Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Past tense, future perfect


 I have been eating so many oranges lately that I think I may become one.


 Buying new sneakers for my children has taken a load off my mind.


 I have been crocheting a blanket for a small, inanimate friend.


 I am acclimating to other mugs for my tea now that I have broken my favorite mug.


 This amaryllis is brightening up my breakfast nook.


 A crockpot bubbling away on the stove top all day makes me happy.


 I will soon be filing my nails in totally rad style.


Organizing embroidery floss keeps me busy for hours.

***
(Don't mind me, I'm just a wannabe grammarian practicing my use of gerunds).

Do you remember learning grammar and composition in school? I do, and the memories are not all happy ones. I have always enjoyed writing, but not because I have any deep appreciation for the mechanics of it. I think it's mostly because I read a lot; reading makes me a better writer because I see how it's supposed to be done. I think I'm a basically articulate speaker as well. My spoken grammar is decent, in any case.

Lately, via homeschool (it's amazing how it makes me reevaluate my own learning), I've been reminded of some of those grammar lessons in school and how I used to agonize over them. I'd spend hours bent over my Warriner's textbooks, struggling to understand the rules. It was not so different from the way I approached math (oddly, French grammar was easier for me to learn). Eventually, someone handed me a copy of Strunk and White's Elements of Style and things got better. Still later, I became an English teacher and, well, there was no turning back then.

I try to go back through the "rules" every now and then, just to be sure I'm doing it right. It's often the case that I am not, especially where commas are concerned. I know I overuse semicolons. It's easy to forget about conventions when you adore words. And how the words can flow! If I'm not careful, if I don't proofread meticulously and streamline every sentence, my blog could easily be a veritable word salad, a pile of disconnected ideas and terms and phrases that tumble out of my head, through my fingers and onto your screen. You would tell my blog to shut up. 

So the self-imposed refresher course continues, most recently with gerunds. I use them a lot. I'm gerund-ing all over the place. They used to scare me, back in the Warriner's days: they're not just words ending in -ing, they're slightly more than that. But what? The panicky feeling came back the other day, I'll have you know. I was an eighth-grader again, sitting in Mrs. Banfield's first-period English class, the radiator hissing and clanking, the plants on the windowsill lush even though Mrs. Banfield never opened the heavy blackout shades for fear of someone's fingers being chopped off (it had already happened once). Stomach-twisting panic: I was just grasping regular verbs and now they wanted me to understand verbs acting as nouns? The indignity of it. But gerunds, as it turned out, were interesting; they were easy to spot and I was already using them. They were everywhere, and they were so flexible! I could handle them. Grammatically speaking, gerunds were my turning point.

37 comments:

  1. I remember our English teacher was off sick and our whole class got divided out amongst the other English teachers' classes. I was sent to a class where the teacher was teaching grammar. What was this amazing stuff? Why did we not get taught this by our teacher? I was fascinated and was a bit sad when our teacher got better and came back to school!

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  2. I bet you were a fantastic English teacher Jennifer. I should take a leaf out of your book. I blog solely on my iPad and it is such a struggle to upload the photos, keep them in the right order for any accompanying text, deal with all the predictive spelling and the weird capitalisation (especially when writing plant names in Latin) that editing is next to impossible so I usually just cross my fingers, press publish and hope any reader understands. I too found French grammar easier to understand than English grammar, maybe because I actually learnt the rules! As an English and European Literature graduate from 1983 I should know better so I think one of my resolutions for this year should be to tidy up my writing when posting and commenting - oops, I've not made a very good start!

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  3. I always had a bit of a soft spot for gerunds too. I don't think I ever completely understood English, my native language, until I minored in Spanish in college. It finally made sense to me.

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  4. Gerunds are one of those little-known grammar points that mark us as grammar nerds -- which, I think, is a good thing to be. I actually did enjoy tasks like diagramming sentences -- but not as much as I liked reading!

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  5. Okay my palms are getting sweaty just thinking about my grammar class in school :)

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  6. I always enjoy these random shots that let us peek into your life. I love your new mug!

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  7. OK.. I had no idea what a gerund was and so I googled it. I read about it and to be honest I got even more confused. I guess I'll leave the English theory to you and I'll just bumble along writing what I do and not worry if it's correct. LOL! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  8. I loved English classes in school. One of my favorite things was diagramming sentences in Mr. Bedell's high school classes. I was so disappointed that my kids didn't have to diagram sentences and I don't think I could do one now if my life depended on it!

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  9. I am happy in my ignorance, I think...

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  10. English lit & History were my favourite classes in school & RE. Just lately I've been revisiting the horrors of physics. My husband has brought home a small size orange reflective jacket especially for me when I walk the hound in the dark mornings. I really do look like an orange! xx

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  11. I am liking this post Jennifer :-) My English teacher at school would be astounded that I ended up as a book editor as I wasn't a good student. Those oranges look good – I had a most delicious, enormous orange yesterday and I'm looking forward to potting up marmalade when I've tracked down some Seville oranges. Sam x

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  12. My grasp of English grammar is abysmal. I picked up English by reading mostly, and by meeting my man, who didn't speak any German. I tried to pick up some essential skills but for me, English grammar lacks the logic I find so comforting in German, Italian and French. I am particularly hopeless with commas and apostrophes. Lots of nice normal happenings in your life! x

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  13. I learnt my English grammar when I learnt German at school! There was little grammar taught in English in my era :(. I get terrified by the terminology I don't even know what a gerund is! But I guess I am using them all the time right?

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  14. I'm with Teresa on this one, I haven't a clue and will just continue in my muddled up way haha, love your pictures Jennifer and I'm totally with you as far as the mug thing is concerned, it's awful when you break your favorite mug it takes me so long to adjust and yes there's nothing nicer than having the crock pot bubbling away knowing that your meal will be there ready for you at just the right time. :)

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  15. I'd never even heard of a gerund before. English definitely wasn't my subject, I lived for maths classes.

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  16. I'm concentrating on that "crockpot bubbling away on the stove top all day makes me happy." Bet the smell / aroma is very good too ...

    All the best Jan

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  17. Well, so much for my English education -- I've never even heard of a gerund. Although, I think I love them. I love knitting and sewing and reading and quilting and ... therefore, I must love them, right? What an interesting post!!! Happy New Year!

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  18. I am an avid reader, but writing is not my thing, neither is Algebra ll that I am still in the mist of, give me an art class any day! ;)

    PS- Sorry about your broken mug, but the new one is pretty.

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  19. Except for the bit about being an English teacher, I felt as though I might have written this post! Like you, I absorbed grammar through extensive reading; when it came time to learn the technicalities I was lost. And yes, learning Spanish and French gave me a better understanding of grammatical terminology and structure than any English course ever did.

    Lovely colourful photos! Perfect viewing for a cold and snowy January day.

    P.S. Since switching to glass pint jars for my tea-drinking, I have not had to bear the grief of losing a favourite mug. Being more or less identical, they are interchangeable and easily replaced. Assignment: Circle all the gerunds in the above paragraph. :D

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  20. A word salad...I love that! Made me laugh out loud. I could read your writing all day. You are such a natural. Have you ever considered writing for magazines, or even writing a book? My favorite subjects in school were always spelling, English and writing. But I hated all the grammar rules! I think I've put a lot of it out of my mind because I had to look up gerunds. ;-)

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  21. My favorite photo is the one of your children's new tennis shoes. So sweet sitting there side by side. My next favorite is the beautiful coffee mug. I was a whiz as diagramming sentences in elementary and junior high school. However, I have forgotten most of it. I guess it's just not as important to me as other things. I should be ashamed of myself I know. I overuse commas and exclamation points all of the time. I'm getting old...I'll use that as an excuse. :-) Have a wonderful day Jennifer.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  22. Reading this post and the above comments was enjoyable exercise for my mind, Jennifer. Thanks! I have a copy of Strunk and White's book but am not familiar with the other book. I also appreciated the link to gerunds. I printed out a copy because it had such good helpful examples, however, it reminded me why I just minored in English and only dared to be a teaching assistant :) xx

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  23. I love these so much - esp the shoes, because I knot that feeling. I also don't mind the odd word salad, so let it fly! :-)

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  24. Hey Jennifer,
    I loved this post, even though I'm not sure that I understood much of it. I nodded sagely all the way through, smiled, got to the end and realised that was how I spent most of my language lesson at school- foreign or otherwise - in a bit of a muddle with it all. However I am totally empathic to the breaking of a favourite mug. It takes time to mourn, and find a replacement. Here's hoping you and your new mug have a happy relationship.
    Leanne xx

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  25. My blog is a potential minefield for the Grammerly inclined. I just fail so badly at understanding the proper uses of commas and semicolons. Usually I wing it. I have a favourite mug too. There is something comforting about a well loved mug :) Wishing you and yours a happy 2016!

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  26. I love the English language, and have a degree in English, but my grammar can be a little shaky. It isn't really studied in schools here, very basic. xx

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  27. Grammar things are a mystery to me. Like you, I think I get a lot of it right simply from seeing it done. I have no idea what any of the things are called. The children come home from school with all sorts of grammary words that I don't know what they are at all. Writing this I am very aware that my grammar has gone all wrong. Sigh. But you know what I mean no? CJ xx

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  28. If we learned anything about gerunds or if that term was even used, I certainly don't remember it. Like Melanie, spelling was my favorite subject. I'm sure I use way too many commas. And there are certain words I probably use incorrectly -- like that and which. My youngest son is always correcting me when I say "good" and he says I should be using "well". :) Always lovely to see bits of your daily life through images. Best wishes, Tammy

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  29. you've lost me, I was one of those who didn't do grammar at school, and my blog is definitely a salad of words...... or maybe a crockpot of simmering words. it's not salad weather!

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  30. My grasp of grammar is good enough to get me through life and make myself understood (mostly) but it's not a subject I've ever been drawn towards. I have known grammar aficionados who were a little snooty and mocked those who made mistakes - perhaps that's what put me off the subject. Thank you for a post about grammar (and life) that was interesting and enjoyable. :-) xx

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    Replies
    1. Also -I spent more time thinking about my grammar in the comment above than is healthy.

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    2. Also -I spent more time thinking about my grammar in the comment above than is healthy.

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  31. I remember learning about gerunds and really liking them. It was the idea that a word could choose whether to be a noun or a verb acting as a noun! I might have missed the point but it worked for me as a way of remembering. I was later very keen on the misrelated participle!

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  32. My grammar is horrible, I fully admit it. I am not one for rules of any kind, just ask my sister who had to correct my papers in high school. And don't even get me started on spelling!
    Meredith

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  33. I'm another of the generation of Brits who weren't taught much formal grammar. In principal I find it interesting but in practice I think some of the best creative writing plays fast and loose with it. Your writing is always marvellous, whether you're "doing it right" or not.

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  34. LOL I am with Teresa....will leave all the english learning to you lol interesting reading xoxo

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  35. Interesting post (as always!) I don't remember being taught grammar in school, I guess I must have been. I have never heard the word 'gerund' before, thank you for introducing me to it! You write so very well Jennifer, I am always delighted when a post from you pops up in my feed X

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Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

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