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