Demonic Mnemonics


Tonight's critique group got off on the rousing (!) topic of a couple of persistent grammar demons that plague us.

Ever have trouble remembering whether it's, "If I were going to that party, I'd certainly make a point to keep it in my pants" or "If I was going to the party..." So which is correct?

The subjunctive mood is used ("were") in the case of a purely imaginary or highly unlikely event. For example, the party's being given by the Queen of England or a convention of lesbian ex-nuns. When the situation is more plausible, you'll probably want to stick with "was." For example, if the event turned out to be a writers' party with an open bar.

The usual who/whom confusion was also a topic of conversation. (Usually, we're not this boring. Promise.) "Who" is a subject, which acts. For example, "This is my agent, who takes a smaller cut than the IRS." Because the agent is doing the taking (natch), the correct usage is who.

"Whom," on the other hand, is an object, someone being acted upon. For example, "Whom did you invite to the Queen's reception honoring lesbian ex-nuns?"

But perhaps the evening's most popular example dealt with the strange past tense of the verb "to hang." I've never understood why judges in Westerns sentence criminals to be hanged by the neck until they are dead (as opposed to hung). As someone once explained to me, "A man can be hung like a horse or hanged like a heretic."

I've never forgotten that particular example.

Anyone have any others to share?


Joni Rodgers said…
"A good man does well" to remember the different between adjective good and adverb well.

"It's not me; it's you." For that oft-abused semicolon.

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