Would you rather be well-parsed or well-arsed?

I am not a grammar Nazi, but I will admit to a certain fondness for a well-parsed sentence.  (I will also tell you that in the first draft of this post, I referred to a fondness for a well-arsed sentence, but that is another topic for another day).   You can abuse the rules of grammar, but you cannot abuse them willy-nilly.  You must develop a mastery of the rules before you can  ignore them to good effect.  To quote Jay Brandon, “You must know the rules.  You must be on friendly, even intimate, terms with them.  That way you can take one aside some evening, slip away for a few drinks, invite the rule back to your place, and then gently and with great tenderness, violate the hell out of it.”

So I will admit to a certain ambivalence in finding this post in the Paris Review.  It is from a 1912 Eighth-Grade Grammar Test.


I am equal parts pleased that I can answer most of the questions and annoyed that I am not familiar with the phrase Degrees of Comparison as it applies to adjectives.  I find myself wondering whether the younger generation does not write well because we have stopped teaching grammar.  I find myself wondering why I permit myself to get sucked into questions with false assumptions.  Is it, in fact, true that the younger generation does not write well?  And if that is, in fact, true, is is also true that the cause of this deficit is an absence of instruction in the finer points  of grammar?

I look forward to reading your well-arsed comments.


9 thoughts on “Would you rather be well-parsed or well-arsed?

  1. Its definately an interesting idea. But I think the currant genaration whom gets so much flack for their bad grammer is simply adopting the language to fit there needs


  2. Me Grammer thinked grammer, and spellin’ were very, importent. She would turn o’er in her grave: if’n she had to reed some of my writin’! I myself think punchation is most importent!!!! 😀

    Ha! The young adults in my life are amazing writers…in content and in grammar. To read their writing is a joy!

    BTW: JSYK all the abbreviations and misspellings related to texting and messaging hasn’t helped things! LOL!!! 😀

    I saw that test on-line the other night! It looked interesting. People in the comments say they probably couldn’t pass it. 🙂

    HUGS from a well-arsed woman! 🙂
    PS…I appreciate the people who can refrain from correcting my grammar…because I know it’s gotta’ be painful for them sometimes. 🙂


  3. Ms. M. G. Smith pounded the rules of grammar in 7th grade into all of our confused, adolescent brains at Valley Stream North. Surprisingly, quite a bit of it seems to have stuck. Good job, Machine Gun. Teachers such as Smith are, I fear, a thing of the past and more is the pity.


  4. …also, I don’t know about degrees of comparison, but “Good” is a film released in 2008 starring Viggo Mortensen, who was in “Albino Alligator” (1996) with Gary Sinise, who was in “Beyond All Boundaries” with Kevin Bacon, “Good” at two degrees of Kevin Bacon. “Wise” as a non-existent film is ranked at infinity. And “Beautiful” is a film released in 2000 starring Minnie Driver who also starred in Sleepers (1996) with Kevin Bacon, so that places “Beautiful” at one degree of Kevin Bacon.


  5. I don’t have much contact with today’s youth other than my brilliant kids and their friends, but if online comments are any indication, many people are woefully ignorant. However, when I was an Assistant instructor in grad school 30 years ago, it was rare to get a paper from a student on which I didn’t have to mark numerous spelling and grammar errors.

    My 9th-grade teacher, Mr. Gold, was a Kentucky Colonel and looked like Col. Sanders. He taught us diagramming, which I found fascinating. It made charting fairly easy when I studied linguistics many years later.

    I think degrees of comparison has to do with -er and -est.


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