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Robert Pingree

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The Grammarnator

Was this entire column just an excuse to use the word pluperfect?

To continue with verbs, we all know that they come in different tenses – present and past and future – and people once upon a time used to know about principal parts and participles and go even further and understand the subjunctive, which still bedevils those learning Spanish, and the pluperfect –… 0

July 29, 2014
The Grammarnator

Imagine if we would have learned about this earlier

The Grammarnator has been thinking about verbs recently, two uses of them, to be exact, one in the Monitor and one in the New York Times. The Monitor’s was a comment by an ordinary American about what seemed to be the widespread practice of taking time off from work to watch the United States in the World… 0

July 22, 2014
The Grammarnator

He’s back, and sharper than a pocketknife

The Grammarnator was struck recently by a sign at the Liquor & Wine Outlet asking people not to park in the Firelane. Compound words abound, and most of us can come up with a few without thinking very hard. Bookcase was the first that came to my mind, and then backpack. Others with the same beginnings are bookend, bookmark, bookshelf, bookstore, and bookworm; backslide,… 0

July 8, 2014
The Grammarnator

Cate Blanchett loses the grammar awards

The Grammarnator has not written in a while, and people he meets around town are asking him about it. So it’s time to use a whopper of a public mistake to get back into it. At the Oscars last week, Cate Blanchett grabbed her second statuette from Daniel-Day Lewis and immediately said that receiving it from his hands… 0

March 11, 2014
The Grammarnator

The grammar bus is leaving the station

The Grammarnator offers a challenge to our readers. Having left his Kindle on the dining room table when he rushed to the bus station a while ago, he had nothing to read on the trip to Boston except the back of the ticket. He was astonished to find that he would make nine changes in punctuation and usage in the message… 0

November 12, 2013
The Grammarnator

‘Lay’ versus ‘lie’ is a nerve-racking battle

 Since flesh out was well explained by last week’s letter writer, I see no reason to add anything about that phrase. But other usage issues have appeared in the last couple of days that merit comment.First of all, the very capable technician who did an ultrasound on my carotid arteries asked me to “lay… 0

October 1, 2013

The Grammarnator: Fix your preconceptions about prefixes

The enlightening and entertaining column by the Grammarnatrix last week on antiautonyms, which show up for high school students in Macbeth’s claim that sleep “knits up the raveled sleeve of care,” got the Grammarnator thinking of a related issue: people’s misunderstanding of the prefix pre-. Now, we all know… 0

July 2, 2013

The Grammarnator: Wrestling with officialese

A glaring example of officialese, the strange use of words often favored by corporations and government agencies, appeared in the Monitor last week. In apprehending a Concord High student who had been drinking alcohol in class, the reporting police officer said that he and another officer “escorted her to the… 0

June 4, 2013

The Grammarnator: Apostrophes don’t make things plural

A state representative’s recent comment about the apparent unconcern of some colleagues for “children and vagina’s” suggests that the Legislature may contain too many penises, including at least one who thinks that the plural of vagina is formed using an apostrophe. It is never redundant to remind all that… 0

April 23, 2013

The Grammarnator: We attempt to defang our harshest critic

A couple of odd usages popped up today, so it’s time again for the Grammarnator to grace the pages of the Insider. One was a word, in a comment on NHPR that children were being used increasingly in political ads (on abortion, gun legislation, etc.) and opining that their presence seems to “unfang the opposition… 0

April 16, 2013