WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE, EH? PART 10: “WHAT’S IN A NAME?”…

…”THAT WHICH WE CALL A ROSE, BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD SMELL AS SWEET.”

Ah yes, the unforgettable lines spoken by Juliet to her lover Romeo in Shakespeare’s most poignant lyrical tragedy ‘Romeo and Juliet’. No attempt will be made to explain the context of these words; we use them instead, to bring to light some of the most disturbing and, at times, disparaging moments when attempting to learn the rudiments (a fancy word for ‘basics’) of a language.

You see, one of the problems with learning anything is having to deal with the inherent duplicity of terms. For example, remember a few lessons ago when we introduced the four types of sentences? Yes, there are, have been and always will be, only four ways of expressing a complete thought, but when we count up the actual number of alternate names, we arrive at nine. How do we get from four to nine? We give you duplicity…

THE FOUR TYPES OF SENTENCES:

1. Statement 2. Question 3. Command 4. Exclamation

…AND ‘A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME…”

1. Statement, Assertive, Declarative 2. Interrogative, Question 3. Imperative, Command 4. Exclamatory, Exclamation

I suppose we’ll have to blame the folks who came up with the original system of naming types of sentences. Imagine, if you will, a group of scholars (or knights) sitting around the table of inventiveness trying to come to an agreement as to which word might best capture the essence of a particular type of sentence. These scholarly knights have been arguing for days…

Scholar 1 says, “I think the word ‘statement’ is the perfect summation for a group of words which simply tells or informs, eh, what?”

Scholar 2 retorts, “Oh Rodney, that’s hardly a clever term. I should think ‘assertive’ is a tad bit more intellectual. To ‘assert’ oneself is to state with undeniable assurance…er, confidence…yes, absolute force! I think we must call it an assertive sentence…I rest my case…”

Scholar 3 adds, “Most humble gentlemen, if one is to make known or explain a simple fact, then we must surely consider the motive as one of declaration; hence, I suggest we call it a declarative sentence…”

The volley of voices begin, growing louder and more frenzied as each of the scholars vie for the victory…chairs are upended…swords are drawn…enter the Court Jester who sees the need for a cooling-off period…

“Sir knights of the square table…put down your weapons and rekindle your sense of sanity… how sad it is to watch yon keepers of the holy grail of grammar grovel greedily. How sad indeed!”

A light goes on! Silence enters the room and the angry men with ruffled collars eye one another…”Hmmm, says the one, I do believe the Fool has given us food for thought. He utters the word SAD, but my friends, this could make us all happy. ‘Statement’, Assertive’, ‘Declarative’…we all win gentlemen…S.A.D. it shall be! Do we all agree?”

“Hear, hear!” (end of story)

Obviously, one of the scholars left the table (some suggest he ran off with the Fool) shortly thereafter, leaving the other two to agree on names for the remaining three types of sentences. In the end, after a good deal of good-natured prattle, during which neither scholar could agree with the other, the following framework (of duplicity) was summarized…

Interrogative/Question (I.Q)

Imperative/Command (I.C.)

Exclamation/Exclamatory (Exclam)

A foolhardy fable indeed! The fact is, we are saddled with duplicity and must bear it…so suck it up folks and let’s move forward…on to more duplicity!

For our next lesson, we want you to delve into the world of Legoland. That’s correct, we are talking about building with blocks (or blockheads as the case may be). The analogy will help you understand how sentences can be written in such a way as to bring clarity, interest and in many cases downright brilliance. Again however, get ready to ‘soak up the sum’ of duplicity. Constructing sentences, Act One, begins…(from the ground up)

A simple sentence (subject/predicate) can also be called a principal or independent clause. It stands alone as a complete thought. Examples of simple sentences (a.k.a. principal or independent clauses) are as follows:

The moon shone brightly.

Romeo is a Montague.

Many people adored the young lovers..

How brilliant! So short and sweet! Each subject and predicate connecting perfectly. A complete thought  (also known as a simple sentence, principal or independent clause) is born. Magnificent!

Alas ye lovers of Lego…build on! Weave together a more intricate web of words and construct anew…Take two simple sentences and marry them together using a coordinating conjunction…Behold, the compound sentence!

The moon shone brightly, and the stars twinkled in the sky.

Romeo was a Montague, but Juliet was a Capulet. (in case you haven’t read the play, Montague and Capulet are the young lovers’ surnames)

Many people adored the young lovers, yet their warring families continued the feud.

Note: The comma before the conjunction is recommended but not necessary.

Now would be a good time to give you a GRAMMAR HEADS UP! Many writers, especially younger ones or those learning English as a second language, will put two simple sentences together without using a conjunction. A comma is used in its place.  This is a major grammatical boo-boo! NO CAN DO, DO! What you manage to create is what is known in Grammarland as a run-on sentence. A comma is not strong enough to connect two simple sentences; a coordinate conjunction, on the other hand, is.

Having said that, there is a punctuation mark that can be used effectively to replace the conjunction. Please reread the last sentence of our previous paragraph and you should be able to spot it. Yes, the semicolon (a combination of a period atop a comma) can do the trick. It’s an effective alternative to using a conjunction, but don’t overuse it. It’s also important to remember that when using a semicolon the two simple sentences must have something in common (unlike the knights of the square table who couldn’t agree on anything). Check these out…

The moon shone brightly; the stars twinkled in the sky.

Romeo was a Montague; Juliet was a Capulet.

Many people adored the young lovers; their warring families continued the feud.

And there you have it! Well, there’s more of course…isn’t there always more? We shall return anon (Shakespearean term meaning soon) with yet another dose of duplicity…till then…Watch Your Language, eh?

Bloggingfrog and Lily

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