Tuesday, July 19, 2016

It Was, Was It?

Back in your middle school days, where the tides of rebellion washed over you from a different direction each day, you meshed with a place in the curriculum and found quite by accident a place to retreat. 

Some of your instructor were suggesting your interest in the English poet, Wordsworth, while admirable, was perhaps premature. But--pace Wordsworth--the world at that time was too much with you, and you did;t have to wait until you became an English major at UCLA to enjoy Wordsworth's poem that began, "Strange fits of passion have I known/"

Your place of retreat came in a grammar class, where the task at hand was learning how to diagram sentences. Your inner and outer cholers experienced remarkable shifts. 

You were enthusiastic rather than surly or frustrated or bored or any of the other things boys your age felt when they were sighting in on puberty, self-awareness, and anger.  One teacher went so far as to ask you if you were feeling all right and if there were things troubling you at home.

Of course you were feeling all right. You were at the age where feeling all right meant being frustrated, wanting with some desperation to attract the interest of a girl with the exotic name of Helayne, hopeful of extending your then five-foot-seven-inch frame to a height more like your father's, and wondering what all the fuss about social skills had to do with anything.

Diagramming sentences seemed to open a door, and when your interest vector and the curriculum vector began to diverge, you did what you knew best; you rebelled. But you did so by spending more time diagramming sentences and doing your image among teachers no good by devoting a semester project in composition to a take-down of a part of speech you'd come to dislike, the adverb.

This is not meant to suggest you were in any way a grammarian, rather one who became intrigued by the ways in which ideas could be, as you put it at the time, herded the way cowboys herded cattle. 

You did know a thing or two about such matters as subjects, predicates, direct objects, transitive and what you were amused to call intransigent verbs, but in a rather glorious way, so you thought, diagramming sentences allowed you enough confidence to proceed by trusting your ear.

Here you are, all these years later, no more prepared for what has been referred to as advanced years than you were for puberty, no more indeed prepared for grammar as such than you are for confronting the sentence, the paragraph, and the scene with the ├ęclat of your imagination.

The one mitigating factor you have is the awareness of and need for revision.

Meanwhile, you are still a fan of diagramming sentences, you are somewhat a better speller than you once were, your position toward adverbs has not softened, you loathe sentences beginning with It; you detest even more sentences beginning with It was.

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