Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I am NOT Smarter than a 5th Grader

I learned this morning that I am not--repeat NOT--smarter than a 5th grader. How do I know? Because I had to help my son, a 5th grader, correct a vocabulary test on which he scored poorly.

Piece of cake for a guy who makes his living writing, wouldn't you think? But I was done in by one word, one simple, three-syllable word--"dolorous." Apparently it means "causing pain or sorrow." Never heard of it. Never used it. I became bewildered (another one of the vocabulary words, but at least I had used that one).

I guess I should have taken a clue late last week when the same teacher gave him an assignment to use a compound subject and the verb "was." I thought that impossible. A compound subject, by definition, is plural and requires a plural form of the verb (e.g. "John and I were fishing in our favorite spot.")

It was not until I searched the Internet, the modern version of the Library at Alexandria, that I found indeed one can write a sentence with a compound subject and the verb "was." "Each boy and girl was assigned a specific task."

Apparently using "each" or "every" creates an exception to the agreement rule. Who knew?

So I've reached a pivotal decision in my writing career. I will resort to the time-proven adage that sex sells. My next book cover, regardless of the book's content, will feature a scantily clad (dare we say perhaps even "nekkid") woman, cleverly designed to obscure my dolorous ignorance of the rules of grammar on display on the pages inside.

Chances are even a 5th grader would buy that.

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