Rhymes With Fuchsia

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Conan, The Grammarian

Yesterday morning I got the latest red-scarf pattern all ready to post; I just needed to upload the files and put the link on my blog, which I figured I'd do right after knitting group. As soon as I got there and pulled out the scarf to work on, however, I was reminded of #6 on my list (note that I did not call this a list of resolutions: I should probably have headed it Ten More Bricks on the Road to Hell) and encouraged to submit the design for publication. I am using "encouraged" here in the sense of "hectored, bullied, nagged, and badgered mercilessly until I gave in," and I am employing the passive voice quite deliberately so as to avoid placing blame where it is richly deserved doesn't belong.

Sadly, however, this means that not only can I give you neither the pattern for nor even a picture of the scarf-in-progress, I can't send it to Red Scarf either. So I will shortly be starting another scarf in simple ribbing.

Instead of a pattern, therefore, I have been inspired by Norma to offer as a public service a brief mnemonic primer on the correct use of its and it's. While I admit that getting this right seems in no way correlated with the ability to turn out consistently funny, moving, inspirational and otherwise effective prose, seeing it wrong will someday drive me wacko; and, let's face it, I'm not too far from the edge. So here we go.

My, your, his, her, and its are all possessive pronouns.

I'm, you're, he's, she's, and it's are all contractions of pronouns and the present tense of the verb to be, meaning I am, you are, and so forth.

You will note that none of the possessive pronouns has an apostrophe (observing in passing that none means not one and is thus singular), and every contraction does have one. By replacing it with another pronoun, you can see whether to use the apostrophe.

While I'm on the subject, I would like point out that might is the past tense of may and is required for conditions contrary to fact. It is incorrect to say "If he had caught that ball, he may have scored a touchdown." Sportscasters have a lot to answer for. (Please do not tell me that that should be "a lot for which to answer": that's the sort of nonsense up with which I won't put.)

Thank you. I feel better now.


  • Yahoo! I'm so glad you listened to everyone yesterday and will be submitting the scarf pattern for publication. I have the privilege of saying it's beautiful since I was one of those present.

    By Anonymous Manise, at 1:37 PM  

  • Congratulations on the big decision -- I have no doubt we'll be seeing it soon.

    On the topic of its and it's, I often screw up. I blame this on my seventh grade English teacher, who told our class that the two were interchangeable. And since that was the only formal unit on grammar I ever had, the notion stuck. Sad, isn't it?

    By Anonymous Erica, at 4:38 PM  

  • May I request that you make the proper use of "I" and "me" when asking a question (it's "Mom, will you take Homer and me to the library?", not "Homer and I")the subject of your next grammar lesson? That makes me NUTS.

    And good on you for making the big decision. My guess is it'll be snapped up in no time.

    By Blogger Ruth, at 5:11 PM  

  • I loved the tutorial! Very entertaining :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:57 PM  

  • Whew. My grammar head is spinning.

    And -- Yay -- Mightn't we see a published pattern soon?

    By Blogger Ann, at 7:32 PM  

  • Good for you, Lucia! Publish that pattern. And punish those apostrophe phools!

    By Blogger Roxie, at 8:38 PM  

  • Giggle!

    By Blogger Scoutj, at 8:41 PM  

  • Or here's another mnemonic that works for my daughter on her math facts. When she gets to 9 times 6, she says, "Oh, this is the one I ALWAYS GET WRONG. So it must be 54."

    So if a person knows she ALWAYS GETS IT WRONG, she should type it's, backspace, backspace, s.


    I am PSYCHED to see your pattern.

    By Blogger Norma, at 9:22 PM  

  • Maybe you should gift Ruth some yarn for the nice encouragement. Maybe it TAKES hectoring and badgering for you to do what you should do.

    Good tutorial.

    By Anonymous Laurie, at 10:42 PM  

  • I'm with Ruth - even on the ABC (Australian radio) where Engish is supposed to be spoke proper, they get the "I"s and "me"s mixed up. Apostrophe Man is the subject of much discussion in one of our newspapers and I'm afraid it's catching - I even find myself - me, the Grammar Polcewoman (it doesn't have the same ring as "policman") - waiving apostrophes around with gay abandon.
    I'm glad that you don't follow the rule of "never end a sentence a preposition with" . Keep up the good work. Dont worry about the knitting - save the world!

    By Blogger Grandma Flea, at 1:05 AM  

  • PS - forgot to mention I can't spell polcwoman and policman!

    By Blogger Grandma Flea, at 1:06 AM  

  • oops - that should be polcewoman.

    By Blogger Grandma Flea, at 1:07 AM  

  • Thanks, teach.

    By Blogger Carole, at 6:37 AM  

  • Already looking forward to the next grammar lesson! And fingers crossed for the pattern -- great decision.

    By Anonymous Kathy, at 9:07 AM  

  • some of us can at least vouch for the beauty of the pattern :) which it is and it deserves to be published with compensation. Go for it!zywxz

    By Anonymous Lynne aka witchypoo, at 10:51 AM  

  • Very goodly putted!

    By Blogger Carol, at 12:24 PM  

  • I'm thrilled that you're going to submit your scarf pattern for publication! :-) Good luck. I'll keep my fingers firmly crossed. :-)

    By Blogger Beth S., at 3:22 PM  

  • Sigh. It's and its it the whole reason that I have an editor for the writing I get paid for. I've been screwing it up forever. I know the rule, I care about the rule, I understand the rule...yet...

    I have decided to try and lead a rich, full and happy life despite this dreadful handicap.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 9:42 AM  

  • its/it's is something I mess up ALL THE TIME and there's really no excuse for it. I took grammar. And there's a copy of Strunk and White ON THE SHELF next to the computer. *sigh* I shall refer back to your most excellent treatise on the subject whenever I am in doubt.

    By Blogger Will Pillage For Yarn, at 1:10 PM  

  • Its amazing what I might could learn from reading you're blog.

    By Blogger lorinda, at 11:25 PM  

  • My son cringed when I red-penciled his English teacher's homework assignment, where the teacher got a whole bunch of those wrong. MOM! I have to be in his CLASS!

    I don't care how you write it away from the kids, sir, but in the classroom, dude...

    I'm so mean...

    By Blogger AlisonH, at 1:55 AM  

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