AUGUST 7, 2000
In the beginning, Teacher ...
© 2000

In the spirit of Jeff Jacoby I offer a product that is not entirely of my creation. I would gladly provide proper and laudatory attribution, if I knew who originated this. I don't. It came to me from the ether of cyberspace without even the ubiquitous "Anonymous" attached.

However, in this dark time of Outcome Based Education, and proselytizing about the importance of self esteem (regardless of whether to have done anything to deserve esteem of any variety), in a time when the pervasiveness of four-letter words which can and are applied as verbs, nouns, adjectives and (no pun intended) dangling participles, a return to the axiomatic and true seems appropriate.

To some this will seem archaic and restrictive. To some it will seem presumptuous and ponderous. However in a modest attempt to seek truth and enlightenment I suggest to those soon to be critics: shut up and take your medicine.

To whoever wrote, edited, amended, expanded, or hurled this into cyberspace, thank you.

There are two schools of thought about language. One is that whatever communicates is sufficient. Form is not significant if substance and or comprehension are achieved. Language is a work in progress as evidenced by the absence of words like "galligaskin," "sockdolager," "gorgayse," "hobnail," and "frippery." "Word," "Bitchin'" and "Wazzup" assume temporary and transient acceptance. The once-vulgar word for excrement has been popularized to define anything from drugs to nuclear secrets and an expletive suffix attached to "no," "hot," assorted animal modifiers (bull being the most ubiquitous) and to the Surname of a John using the nickname Jack.

Grammar is not form over substance. It is form that gives context to substance.

Grammar is not a religion, a philosophy or an abuse of order.

English teachers, lawyers, authors of legislation, and would-be, wannabe, has-been, and practicing writers (yours truly included) will be well served by embracing the following:


In the beginning my English teacher created nouns and verbs.

And the verbs were without form and voice; and darkness was upon the face of the deep -- my teacher.

And she said, "Let there be grammar," and there was grammar.

And Teacher saw the verbs and laughed and said that it was good, and she divided the bright students from those who remained in darkness.

And Teacher gave the bright students A's and kept the others after school. And the homework and the bell were the first day.

And Teacher said, "Let there be a sentence in the midst of the words, and let it divide the nouns from the verbs.

And Teacher made the sentence, and diagrammed it on the board; I looked and saw that it was so.

And the Teacher called the sentence declarative. And the capital and the period were the second day.

And Teacher said, "Let the noun words in the sentence be gathered together unto one place, and let the verb words appear"; and it was so.

And Teacher called the verb words predicate, and the gathering together of noun words called she the subject; and Teacher saw that it was good.

And Teacher said, "Let the predicate bring forth modifiers, the transitive verbs yielding objects, and the intransitive verbs yielding complements after their own kind, whose place is in itself, within the predicate"; and it was so.

And the predicate brought forth modifiers, and transitive verbs yielding objects after their own kind, and intransitive verbs yielding a complement whose place was in itself, after their own kind. The Teacher saw that it was good and confusing.

And the active and the passive were the third day.

And Teacher said, "Let there be modifiers in the firmament of the subject to further confuse and divide the students in the classroom; and let them be for proper nouns, concrete nouns, mass nouns, collective nouns, pronouns, and abstract nouns."

"And let them be for to give meaning in the subject and to enhance the predicate"; and it was so -- confusing.

And Teacher made two great words: the greater word -- adjective -- to rule the noun, and the lesser word -- adverb -- to rule the verb; she made the conjunction also.

And Teacher set them in the sentence in order to make it difficult to diagram and to make it easier for her to divide the bright students from those who remained in darkness; and Teacher saw that her system was good.

And the phrase and the clause were the fourth day.

And Teacher said, "Let the verbs bring forth abundantly the many verb forms, the gerunds, infinitives, and participles; the subjunctives; the auxiliary verbs, the linking verbs; and the phrasal verbs."

And Teacher created mood for every living creature that moveth, and tense for all time, and voice after their kind; and Teacher saw that it was indeed good.

And Teacher blessed them saying, "Be fruitful and multiply in complexity, and fill young minds with bewilderment, and let the bewilderment multiply into chaos in their minds."

And the lecture and the English test were the fifth day.

And Teacher said, "Let the nouns and verbs bring forth living sentences after their own kind, book reports, essay questions, and English themes for the students to write"; and it was very so.

And Teacher made all these things for the freshman English student to do, and everything that creepeth into her mind she gave to them to do; and Teacher saw to it that it was good.

And Teacher said, "Let us make one project in our image, after our likeness; and let the product have dominion over the other projects, and over every subject of the college student."

So Teacher created the research paper in her own image, in the image of Teacher created she it; boring and difficult created she it.

And Teacher blessed it, and Teacher said unto the research paper, "Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the supply of dropouts, and subdue the remainder of the college students; and have dominion over the other projects, and over the other subjects, and over every single grade that the students receive."

"And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth into the classroom, wherein there is life, I have given every rule and principle for good English"; and it was so.

And Teacher saw everything that she had made, and behold it was very good.