Another one bites the dust

I think one or the other of us has written posts on the subject of dying grammar and punctuation, but I don’t remember what they were or what we said. 


So I’ve started a new category called “dying grammar and punctuation.” 

Dangling modifiers are a major category of dying grammar; I see them constantly and am even hearing them on news programs as well. 

Today I came across another category that I’m pretty sure is fading: possessive pronouns in front of gerunds, as in “do you mind my sitting here” versus “do you mind me sitting here.”

The traditional form is “do you mind my sitting here,” apparently because “sitting here” is being used as a noun phrase, not a verb. Or so I gather. (I feel like I should have run this by Katie before posting…. so fair warning: I’ll revise this if I need to after she weighs in.)

(Do you mind) my dog?

(Do you mind) my cat?

(Do you mind) my sitting here?

No one knows this rule any more, including professional writers. I used to know it, but by the time I began teaching freshman comp roughly ten years ago, I was no longer sure which was right.

In today’s Washington Post:

In sum, these exchanges may be read as epitomizing Barr’s evasiveness and as him avoiding disclosing a very significant dialogue he had with Mueller.

By rights, that “him avoiding” should be “his avoiding,” the same way the writer uses “his denial” in another sentence:

Mueller actually investigated Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for perjury when it came to his denial of contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign.

The William Barr perjury question by Aaron Blake – 5/4/2019 – Washington Post

The parallel between “his avoiding” and “his denial” has gone missing in people’s minds, and I’m pretty sure I can see why. 

2 thoughts on “Another one bites the dust

  1. Can we add “subject – verb agreement” to the list? I just read this in the Washington Post: (describing Maryanne Williamson) “she pushed back against the idea that having plans are enough to beat President Trump …”

    I think it’s the same basic problem as dangling modifiers. People have no idea what the subject of a sentence is, if the sentence has any complexity at all.

    I saw a terrific dangling modifier in comments to the New York Times the other day: “As a little girl, my father liked to take me to the movies …”


  2. Ooh! A couple more —

    1.) the subjunctive case. Nobody knows how to use it.

    2.) “Give”. I now hear “gift” all the time. I even read on a Facebook posting, “I need someone to gift me some help!”


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