Monday, November 23, 2009

Use the comparative degree with 2, superlative with 3 or more

From yesterday's Parade magazine: "[Hugh] Grant grew up in London, the youngest of two brothers."

Harbrace 4c (1) Use the comparative to denote a greater degree or to refer to two in a comparison.

The metropolitan area is much bigger than it was five years ago.
She's the older of his two children.

(2) Use the superlative to denote the greatest degree or to refer to three or more in a comparison.

The interests of the family are best served by open communication.
Bert is the fastest of the three runners.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lost Chapters of "A Death in the Family" and the Agee centennial celebrations

This fall the University of Tennessee has been celebrating the James Agee Centennial.
This coming weekend includes lectures by two prominent UT professors -- Paul Ashdown on Agee’s lost writings by and Michael A. Lofaro on his five years of editing work on A Death in the Family: A Restoration of the Author's Text (UT Press).
As Knoxvillians know, James Agee's original manuscript had been reworked by a friend of Agee's after Agee's sudden death in 1955. Four of many "lost chapters" appeared in Harper's under the headline "Enter the Ford."
Knoxvillians will delight in many descriptions of 1913 Knoxville, such as that of riding the open streetcar from Gay Street downtown out to Chilhowee Park for the fair, where Agee's father takes offense at an imagined slight by a carnie, which initiates a long, priceless series of whupass-type exchanges like the following: "If you're lookin for trouble," the man said, "just say the word, cause there's plenty here that's paid to find it."
"Just if you want it," daddy said. "If you want it I'll give you all I got. You and them too. Way you talked tother Satdy you was looking for it."
The lost chapters present a new element to the novel -- that of "daddy's" new Ford as an alluring, yet ominous addition to the idyllic world of Agee's childhood. At one point Laura, the mother says, "... something dreadful is going to happen, Jay. Something irreparable. To our family. In that auto."
We also see an early example of road rage, as a speeding, honking, begoggled driver on Highland Avenue roars by a horse and buggy and then Jay's Ford, toppling the family to the side of the street, then looks back with a grin. "Why you crazy God damn son of a bitch I like to bust yer f---- God damn jaw!" And his door was already wrenched open and one foot was out before he realized the uselessness. "I swear to God I could kill a man like that," he said. "I mean it. I could kill him and it'd be a pleasure to."
Some things haven't changed too much on Knoxville's roadways.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Who's your Daddy" redux: the New York Post taunts Pedro Martinez

The New York Post strives each day to equal the greatest tabloid headline of all time: Headless body found in topless bar.

Yesterday, perhaps testing the bounds of objective journalism, the Post's ran the front page above.

The "Daddy" reference goes back four years, to Martinez's memorable words after a tough outing against the Yankees.

To honor the Bronx Bombers, we reprise the discussion of who's vs. whose and other pesky contractions vs. possessives.

Right: "Who's interested in finding out whose books these are?"
Right: "Who's your Daddy?" chanted the crowd at Yankee Stadium when Pedro Martinez, then with the Red Sox, came on in relief.
Right: Whose team won the ACLS?

Like "your" and "you're" and "its and it's," "whose" and "who's" are misused every day, I guess because the apostrophe makes you think "possessive."

Anyway --

"Who's" is a contraction of "who is."
"Whose" is the possessive pronoun.

"You're" is a contraction of "you are."
"Your" is the possessive pronoun.

"It's" is a contraction of "it is."
"Its" is the possessive pronoun.

Click here for a full discussion of the expression "Who's your daddy?"

Click here for photos of Yankees fans taunting Pedro back in 2005.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Praise for Chuck Berry, the poet laureate of rock 'n' roll

As John Lennon once said, "If you tried to give rock 'n' roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry." Berry's advice (much like that of Strunk & White): "When you're writing a song, nouns and verbs will carry you right through."

November 02, 2009
Editorial Notebook: Memphis
Chuck Berry's "Memphis, Tennessee" has been haunting me - the metrical precision of the lyrics, its emotional realism and, of course, the revelation in the penultimate line.

In the Times op-ed piece linked above, Klinkenborg mentions that "Memphis" reminds us how much country was in Chuck Berry's rock 'n' roll. Yes, Berry's first hit was a country parody, Maybellene. But he also wrote lyrics like ---

Milo Venus was a beautiful lass,
had the world in the palm of her hand.
She lost both her arms in a wrasslin' match,
to meet a brown-eyed handsome man.

And of course --

Roll over, Beethoven, and tell Tchaikovsky the news.