Nonstandard relative pronouns. Notional criteria. Situational
deixis Allomorph. Dative case. Extraposed postmodifier.
Monotransitivie phrasal-prepositional verb. These are just a few of
the grammatical terms listed in this book about which I can honestly
say: They're all Greek to me.
True, you could infer from this confession that you're in bad
hands and decide that your precious reading time would be better
spent with Beetle Bailey. But you could also find some very good news
here. You see, most of us walk around with the assumption that
certain people "know" grammar and that we, who are terrified of terms
such as "extraposed postmodifier," are hopelessly inadequate in
comparison. Hurrah, hazoo, good news for you: It ain't true.
Nobody knows grammar. Nobody. Not the guy at your office who uses
the word "whom" in casual conversation. Not the Lynne Truss devotees
who run around with magic markers inserting apostrophes into poorly
punctuated signs. Not even the authors of the grammar books "know"
grammar. I guarantee you that, even as they write, these authors are
nose-down in other experts' books frantically scrambling for the
knowledge necessary to cover their own behinds. (Well, at least I
know that's true of columnists.)
Insecurity is the worst enemy of anyone who aspires to speak and
write better English. And nothing breeds insecurity like grammatical
lingo. So in the interest of helping you navigate this unnecessarily
scary world, I chuck one of these terms into a trashcan labeled
"stuff you never need to learn." Another, one you might actually find
useful, I shed a little light on.
Term you never need to know: "Extraposed postmodifier." Your
working definition: "One thing you scratch off your list of 'things I
need learn before I die.'" A more substantive definition, in case
you're bored or just disagree with the idea of a column that
withholds information: "A postmodifier in a noun phrase that is
postponed to a later position in a sentence." In case you're not yet
sorry you asked, note that the Oxford glossary doesn't have a
definition of "postmodifier." So there's no way of understanding