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It's the s thing that had my students telling anyone who'd listen, "Miss Nevils crazy!"

Contributed By:Dorothy Nevils maslivend@sbcglobal.net

Grammar Patrol: Revisiting the S mess

You know, if you know me at all, that I have a thing about esses! Leaving them off, or adding them when they aren’t needed drives me all the way up the wall! It’s the s thing that had my students telling anyone who’d listen, “Miss Nevils crazy!” That, I’m here to tell you, got them in even more trouble, for, not only had they lied, but they’d left out the verb “is.”

Okay. Take their side and argue that they’d used a contraction. Nahh… no such thing! The ones who thought I was 1.5 pints short of a quart never used contractions! They hated anything with an apostrophe, except their names.

I don’t know what it is about “esses” that bothers so many people. They seem rather harmless to me. I’ve never seen them attack anyone. I’ve not seen them sprawl out on the sidewalk and trip anyone… pull a gun… malign anyone’s good name… They are just one little letter out of 26! How harmful could they be? If an S causes anybody any harm it’s because the person took the curve too fast!

I’ll admit, the S does require a little extra work, but it’s not nearly as hard as bench pressing 20 pounds… (Hey, cut me some slack! I’ve been around a few years. Twenty pounds seems pretty heavy!)

Haven’t you been in the company of another and heard the other person point at an Audi – or a Buick, or a Honda – and say something like, “That look like Michael car”? Now, just listening without reading it, wouldn’t it sound like the person looks like Michael, whose last name is Carr? Well, chances are the person made two boo-boos! “Look” should have been “looks,” and “Michael” should have been “Michael’s.” So, why weren’t they?

Here’s what I’ve discovered: It takes a bit of effort to coax the letter S out of one’s mouth. In fact, for some people it’s darn near impossible to say even common words with an S at the end! It’s like it’s taboo… like, who in his right mind would say that letter! It’s difficult: Just when you get to the end of the word, you have to stop, raise your tongue like a rattlesnake, and hiss the letters out without bubbling out what people hate to see or feel! After all, you are a respectable person, raised on “Never-let-them-see you-cry!” Fact is, you’ve got it wrong: Any moisture dispelled will come from your mouth, not your eye! Go ahead and say the S sound. That little moisture won’t kill anybody!

Anyway, the same – and I didn’t say “exact same” – people who trip over an s when they should use one, fall all over themselves using them when they shouldn’t! You don’t believe me? Okay. Keep reading.

How many times have you heard someone say womens, mens, peoples…? I could go on… and on…and on… but I’m getting sleepy. If it’s unnecessary work to put an S on a word to show plural or possessive, why is it so easy to do it – when you shouldn’t?

I know you don’t want to go back and learn grammar all over again, but you really ought to revisit the S mess and straighten it out! If you’re talking about one thing, then you need to put an s on what you’re saying about it: My shoulder hurts; if two or more, leave the S work alone: My shoulders hurt.

It’s really easy to get it straight… plus you’ll sound a lot more credible… intelligent… and a few other good words. You’ll feel a lot better, too – about yourself – if you sound educated! Do it… for you!

Story Posted:08/06/2018

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