A book saved!

Having moved my office, I am overcrowded and looking for books that I should get rid of. The McGraw-Hill Handbook of English, third Canadian Edition, published in 1979, seemed like a prime candidate. Then I came across these marvelous words:

Good writers recognize that not all ideas merit equal rank.

Oh how I would love to know if you can find that phrase in the current edition. It’s so thoroughly judgmental, so hierarchical. I cannot imagine the masters of language during the 90’s could possibly have allowed this phrase to survive.

But I still have it! You cannot take it away from me. In fact, now I have broadcast it to the reading masses.

The fundamental principle of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, the basis of all sound thinking, has been preserved.

I shall keep this book, humbly and reverentially. I shall give it an honored place on my shelf next to The Holt Handbook, also third edition, 1992. It expresses the idea a bit more sheepishly, more concretely, less in your face. But the authors at least admit the obvious:

When you want to indicate that one idea is less important than another, you subordinate the secondary idea to the primary one.

Now, having let the cat out of the bag, the authors get a little carried away. Watch this:

Independent clauses can stand alone as sentences.

Followed, after a couple examples, by this:

Dependent clauses, introduced by subordinating conjunctions or relative pronouns, cannot stand alone.

They must be out of their MINDS! Who do they think they are suggesting that some things are dependent and others independent, that some things are more important than others (ironically, I might contend this phrasing, but we’ll leave that aside for now). Do they not recognize that the very structure of language is tyrannical, hierarchical, judgmental?

Do they not know the only cure to these plagues?

What is the cure, you ask?

Stop teaching people how to think coherent thoughts.

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One Response

  1. lol, Andrew. This is one of the reasons I obsessively collect really old grammar books. They actually talk about GOOD (gasp!) grammar and BAD (shudder!) grammar. Not formal or informal, standard or non-standard; good and bad. It gives me a thrill every time I look at them.

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