Woe is I is a book I've been reading lately about grammar. It is a take-off from Shakespeare's famous quote from the lips of Ophelia, I think.
"Woe is me!"
Not to be confused with the prophet Isaiah's outburst when he saw God.
"Woe to me!"
Did Shakespeare misquote the prophet, or did he just have poor grammar? Well, the thing about grammar is it really isn't a science. Unless the object you are attempting to identify and categorize has the characteristics of Jell-O. The spoken language is constantly rebirthing itself, so big No-nos I was taught in school are perfectly acceptable now.
Take, for example, being politically correct and the lack of a gender-neutral singular pronoun. And don't give me "It." You don't say "it" if you know "it" to be a human being. You can only get by with "it" if "it" is your dog or your coat or some other something which is property, or if you are the psychotic serial killer in Silence of the Lambs and you command your victims by using "it" because you don't want to humanize them too much since you're only keeping them around and hungry for a while so you can make your creepy woman-suit.
So, let us say we don't know the gender of the killer. Let us say that the killer called for Precious, the dog. Used to we would say, "The killer called for his dog Precious." Perfectly acceptable. But now, it is acceptable to say (if you don't know the gender) "The killer called for Precious their dog." Maybe this is a bad example because we know the killer IS a guy. Or IS HE? The whole deal was his genderpsychosion (I made that word up, by the way).
Well, maybe I better use a different example. The Federal Agent forgot to pick up their coat. Is this Federal Agent Spooky Fox Mulder or might it be Clarise Starling? We don't know for sure, so we can rightly use "their" though some grammarians may yet grumble.
I've been fine-tuning a story which is in the first person. The decision to write it in first person has given me fits. Why? Because the person is telling a story which happened in the past, but she often speaks in present to the reader. Now, I understand that Jane Austin could get away with this. But I am almost positive Jane got away with it AFTER she already had an agent and after she was making big bucks for her publisher. First person is a hard sell. I think this is because a lot of chick lit is written in first person, and chick lit may be falling out of favor with the masses. That is what THEY SAY.
These They Sayers. THEY are naysayers!!! You know what THEY SAID? They said no one is buying vampire anymore because it is so yesterday. And then BAM, Twilight comes out, and people are crazy nuts over vampires again. And don't tell me the female 9 to 15 year old market is weak. I think they are driving this Twilight craze. Or maybe it is more accurate to say they are stomping it in the ground.
I have my coupon from Waldenbooks. I am going to go buy this book and see what all the hooplah is about. I want to know if what THEY SAY has any credence, or are we just going to follow the herd, running after the cow butt in front of us, because that is what every one else is doing? At least, I THINK that is what THEY are doing.
You might find it interesting that every one is singular, as in every body. One Body. Yet, we mean it to mean plural. It is grammatically correct to say, Everyone is beating a cow. At least, that is what I think he is doing. But does it sound correct? (Not taking into account the morality of beating a cow). It doesn't sound correct to me. It sounds correct to say, "Everyone is beating a cow. At least I think that is what they are doing." Note the verb agreement. Everyone is. And yet the "they" refers to "everyone."
Fun, huh? Or is it only the dead horse we're beating now?