[DWJ] A grammar realization - Where are we from?

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Fri Apr 13 19:00:56 EDT 2007

Colin was wilfully provocative:

>I can't imagine how you can live without being
>able to tell whether 'your books' refers to one or many possessors.

Medievalists don't have that problem: it's either "thy books" or "your books".

But then, medievalists often don't have to deal with any punctuation at
all, and there's glory for you!  This might explain why many medievalists
of my acquaintance cleave to punctuation so strongly, and get almost
unreasonable when people try to wrest it from them.  (Cleave being one of
those lovely words in English that means the opposite of itself as well.)

In any case I'm not sure why 'your books' should be thought to be a
problem: one must presume that the reader or readers will know whether he
or she or it or they is or are singular or plural, surely?  Second person
writing carries that with it as a given.

I know perfectly well what is going on here, by the way: you got as far as
about half-way through the first chapter of Lynne Truss's *Eats, Shoots and
Leaves*, having fumed your way through the introduction, before you threw
it from you in fury because she irritated you so much, and that chapter is
called "The Tractable Apostrophe"; you're still suffering from a desperate
and unfulfilled desire to clonk her with the book, and since you can't do
that, any mention of the apostrophe reminds you of that frustration, and
causes your fists to clench and steam to come out of your ears in a series
of short puffs which when interpreted by a Native American expert in
smoke-signals clearly read "I'll get that snooty cow if it's the last thing
I do!", and you launch yourself at surrogate Lynne Trusses wherever you
perceive them.  This seems a little unfair on those of us who are quite
fond of the harmless necessary apostrophe, but we still wuv oo weally.
Almost all the time we do.  It makes us want to ruffle your hair and murmur
soothing things like "There, there, wozzums a diddums wozzums den?" and
then run like the blazes or in my case dive behind impenetrable waterweed
with loud cries of "paxpaxpax!"

(Is that pacific enough, Deborah?)


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