Shaken, Not Stirred

Humorous Essays and Other Stuff

Gerald Andersen

Gerald Andersen
Califon, New Jersey, United States
January 06
"“When I have one martini, I feel bigger, wiser, taller. When I have a second, I feel superlative. When I have more, there's no holding me.” - William Faulkner "I grow old...I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled." -T.S. Eliot


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FEBRUARY 12, 2013 3:26PM

Preposition Prol IF erati ON and a Brief History of English

Rate: 17 Flag
I recently read in a Smithsonian newletter article titled "Most of What You Think You Know About English is Wrong," that it is okay to end a sentence with a preposition.

Excuse me? Now you are telling me this? Although I was an English major in college, I was never good at the mechanical stuff. The preposition precept is about the only rule I have a rock solid grip on. (Oh yeah, I ended that sentence with a preposition, and it felt sooooo goooood.) In fact, my fellow OSers, since this was the only standard I had, I sometimes used it to judge your offerings: "Hey, he sucks! He ended a sentence with a preposition."

I never understood what a split infinitive is and it is just a well, because this same article points out that there is no such thing in the English language. So, now I am empowered to just split away until my arms get tired.

Since a whole new highway of self-expression has been opened to me, I decided to see where it would lead to (I'm getting used to this). I located something called the English Club on the internet, and it turns out there are 150 prepositions in the English language. That's a 150 new ways I can end sentences. (They only give you 100. If you want the other fifty you have to send away for them. Seriously.)

My banana clip is now full of new English ammo and I am ready to fire away! I intend to make up for lost time and pile preposition on top of preposition like pastrami on a 25 buck deli sandwich. You think this blog is vapid and content free now? Just wait until the preposition proliferation, and I unleash new ways to pad this crap out.

Regarding outside, opposite above is underneath. 

This sentence, save one tiny verb, not only ends with a preposition, but consists entirely of them. Feel free to use it, although it is hard to imagine in what context except a deep religious/philosophical discussion, or to inform your contractor of the whereabouts of the septic tank in your back yard.

I have also written what is perhaps the only blank verse poem in the language composed entirely of prepositions.

From inside without past,
Above considering concerning.

I intend to locate the cemetery where Sister Helen Frances, my  fifth grade English teacher, and the one who flayed me into my fear of misplaced prepositions, is buried and recite this poem to establish once and for all if turning over in the grave is actually possible.

The article also said that it is okay to begin a sentence with a conjunction. And I have been doing just that for years and the world has not come to an end. So I should have been suspicious about the whole preposition thing.

It sort of makes you wonder who is minding the grammar store. And the answer is nobody, and that is probably a good thing for the English language.

When I was in college years ago, about the time Middle English was just catching on, I took a course in the history of the language. 

We learned that English went from a primitive Germanic tongue whose vocabulary consisted pretty much of "Yo, Hilda, get me a fokking bier" to the dynamic, vocabulary-driven language it is today, because people who thought they were smart no longer spoke or wrote it.

In 1066, England was conquered by the Normans who came from France, but were actually sissified Vikings. Naturally, they  brought the French language with them, along with their little foo-foo poodle dogs, and since they were running the show, everybody who was anybody spoke French. English was left to the riff-raff who picked up the ball and ran with it until Chaucer went deep and scored the winning touchdown for the English side.
The point is, the language developed as a speaker's language, because the la-di-da writers of the time wouldn't go near it. The riff-raff tossed out the rule book because they couldn't read it, and the streamlined English we use today is the result.

Then in the 18th century, the academics got ahold of it and that's when the trouble started preposition-wise, split infinitive-wise, etc. Some genius even invented diagramming a sentence.

Today, with kids coming out of school not knowing how to read or write, the language has entered a new dynamic phase as they text, tweet and blog their gibberish; the rules are breaking down once again. They are the new riff-raff, if you will.

That is my theory, but what the hell do I know of?

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I liked how you decided to engagingly write in a way that commonalized words and phrase type collections of words in regards to rules and stuff we all know about.
its impotent thx.
Thou thinkest therefore thou knowest of.......

Prepositions presuppose participation particularly pertinent per persons' pluralized performance parameters.
How are we gonna single out Preposition Infractions when we communicate like we have better things to do?
"Yr teach Sis Hel-Fran rollin' in grav, no"?
Hey, while you're at the cemetery, visit Sister Beatta for me. She'll be the one spinning.

I agre L.. she will be spinning with Miss Parsons..:)
I don't care if people can't explain why English works the way it does (the mechanics). I just wish they would get the basics down. These days, social media has made it painfully clear that millions of Americans can't get the basics right. I really don't think grammar is optional. It is part and parcel of any language. I know it's been said before, but you really do need to learn the rules before you can bend them effectively and artfully. Otherwise bad grammar just comes off as ignorance. People can't pass off their bad grammar as "typos" forever.
But to who did you adrress this to? R
Look, Gerald, you know a lot. Prepositions for chrissakes is what these nancyboys is all hepped up over,yo?
Preposition=”a member of a set of words used in close connection with,
and usually before,(HA)
nouns and pronouns to show their relation to another part of a clause.
An example is "off" in "He fell off his bike" and "What did he fall off?"
So! Close connection with nouns, eh? Well, man , I am utterly against nouns, as you may or may not know. Nouns? Things. There ARE no things. There are only processes, which with our benumbed brains we see as THINGS. Whitehead called it the FALLACY OF MISPLACED CONCRETENESS.
It is this, to our horror: when one “mistakes an abstract belief, opinion or concept about the way things are for a physical or "concrete" reality.
… merely the accidental error of mistaking the abstract for the concrete..

He rejects the notion that a concrete physical object in the universe can be ascribed a simple spatial or temporal extension, that is, without reference of its relations to other spatial or temporal extensions.
...among the primary elements of nature as apprehended in our immediate experience, there is no element whatever which possesses this character of simple location. ... [Instead,] I hold that by a process of constructive abstraction we can arrive at abstractions which are the simply located bits of material, and at other abstractions which are the minds included in the scientific scheme. Accordingly, the real error is an example of what I have termed: The Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness.[6]
alright then. Glad I could help shed light on this goddamn nancyboy stranglehold on our raw explosive Germanic Tongue.

Ye gods. Ya ever try to read german? Holy smoke!

You've been reading some weird stuff man. What are you doing; trying to find the secrets of the universe, or something?

As to the "Fallacy of Misplace Concreteness" with all its attendant folderol, just you get some "misplaced" shit in your temporally extended sandwich instead of the concrete cheese you intended, and I'll bet we see a real explosion of somebody's tongue!!

Remember: "When you examine anything down to its tiniest component parts, you find yourself examining nothing at all."

All the clever things have been said, so I'll just say well done.
Can't believe I did a piece on grammar and spelled proliferation wrong in the title. Doh! Or is that, duh! Fixed it now.
nothing to disagree with.
[r] yo, Gerald. Isn't it all called bastardization of language? I don't know if all of this I can up with put? best, libby
This is witty and deep. Other day, I paged a fat SAT tutorial and just stood there agast (sp?!) perusing the proffered (supposedly well vetted) comprehension prep questions. My point is the multiple choice 'good sentence' examples were thoroughly bastardized by repetitive sentence options. That is, the A through F options were all plausible enough to hesitate the subject's expertise, but, as far as I know, only one option was the correct answer. I could only conclude that the testing process ought to be arranged as a learning method. My random 'nonexpert' sample evidences 'smart' demarcation in order to distinguish score; but at the same time after years of pressured testing, the mishmash of memory ultimately retains a plethora of 'kinda-sorta' good sounding semantic fluency that is frequently fucking wrong.
So here we true restrictions.
I loved this! Do you know about the Lexicon Valley podcast? It's free and comes out about weekly and is all about English and its history and quirks - so interesting. But it's not stodgy and academic. They recently addressed the ending-a-sentence-with-a-preposition issue, and like you, they were surprised to learn that it is totally okay. Apparently, as you say here, when the academics got to English, they started applying rules of Latin to it - as I understand, it's not good form to end a sentence with a preposition in Latin.

Here's a link to that particular podcast:

Thanks for another fun post from one of the best writers I know of!
Much more going on out on the left coast with Spanglish, Chinglish and Korglish... toss in some Vietnamese and African patois in the mix, and a dash or two of hip-hop and we're developing a whole new world linguistic expression... I still try very hard not to split my infinitives or end a sentence with a prepositional phrase... oh damn! Well as Winston Churchill is purported to have once said, "Grammarians are one breed of human animal up with which I cannot put."