to be identified? Or did you get a packet of apostrophes for Easter and want to use as many of them as possible before they go mouldy?


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