As I noted in a previous entry, I used to post good-grammar reminders on Facebook but stopped nearly a decade ago. Since then, I’ve avoided venting openly, despite regular fingernails-on-the-chalkboard reactions to frequent assaults on our mother tongue on Facebook and elsewhere.
I have tried to demonstrate good grammar in my FB posts and comments. When I could do so without being too obvious, I’ve slipped in a response that followed a rule of grammar violated in the original post.
For example, say the post was, “Today’s sunshine made it a nice day for Zelda and I.” After several other comments, I might enter, “It gave Nancy and me a chance to do some hiking.”
Then, in May of 2018, I came up with another way to demonstrate good grammar subtly. As with the pre-2014 posts, I had no illusions of educating anyone, and my entries most certainly were not directed at any individual. It was just a way to vent. Well, maybe I also wished it might be like hiding a pill in a piece of meat before giving it to a dog.
Unlike in an incident I described in another, unrelated post, I was trying to be “sneaky.” Using colorful backgrounds Facebook offers for short posts, I created a series of memes. The first read, “It’s never too late to have two cups of coffee.” There were a number of “likes” and an enjoyable discussion of the wonders of coffee.
But it wasn’t really about coffee. It was about “too,” “to” and “two.” “It’s never too late to have two cups of coffee.” These are among the homonyms that can confuse some people. This phrase showed all three used correctly.
I created the memes while having my morning coffee. So the invigorating brew was a natural subject. The next two also had coffee as a theme.
The second was “It’s time for coffee to work its magic,” demonstrating a difference between “it’s” and “its.”
(In an English-class assignment during my junior year in high school, I wrote an “it’s” that should have been an “its.” My teacher, one of the best I ever had, circled the error and wrote “Ouch!” in the margin. A teachable moment. Since then, when I see the mistake, I think “Ouch!”)
A few days later, I attacked the often confusing (for some) “you’re” vs. “your” with “Early starts can be difficult, but after a little coffee, you’re on your way.” See? You’re on your way.
In the comments, I was able to add a treatment of “they’re-their-there.” I noted, “Not too difficult, though, because I’m headed to 7 a.m. Bible study. Some don’t have coffee at home before they leave. They’re content to wait to have their first cup there at the church house.” (Italics inserted here.)
And then there’s always the apostrophe. Very useful but often misused. I had already addressed the it’s-its problem. Also troubling is that many people seem to think the letter S must always be preceded by an apostrophe.
The Carolina Hurricanes once had a goalie named Peters. In a Facebook discussion, I saw a fan insert an apostrophe before the last letter of his name. His name! More recently, on a Seinfeld-themed page, someone did the same in a reference to Michael Richards, the actor who played Kramer. “Richard’s” either means “belonging to Richard” or is a contraction of “Richard is” or, occasionally, “Richard has.”
One day I came up with a way to show the apostrophe’s proper use in a possessive and its proper absence from a plural: ” ‘Hey Jude’ was 1968’s top hit and one of the biggest for the 1960s.” It generated some discussion of music and memories associated with that song.
At another time — maybe a couple of times — I’ve posted, “If you visit the Bectons’ home, you may see two or three Bectons, and you might get to hear Daniel Becton’s music.”
I don’t know if the subliminal messages about grammar registered in anyone’s subconscious. I’m sure the number would be between zero and “pretty small.” Likely closer to zero. But in any case, thinking up the posts was fun and a worthwhile mental exercise for me.
Hold onto your hats. Chances are you’re going to see more of these nuggets later in the 2020s. They’re forming in my mind, and I won’t want them to stay there.