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Grammar

Though they are in storage now, the little signs that trigger my dismay will be back out soon as the General Primary runoff approaches. The wording on the signs does not approach good grammar. They read ‘˜Advanced Voting’ and, yes, we have been through this before in this space. ‘˜Advanced’ voting would indicate some sort of new form of casting ballots that is in some way ‘˜advanced’ over the previous method. It could be bigger font sizes on the ballot, new technology or even massage chairs to sit in while casting your vote. But no. The signs point to the place where you can vote in advance of election day. So, they should read ‘˜Advance Voting.’ What a difference one letter can make. Grammar and language skills were hammered into us at Virginia Lord Heard Elementary School in Savannah. Stated simply, you did not move on to middle school until you had it down and there was a phalanx of stern teachers in place to enforce rigid compliance. As proof, I offer up Frankie. He smoked Marlboro cowboy killers and rode a Harley to Wilder Junior High where he was in seventh grade. One day, as he slowly pondered the meaning of the word ‘˜merge’ on a highway sign, he died an ugly death on his bike. He became a household word used heavily in parental threats. ‘If you don’t want to end up like Frankie, you better get back in your room and learn how to diagram sentences’ or some variation thereof was often heard in the neighborhood. Under constant threat, we learned tenses, conjunctions and, yes, how to diagram sentences. We spent hours conjugating verbs and all the other minutiae required to become good writers and speakers. That has all been thrown into the waste bin nowadays. Many people cannot even differentiate between ‘˜there,’ ‘˜they’re’ and ‘˜their.’ If folks today had to diagram a sentence to get a driver’s license or SNAP card, the roads would be a lot less crowded and the federal budget balanced. Sadly, poor grammar permeates society and the media. A common error involves the use of the words ‘˜historic’ and ‘˜historical.’ Both are adjectives but with quite different applications. ’˜Historic’ should be used when referring to events, structures or places. President Trump’s recent meeting with Kim Jong Un was ‘˜historic.’ After the powwow, he returned to the equally ‘˜historic’ White House in ‘˜historic’ Washington, D.C. ’˜Historical’ should be used when referring to things. The papers signed at the summit are ‘˜historical’ documents. They will become ‘˜historical’ records. The pens used to sign them are ‘˜historical’ items. The Battle of Gettysburg was an ‘˜historic’ event. The guns used there, relics found on the battlefield like buttons and mini-balls and letters written home by soldiers are ‘˜historical’ treasures. In the past several years, TV ads have encouraged people to visit websites, fill out forms or surveys, print them out and ‘˜bring’ them to the doctor. Though it should be obvious, a third person never tells one to ‘˜bring’ anything anywhere. Proper usage is to encourage people to print out whatever and ‘˜take’ it to the doctor. On the other hand, a nurse actually in the doctor’s office would be correct in telling the patient to ‘˜bring’ the item or document involved in the discussion with them for their appointment. For example, a mom sees her son pick up a big black snake in the yard. He attempts to ‘˜take’ it into the house. She warns him, ‘If you ‘˜bring’ that thing in here, I will beat you to within an inch of your life.’ Though we live in a dumbed-down society, I like to think good grammar is still important. I hope it still matters to teachers and professors grading papers and employment managers reading resumes. Print this out and take it to someone who has poor command of the English language. It could be an historic moment in – and bring joy into – their life. Advance grammatically or be advanced upon.

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