Sunday, January 24, 2010

Life Sentences #4

Okay, check this out for grammatical material you can stuff in your pipes and smoke it. Now, it’s true that the written form of the English language is not all that difficult to master, at least in terms of spelling the words correctly and placing nifty punctuation marks correctly between phrases and clauses and items in a series and all that happy horseshit. Studies by prominent scholars have in fact demonstrated that even at the University of Northern Northwest North Dakota, one of the roughest collegiate environments in the entire world, students can learn how to write error-free sentences. Here in Southern California, however, where Harvard-educated people write TV and movie scripts and earn enough money from these scripts to buy fancy houses on hillsides in the sun, overlooking the ocean – ah, forget it. Someday, O ye citizens who appreciate a comma placed in a correct place, take the time to find some professional movie scripts online and see if you’re not reduced to tears at the slop. Oh well, I guess audiences don’t go to the movies to read – that would be like going to the bookstore to play football.

A week or so ago, I heard a writer (non-Hollywood) telling other writers never ever to write “But I digress.” Sage advice, no doubt. But I have to ignore it. For I have digressed. And I must write it. But I digress.

Back to pipes and smoking them:

Here is one of the coolest forms of sentences in the English language, something called the “Matrix Sentence,” which doesn’t have squat to do with the movie franchise. A matrix sentence is a sentence with one sentence imbedded inside another sentence. The embedded sentence often appears in the form of a restricted relative clause for which we have deleted the restrictive pronoun.

Okay. Got your pipes out?

The sentence of the day:

I am tired of hearing Tommy was the guy called in sick yesterday.

Analysis:

First, we have to isolate the independent clauses.

1) I am tired.

2) Tommy was the guy.

3) Tommy called in sick yesterday.

Then we have to recognize that we have omitted the restrictive pronoun ‘that’ after ‘Tommy’ and that we have omitted the restrictive pronoun ‘who’ before ‘called.’ The omissions are common in speech and not always so common in writing.

You still with me?

I (subject) am (verb) tired (subject complement) of hearing (adverbial modifying ‘hearing) Tommy (subject of second independent clause: clause in restriction to the first clause) was (verb) the guy (subject complement) called (intransitive verb, forming the predicate for ‘Tommy’; also, verb in restrictive clause with omitted ‘who’) in sick yesterday (adverbial modifying ‘called’).

Further analysis:

They ain’t making a movie out of that.

Additional comment:

Have you lost your mind, Magnuson?


1 comment:

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