southtownstar
DECENT 
Weather Updates

Grammar Snob IV: The Quest for Peace

Superman is perhaps only one who still can pull off looking stylish cape.  | File photo

Superman is perhaps the only one who still can pull off looking stylish in a cape. | File photo

storyidforme: 22784003
tmspicid: 8480897
fileheaderid: 3837663

Updated: January 17, 2013 10:50AM



Like many others who grew up idolizing the likes of Batman and Iron Man, I’ve always wanted to be a superhero.

I could do without the close-fitting tights, and I’m pretty sure capes went out of style right around the time Charles Darwin rocked the boat on organized religion with his theory of evolution (also known as 1859).

But the superpowers? Count me in.

Sadly, instead of getting bit by a radioactive spider and subsequently using the powers of superhuman strength and perfect balance to swing through the streets of New York, I live more or less like the rest of you: superpowerless.

I do have one gift, though: the ability to anger a whole heck of a lot of people in a single bound by pointing out their grammatical flaws.

Back in May, mild-mannered reporter Jason Freeman became the Grammar Snob, who is not faster than a speeding bullet but can tell you if you’re using the incorrect verb tense in a sentence.

Although some folks cheered on this new champion of truth, justice and the grammatical way, others told him in no uncertain terms how much of a self-important yahoo he was.

When it comes to using correct grammar, there always will be those who champion it and those who oppose it.

It’s about as quietly tense as the Cold War was, only without all of that nuclear nonsense.

I’m hopeful that one day we’ll all be able to get along.

In the meantime, here are my latest suggestions for correct grammar.

While you read them, I’m going to put a spider next to my microwave for a few hours and then anger it to the point where it bites me.

I want to be able to shoot webs out of my wrists, damn it. Is that too much to ask?

I vs. me

For some reason, people think they always should use “I” and never “me” in a sentence.

Guess what? It all depends on the pronoun’s relationship to the verb.

“I” is a subjective pronoun and refers to the person performing the action of a verb, whereas “me” is an objective pronoun and refers to which person the action of a verb is being done.

You’d say, “I can wear tights with the best of them,” because you are the one wearing the tights (but please, don’t actually wear tights).

You’d also say, “Superman just punched me,” because you’re the one receiving the punch.

(And my guess is it probably would hurt — a lot. They don’t call him the Man of Steel because he works construction).

Who vs. whom

It’s tough sometimes to know whether to use “who” or “whom” in a sentence.

Just like the above example, “who” is a subjective pronoun and “whom” is an objective pronoun.

You’d say, “He who can shoot webs from his wrists must in turn fight crime” just as you’d say, “Spider-Man is the superhero whom you encountered while robbing that old lady at gunpoint.”

Sentence fragments

Sentence fragments can’t stand on their own because they don’t express a complete thought.

Some examples include “doesn’t like kryptonite” and “a superhero who likes to fight crime.”

The first example lacks a subject (we’re not sure exactly who doesn’t like kryptonite), and the second example lacks a main verb (“likes” isn’t the main verb in this case; it just further describes the subject, “a superhero”).

And yes, I realize I sometimes use sentence fragments. I even used one in this column (can you find it?).

Sometimes creativity allows you to bend the rules, much in the way Superman can bend a light pole in half without even breaking a sweat.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.