You Have A Favorite “Part Of Speech”?

How would you classify the words in the English language?  We usually learn one system in the Middle School or Senior High classrooms.  And this will suffice for most of us: (1) nouns, (2) verbs, (3) adverbs, (4) adjectives, (5) pronouns, (6) conjunctions, (7) prepositions , and (8) interjections.

There would be pretty well universal agreement that the first four “parts” listed are the most likely to change,  and to accept or accommodate new words, or perhaps to blend with words already in the language.

The categories most resistant to change would be, I believe,  pronouns and conjunctions.  They’re pretty much the galley slaves in the progress down the rivers of time.

The category with individual variants that make it least likely to be described in a dictionary would be the interjection.  “Gee whillikers,”  “dadgum, and “goldarn” would be some examples, the latter two variations or substitutions for the imprecation “Godammit!”   Bobby Bowden,  Florida State football coach, and Roy Williams,  North Carolina basketball coach, would be hard put if these words were taken from them.

A story I heard many years ago illustrates the dominance of censorship put on us by wanting not to “take the Lord’s  name in vain” after having been warned of the consequences to our immortal souls.

Seems as if a churchgoing lad of ten or so was riding his bicycle back home from a visit to the corner store/gas station to get a few snacks.  Its having rained pretty heavily the previous night, his bike slipped out from under him as he tried to negotiate a turn.  What was said on that occasion was overheard by the pastor of the church, who lived just across the road.  When Johnny got home,  his mother confronted him by saying that he had cursed badly and taken the Lord’s name in vain.  Johnny protested:  “Did no such thing!  All I said was,  ‘cheese and crackers, got all muddy.'”

Having been brought up in a pretty strict Protestant/Puritan/Presbyterian culture,  I have also been reluctant to use much in the way of such imprecations.   Mark Twain would probably be ashamed to admit he knew me.

What has helped bail me out in part is a knowledge of German words or expressions that can sound very bad but are relatively harmless.  My favorite in this category is probably “Schweinhund!”  It sounds bad but only means “pigdog.” Even “Gesundheit!” can be made to sound like a grand curse.

Last of all I have left the workhorse of our language, and that is the preposition.  I will soon write another entry on this Site and try to explain why the lowly preposition, in its flirtations with the audacious verb,  has become such an interesting little scamp in our remarkably adaptable and exuberant language.

RJR

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7 Responses to “You Have A Favorite “Part Of Speech”?”

  1. CC Says:

    I remember as a kid watching cartoons on saturday morning, just how much I learned watching SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK! that explained in a skit form the parts of speach. I wish it were still on. It needs to be brought back for sure!

  2. Tammy Stephens Says:

    CC,
    I agree. Just an updated version.

    Raymond,
    I’m game to meet on the 9th.

  3. Raymond Rundus Says:

    Did I not suggest re Forest the 6th (Friday)?

    RJR

  4. D. Says:

    They have School House Rock on dvd now, with a new science one (or new to me). My daughters love to watch it for the catchy tunes and lament when I sing along with the songs. Amazon is the best place for the best price!

  5. Mark Allen Says:

    I always thought it was too funny when I was in the 7th grade and Mrs. Fraizer would ask me to diagram a sentence(by the way where has that gone in education for all of us visual learners) and I would have to say “dangling participles” in front of the class with a straight face. I guess that would be my favorite part of speech.

  6. Raymond Rundus Says:

    I’d like to know more about “SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK: such as its history on the “tube,” its reception by educators, its revival maybe, and so on.

    Also for Mark:

    (1) Ah yes, the good old dangling participle! Were you suggesting that doing a sentence diagram would expose such a gaffe as unwanted? Or was it that the diagram actually could relate the parts of the sentence effectively even if the dangling participle was deployed?
    (2) A recent book has been successful, I think, it resurrecting to a considerable degree interest in the value of diagramming the sentence. The title explains quite a bit–“Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences.” Published in 2006 by Melville House, the book was written by a successful novelist, short story and essay writer, and copyeditor, Kitty Burns Florey.
    I found it in a catalogue from Daedalus, my favorite source for books acquisitions, followed quite soon after by ABE Books. Here is a key sentence: “Diagramming isn’t dead–it’s just resting.”

    RJR

  7. Thresa Waldrep Says:

    I know you speak at great risk. Thanks for taking the opportunity to share deeply.

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