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Posts tagged ‘grammar’


Spinning Yarns, part 2–Me, Myself, and I

Speaking of writing in the first person, I have struggled with this for years. It is really annoying to have to re-write when composing an email to a friend. The I-did-this, and I-did that, gets old and needs to be repaired grammatically. However…that might get pretty boring and contrived.

Sorry to be the grammar police, but that is my nature. It has always pained me to find a glaring error in a serious piece of work–NOT to say a typo, although too many typing mistakes (i.e. hitting the wrong key) questions one’s ability) –but a word that is misused or misspelled out of ignorance. A painful misuse of the language is not necessarily due to ignorance…I myself spelled “receive” with the i and e reversed, until a copywriter sent me a kind reminder (“hey-dummy, it’s I before E except after C…) and yes, I was there the day the teacher taught the rule. So now I always pause in my typing (keyboarding) and recite the rule in my brain…. I before E except after C. I before E except after C….

I was well along in grad school when someone corrected my pronounciation of “amphitheater” and my son and daughter-in-law informed me of how to say “Pythagoras” the right way. Well, in my defense, those old Greeks had a lot of names that defied pronounciation in English.

Another thing, althought I once aspired to be a linguist, I became a Historian instead. Linguistics has always fascinated me, though. Back in my freshman year of high school I studied Latin, and that one-semester course has proven to be one of the most valuable sources of background knowledge for me in my future (actually, past) endeavors of life. To this day I can recite from the text: “Britain est insula.” Pretty good, huh?

Using the right word at the right time is part of fluency in any language. English is a bad example, to me, because it is nearly impossible to master without a lot of memorization. Spanish has been relatively easy for me although it is very hard for an advanced adult to learn a second language. I can read fairly well, but speaking is another sotry. Now French–yikes! I needed a second foreign language credit, so chose French For Reading Proficiency. My Spanish helped greatly, as did the semester of basic Latin long ago. But when it came to the final exam, I was lucky to eke out a C. The instructor told me that my translations were beautiful, but I was too slow and did not do enough in the allotted time. I can explain that: French is packed with nuances and specific meanings, and I admit to taking an inordinate amount of test time to browse the dictionary (which was allowed.) So my translation was good, but I wasn’t fast enough…or to put it another way, the goal was a rough translation, not necessarily accuracy.

The only other C on my transcript was in Geology. They tricked me on identifying the rocks. (Another story.)

So anyway, it would have been cumbersome and awkward to try to write the foregoing piece without resorting to the first person…. me, myself, and I.

I did edit this yarn…and there were some really dumb mistakes. Not in the typing, but in using the wrong word, being vague, and getting carried away with aside comments. The grammar police really need to be careful of how they word things!

It did give me some blog ideas for another time though… 🙂


Spinning Yarns…wonderful double entrendre…

Ah ha! I just got it…”spinning yarns” has a double meaning: a literal definition in which a spinner spins yarns, on a spinning wheel, creating something substantial from something entirely different: producing a strong workable thread of wool or acrylic fibres. Actually something of a misnomer, as what the spinner actually spins are fibres, to produce yarn with which to make sweaters or blankets, etc.

“Spinning yarns” in the context of literary writing, means a writer takes a thought or idea, and turns it into a more or less complicated work of telling a story (or yarn.) To compare or contrast the two definitions are similar in that someone creates something useful and interesting of something that is nothing like the original. A dab of sheep’s wool, dirty and tangled, is spun into a fibre–and a writer’s insight becomes a story that comes of an idea. It can be said that something is made out of nothing: a fibre becomes a hank of yarn, which becomes a sweater; an idea becomes a series of thoughts, which becomes a coherent story.

Spinning a yarn is a metaphor for creating a story.

My current favorite author is Philippa Gregory. The single most important feature of her writing is that it is so well-written, and her prose so riveting, that it keeps me reading into the night and it is difficult for me to put the book down. As a Historian myself, I enjoy the combination of well-researched details of life in medieval times, and the convincing background information and believable characters, both fictional and biographical. Even when the plot twists are predictable, or factual history in nature, Gregory’s writing always rings true and fascinating.

The larger-than-life character of King Henry VIII, and his life and times (and wives and significant others) is always captivating. This is historical fiction at its best, and while dialogue and details of activities are not always necessarily verifiable in fact, there is enough biographical and historical information to be convincing.

Two other authors that I can always count on to satisfy the thirst for fiction are John Grisham and Lisa Scottoline. Both write what I call “lawyer fiction” and involve realistic incidents and convincing dialogue. The courtroom scenes are exciting, and the characters are always entertaining and believable. These writers are indeed “yarn spinners,” spinning/creating tales/yarns that always hold my attention, and are always my first choice of fiction to read at airport or doctors’ office waiting rooms. They never disappoint in holding interest, and guarantee moving plots that skip along without bogging down.

There is nothing like really “getting into” an excellent work of fiction, and experiencing a jolt of realization of return to consciousness in the reality in which the reader is sitting…outside of the book. This is the kind of writing that I love–yarns spun out of the ability to weave a spell.