Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

A Blog Conversation about Grammar . . .

Blog Conversation about Grammar Our last discussion here—A Blog Conversation about Book Promotion—had a very short life due to a lack of reader comments; but, having exercised my blogging muscles for seven years; and, to avoid talking to myself, I’ll begin a new conversation about “Grammar”…

Plus, I’ll start by going full-on Writing-Geek; then, I’ll calm down and share my own thoughts and feelings…

Here’s the complete word history of the term “grammar”:

late 14c., “Latin grammar, rules of Latin,” from Old French gramaire “grammar; learning,” especially Latin and philology, also “(magic) incantation, spells, mumbo-jumbo” (12c., Modern French grammaire), an “irregular semi-popular adoption” [OED] of Latin grammatica “grammar, philology,” perhaps via an unrecorded Medieval Latin form *grammaria. The classical Latin word is from Greek grammatike (tekhne) “(art) of letters,” referring both to philology and to literature in the broadest sense, fem. of grammatikos (adj.) “pertaining to or versed in letters or learning,” from gramma“letter” (see -gram). An Old English gloss of it was stæfcræft (see staff (n.)).

A much broader word in Latin and Greek; restriction of the meaning to “systematic account of the rules and usages of language” is a post-classical development. Until 16c. limited to Latin; in reference to English usage by late 16c., thence “rules of a language to which speakers and writers must conform” (1580s). Meaning “a treatise on grammar” is from 1520s. For the “magic” sense, compare gramary. The sense evolution is characteristic of the Dark Ages: “learning in general, knowledge peculiar to the learned classes,” which included astrology and magic; hence the secondary meaning of “occult knowledge” (late 15c. in English), which evolved in Scottish into glamour (q.v.).

grammar-school (late 14c.) originally was a school for learning Latin, which was begun by memorizing the grammar. In U.S. (1842) the term was put to use in the graded system for a school between primary and secondary where English grammar is one of the subjects taught. The word is attested earlier in surnames (late 12c.) such as Robertus Gramaticus, Richard le Gramarie, whence the modern surname Grammer.

My English teacher in college told us that what’s handed down as “English grammar” is actually Latin grammar desperately trying to grapple itself to English; and, until about five minutes ago, I never did research on her comment…

There were many articles to choose from; but, perhaps, an excerpt from Most of What You Think You Know About Grammar Is Wrong, in the Smithsonian magazine, will suffice:

“As bloggers at and former New York Times editors, we’ve seen otherwise reasonable, highly educated people turn their writing upside down to sidestep imaginary errors. There’s a simple test that usually exposes a phony rule of grammar: If it makes your English stilted and unnatural, it’s probably a fraud.”

If you read that full article, you’ll find a number of specific “proofs” that most “grammar” that’s forced on eager young learners isn’t “faithful” to actual English grammar.

{{ …the writer of this post is now wondering what a person using the translation widget (up there on the left) is thinking about that last statement… }}

So, where is “actual” English grammar…?

I, personally, find I learn the best grammar by reading the best novels I can find; and, I can only imagine; but, feel it’s more than likely true, that folks using other languages can learn their own grammars the same way…

However, being a life-long maverick, I have been known to use whatever feels right in certain situations…

How does someone choose which novels to read to help their mind easily absorb some grammar…?


Whatever appeals to you…

If you’ve chosen the wrong books, someone, eventually, will let you know…

Whose books have I used to help me constrain the wilder aspects of my maverickness?

C. J. Cherryh


All it takes for this conversation to continue is a comment from You :-)
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send Me a short Voice Message

4 responses to “A Blog Conversation about Grammar . . .

  1. Jane Watson May 30, 2018 at 7:02 am

    I absorbed all the grammar I know from reading and from learning a foreign language. Reading books taught me what worked and what didn’t in English sentences and I never gave a thought that those sentences were actually following a set of rules. To me the only point of a well wrought sentence is that it conveys its meaning beautifully and powerfully. Grammar is evolving all the time because most modern languages are evolving…Latin no longer changes and I guess that is why its grammar does not either. What will be the biggest influence on grammar in the future ? I am gonna guess texting….:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alexander M Zoltai May 30, 2018 at 7:06 am

    Thank you, Jane, for keeping the conversation going!

    I’ll be commenting separately on nearly each sentence you’ve uttered—each is a gem :-)


  3. Pingback: More Conversation about Grammar . . . | Notes from An Alien

  4. Pingback: Further Conversation about Grammar . . . | Notes from An Alien

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