That is easier said than done. To what extent I fail to write right is made obvious nearly every time I read one of my columns in the paper.
I will illustrate how that point was emphasized just a few days ago. That will be done by first ask-ing three questions. Read them carefully.
How many two’s are in the English language?
No, I mean how many too’s are in the language?
Or maybe I should ask how many to’s are there in our language?
Really none of those questions convey the thought intended. All three of those words sound alike but have different meanings or usages in our everyday speech or writing.
Now don’t anyone jump on me about the apostrophe (‘) in each of the three words above by claim-ing possessive case is indicated. Possession is not involved at all. Somewhere I read the rule that you can use an apostrophe to form plurals of words without regard to their meaning; thus, I can ask “How many too’s in the English language?”
But, there it was as a heading in one of the columns on the sports page Times. I had written “To Many Distractions from the Game.” That isn’t the right word. The word to means toward or in the direction of. The sentence should have read, “Too many distractions.”
These three words (to, too, two) fall into that category called homonyms. These are words sound-ing alike but having entirely different meanings.
I was writing about the Calhoun-Sonoraville football game and the word in the expression “too many distractions from the game” was used in the sense of “more than enough,” or “to a regrettable extent.”
Without going into detail, there were too many distractions before and far beyond the actual play on the field. A term paper could be written about the matter. Without hesitation, I here affirm it would be a pleasure to treat in print the whole situation. It would be interesting and controversial. Expediency ruled in my heart in this case and it is a distant issue to me. It will continue to dim in items of importance until someone speaks in a demeaning manner and generates issues beyond their qualifications to make their case. Then the light will burn brighter. My position leading up to the game and during the game was simply play ball and let each team score as many points as possi-ble.
Now, back to “writing right.”
During the same week that erroneous word appeared in one column, there were several words out of whack in another column.
Lest we forgot our grammar lessons, we all know nouns and verbs are to agree in number. On this point, I and many others stumble. In addition to that mistake, there were singular words used when they should have been plural. Just believe me as I use this oft spoken expression with kindness and affection, “Miss Legg turned over in her grave.” For a much younger generation, let me tell you Miss Legg was a demanding English teacher to several generations at Calhoun High School. As I told her one time, “Miss Legg, I was afraid of you before I met you, I was afraid of you after I graduated, I was afraid of you for years when I was in the private sector, and I am afraid of you now that I am teach-ing with you.”
No matter which school you attended in the county, do we not all remember the demands made of our English teachers as they tried to tell us about nouns and verbs?
The principle parts were easy. When you got down to the discussion of the various aspects of verbs and had to learn about number, person, voice (you remember, active and passive voice), tense, and the tricky characteristic of verbs known as mood.
It isn’t easy for an old math teacher and football coach to grasp and retain all this stuff. Still, I love to reflect upon it all. My desire is to “write right.”
Still, however one says it, there were far too many distractions to the ball game.