Dave Barry on Grammar


It's time for another edition of "ask mister language person," the column
that answers your questions about grammer, vocabulary, and those little
whaddayacallem marks.

Q.  What are the rules regarding capital letters?

A.  Capital letters are used in three grammatical situations:
   1.  At the beginning of proper or former nouns.
       EXAMPLES:  Capitalize "Queen,"  "Tea Party," and "Rental Tuxedo."  
       Do NOT capitalize "dude,"  "cha-cha," or "boogerhead."
   2.  To indicate a situation of great military importance.
       EXAMPLE:  "Get on the TELSAT and tell STAFCON that COMWIMP wants 
       some BBQ ASAP."
   3.  To indicate that the subject of the sentence has been bitten by a
       badger.
       EXAMPLE:  "I'll just stick my hand in here and OUCH!"

Q.  Is there any difference between "happen" and "transpire"?

A.  Grammatically, "happen" is a collaborating inductive that should be 
    used in predatory conjunctions such as:  "Me and Norm here would like 
    to buy you two happening mommas a drink."  Whereas "transpire" is a 
    suppository verb that should always be used to indicate that an event 
    of some kind has transpired.
    WRONG:  "Lester got one of them electric worm stunners."
    RIGHT:  "What transpired was, Lester got one of them electric worm
    stunners."

Q.  Do you take questions from attorneys?

A.  Yes.  That will be $475.

Q.  No, seriously, I'm an attorney, and i want to know which was correct:
    "With regards to the aforementioned" blah blah blah.
    OR:
    "With regards to the aforementioned" yak yak yak.

A.  That will be $850.

Q.  Please explain the expression "this does not bode well."

A.  It means something is not boding the way it should.  It could be boding
    better.

Q.  Did an alert reader named Linda Bevard send you an article from the
    December 19, 1990, Denver Post concerning a Dr. Stanley Biber, who
    was elected commisioner in Las Animas County, and who is identified 
    in the article as "the world's leading sex-change surgeon"?

A.  Yes

Q.  And what did Dr. Biber say when he was elected?

A.  He said, quote: "We pulled it off."

Q.  Please explain the correct usage of "exact same."

A.  "Exact same" is a corpuscular phrase that should be used only when
    something is exactly the same as something.  It is the opposite (or 
    "antibody") of "a whole nother."
    EXAMPLE:  "This is the exact same restaurant where Alma found weevils 
    in her pie.  They gave her a whole nother slice."

Q.  I am going to deliver the eulogy at a funeral, and I wish to know 
    whether it is correct to say: "Before he died, LaMont was an active 
    person."  or "LaMont was an active person before he died."

A.  The American Funeral Industry Council advises us that the preferred 
    term is "bought the farm."

Q.  Where should punctuation go?

A.  It depends on the content.
    EXAMPLE:  Hi Mr Johnson exclaimed Bob Where do you want me to put 
    these punctuation marks Oh just stick them there at the end of the 
    following sentence answered Mr Johnson OK said Bob ".!"."?"?,,".."!".  
    The exception to the rule is teenagers who should place a question 
    mark after every few words to make sure people are still listening.
    EXAMPLE:  "So there's this kid at school? Named Derrick?  And he's 
    like kind of weird?  Like he has a picture of Newt Gingrich carved in 
    his hair?  So one day he had to blow his nose?  Like really bad?  But 
    he didn't have a tissue?  So he was like sitting next to Tracy Steakle?  
    And she had this sweater?  By like Ralph Lauren?  So Derrick takes the 
    sleeve?  And he like..."

PROFESSIONAL WRITING TIP:  In writing a novel or play, use "foreshadowing"
   to subtly hint at the outcome of the plot.
   WRONG:  "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?"
   RIGHT:  "O Romeo, Romeo!  I wonder if we're both going to stab 
   ourselves at the end of the plot?"





Back to Lori's Humor Page

Back to Lori's Home Page


This Page Sponsored by Geocities. For a totally free web page (no strings attached), Click Here