Courtesy of Analytical Grammar
The sun has just entered the house of Scorpio. Or something. I know this because I’ve been dipping into my wonderful old perpetual almanac of folklore and there was an interesting thing about that star sign taken from the Kalendar of Shepheardes published in 1604.
It begins The man born under Scorpio shall have good fortune. He shall be a great fornicator… I’m not sure whether the latter is supposed to be directly related to the former, but it also warns that He shall suffer pain in his privy members at fifteen years old… so perhaps Scorpios commenced their fornicating careers early in those days.
Women don’t fare so well. She shall suffer pain in her stomach and wounds in her shoulders, and ought to fear her latter days, which shall be doubtful by reason of venom.
I hasten to add that I’m a Virgo.
I follow a Facebook group called Analytical Grammar, which isn’t nearly as dry as it sounds and in fact is often quite entertaining. Take this sign seen at a church in Ullapool:
I don’t know whether my millions of international readers will quite get why it’s (unintentionally) funny, but at first sight (and second and third) it looks very much like a vernacular word we use in the UK for one’s posterior.
…is it possible to fit onto one slender forearm?
(Never mind the spelling – anyone spot our old friend the dodgy parenthetical clause?)
To provide a bit of glamour and excitement for my readers, I thought I would examine the wonderful world of the parenthetical clause in today’s posting.
I was reading an article in my newspaper yesterday which unwittingly provides an example of what can happen if you lose track of your commas. Commas can be used like brackets (parentheses) as in He won the race, his first of the season, by two seconds.
The information between the commas is a parenthetical clause and if you removed it you would still have a complete sentence. Overlooking the last comma, as some do, results in a completely different meaning:
He won the race, his first of the season by two seconds.
Technically speaking you would be saying that it was his first race of the season by two seconds, ie he started his second race of the season two seconds after the end of his first one. Which would be pretty good going.
That one is pretty easy to spot, and the problem often comes in more complex sentences like the one I read yesterday about Marilyn Manson, who was squashed by falling stage scenery. Personally, I think there is a kind of natural justice in people who name themselves after mass murderers getting squashed by ‘a huge pistol-shaped prop’, although if I’d been on hand I would probably have been magnanimous enough to help him out. If he begged a bit.
Anyway, the article read:
The singer, whose real name is Brian Warner, was rescued by stage hands who lifted the structure off but did not stand up.
That seems very lazy on the part of the stage hands to me. Presumably they
happened to be sitting within arm’s reach having a cuppa or something. I dare say that from the comfort of your chair, if you were really careful you could lift the prop with one hand without spilling your tea held in the other. Or could they have been ‘taking the knee’? It’s very popular these days. The other possibility is that there’s something amiss with the punctuation. The whole thing is actually a bit clumsy. You could put a comma after ‘off’, but it would still be rather clunky and adding ‘he’ after ‘but’ would make it clearer. Personally, I think it’s a bit of a mouthful and I’d break it up into two sentences.
To be fair, newspaper production happens at a much faster pace than the kind of writing I’m used to so things like this are bound to slip through – but let it be a lesson to the unwary.
(Any mistakes, punctuation or otherwise, in this article, which was written at a very fast pace, are entirely deliberate, on my part, as a sort of test to my readers.)
I’ve just received the latest copy of Aquila, the children’s magazine I write for, and this month’s theme is ‘Forest Adventure’.
Everyone in the literary world is unanimous in describing an article about the Green Man as being the highlight of this edition – and I can modestly reveal that just happens to have been written by yours truly.
Although I’m a Buddhist, I’ve always been drawn to our pagan roots and the way they help us keep in touch with the natural world and the rhythms and cycles of nature. I have a little Green Man in my little garden, so as soon as Aquila asked for ideas based around forests and woodlands I jumped in with the idea and fortunately they took me up on it.
The Green Man represents different things to different people, but I like to think of him as watching over nature. We can find him if we only take the time to pause and appreciate our surroundings. But he doesn’t just dwell in woods and gardens. For a pagan being, he is surprisingly common in carvings in old churches and cathedrals when you stop to look, both inside and out.