They say we become our parents. I can remember hearing my mother yell at the TV if a newscaster dared to make a grammatical error. I find myself yelling at the TV, the newspaper and many novels. “Where are you at?” makes me cringe. I hear sentences ending in “at” from the pulpit, the newsroom and the politician’s mouth. Apparently, shortly after I graduated from high school someone removed the rule that said not to end a sentence with a preposition.
Diagramming of sentences must have also ended. “It was her/him/them,” is another frequent offender. Has no one heard of the predicate nominative? Do they call it something else these days? Do they mention it at all?
I realize that grammar rules can be relaxed in dialogue, but are all speakers grammatically challenged? One book I read quoted a college English professor as saying, “She is older than me.” I think not, or at least, I hope not. The construction here is that there is an omitted but understood verb. “She is older than I (am).”
Direct objects also suffer misuse. “They took Jim and I out to dinner.” Since no one would say, “They took I out to dinner,” I don’t understand why this is confusing. “I” which should be “me” is the direct object of “took” as is “Jim”.
I don’t claim to be perfect. I know I have written sentences that are shall we say, less than illuminating. I know I have used punctuation incorrectly at times and the wrong word for a given situation. Our language can be a subtle and confusing thing. But the grammar that I hear so often mangled was once taught in seventh grade, if not earlier.
Once learned, grammar remains. Our son, who was a less than stellar student, still corrects his grammar when he is talking to me. “See, Mom,” he says, “I did learn something.” If he could teach a class for local newscasters, there might be hope.
Susan Williamson is a novelist and freelance writer as well as a former extension agent, riding instructor, newspaper editor and food-coop manager. She is the author of How to Get By As Time Goes By, How to Buy Your First Horse, published by High Tide Publications. She also the author of the novels Turkmen Captives and Dead on the Trail. She is a contributor to Next Door Neighbors Magazine as well as Tidewater Women.