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The English language is constantly evolving, both the words we use and the rules that control the usage of those words.  Therefore, it is impossible to ever have a definitive grammar guide, or, if you will, a Complete Guide of American English.  And that’s our excuse.



Word of the Every So Often

August 17, 2019

leman:  (noun)  (pronounced like the fruit)  a lover or a sweetheart.  His leman left him sour.


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Monday, February 19, 2018

So... What's Wrong with Starting a Sentence with, "So"?

Perhaps nothing.  Of course, there are those who argue that you should never start a sentence with "so," or, for that matter, any of the other connecting words.  The argument goes that because they are connecting words, then they are actually meant to connect something in the same sentence.  Their argument goes, for instance, that you shouldn't write, "I like peas.  And corn."  There, I have to agree with them, not being a fan of incomplete sentences.  Usually.  And those same intrepid grammarians (which would make a great name for a band) also argue that when a connecting word is being used in a Coordinating Conjunction, then the entire purpose of that coordinating conjunction is lost if you use a period.  However, because a comma and one of those little seven words that make a coordinating conjunction a coordinating conjunction (so, or, for, and, yet, but, nor) is the same as a period, then, the way I see it, period or comma, there is no difference.  For instance:  We went to the bank, so we can get some money.  Or:  We went to the bank.  So we can get some money.  Same difference either way.

And, I suppose, you can start a sentence with "so" if you speak like Yoda.  "So fast we go."

However, when you start a conversation with "so," then there's a problem.  "So," as used in the above title, is a connecting word.  It means the same in that construction as "therefore," as in:  "Because of this, therefore, this."  But when you begin a conversation with "So," it's relative to nothing.  There is no "Because of this...."  And, if nothing else, that just makes it confusing.  Here's the simple rule:  If you use a connecting word, it has to connect to something.

At best, when you start a conversation (or an essay, or perhaps even a paragraph) with "so," it becomes a pointless word, right up there with starting a sentence with "well" or "now."  Perhaps it's a bit more sophisticated than saying "Ummm..." but it's the grammatical equivalent.

More so, it has become a Cliché.  For whatever reasons words or phrases become popular, it has.  Listen for it.  You will hear people start conversations all the time with "so."  You get extra points if they're on TV.  And here's the thing:  If you are not paying attention to the words and phrases that you use, in short, if you're not trying to be original... then there is no point in paying attention to anything you have to say.

So stop starting conversations with "So."

9:21 am pst 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Valentine’s Day

There really was a person named Valentine who really became a saint.

As the legend goes, Valentine was a Roman who was martyred on… yup, you guessed it, February 14, in 269 A.D.  The Roman emperor at the time, who was affectionately nicknamed Claudius the Cruel, reportedly banned all marriages in order to get men to join the military, reasoning that if the men weren’t married then they would be more willing to join in with his campaigns.  Hmmm… sex or carnage… that’s a tough choice.  Valentine, doing his part for the Empire, secretly married couples.  And Claudius, doing his part for the Empire, had Valentine dragged out in the streets, beaten to death with clubs, and then beheaded.  Luckily, that custom wasn’t widely adopted.

Long before Valentine, though, February 14 had been celebrated in honour of Juno, the Roman goddess of women and marriage, among other things, including fertility.  One of the Roman customs on this day, which was then known as the feast of Lupercalia, was for young girls’ names to be drawn from a jar by young boys, and then they would be each other’s sexual partners for the following year.  Flowers were optional.

In 469 A.D. Pope Gelasius (remember him?) deified Valentine, making him the patron saint of lovers and finally giving him a first name – Saint.  And February 14 was officially set aside in his honour.  Pope Gelasius also sought to make St. Valentine’s day a bit less… fun.  He tried to change the custom of drawing a lover’s name to that of drawing the name of saint that you would then try to emulate over the next year.  And, yes, there is really a patron saint of celibacy, in fact, there are several.  Among them are the obvious:  St. Mary and her husband St. Joseph.  Then there’s St. John, who has been argued to be superior to Peter since he never married.  Go figure.  As well, there is St. Jerome (the patron saint of librarians), who ardently supported celibacy, and St. Marie Goretti, a fairly recent saint, who chose to die rather than succumb to the advances of a young man.  Suffice it to say, there’s not a whole lot of saints’ names that you could draw that would be anywhere near as fun as the celebration used to be.  Suffice it to say that was a custom that didn’t garner many followers.

The first Valentine was supposedly sent in 1415 from the Tower of London by the imprisoned Charles, duke of Orleans, to his wife.  A Miss Esther Howland is credited with having sent the first Valentine’s card in the United States, sometime in the 1800s, and from there commercialization took over, as it is wont to do.  Over one billion dollars are spent each year by men buying chocolates alone, and Valentine’s day is decidedly the biggest day of the year for florists.  Heck, one website will even sell you a heart shaped Jell-O mold which is bound to impress even the most reluctant lover.

Cupid, by the way, was the son of Venus, the Roman god of love and beauty.  Whereas Cupid is now thought of as a gentle boy who helps bring lovers together, his quiver originally held two different kinds of arrows – silver tipped arrows that would cause you to fall passionately and desperately in love and lead tipped arrows that would do just the opposite.  Imagine the fun you could have with those babies!



Work Cited

“About Valentine’s Day.”  Holiday Insights.  15 Jan. 2012.  http://www.holidayinsights.com/valentine/

Ovid.  Metamorphoses.  Rolfe Humphries, translator.  Bloomington:  Indiana University Press, 1955, 16-17.

“St. Jerome:  Doctor of the Church.”  Catholic Online.  15 Jan. 2012.  http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=10

“St. Maria Goretti, Martyr of Purity.”  July 2002.  Youth Apostles Online.  15 Jan. 2012.  http://www.youthapostles.com/newsletters/2002-07.html

“Valentine’s Day History and Things.”  Picture Frames.  15 Jan. 2012.  http://www.pictureframes.co.uk/pages/saint_valentine.htm

“Valentine’s Day:  Not What it Used to Be.”  2012.  Wilstar.com.  15 Jan. 2012.  http://wilstar.com/holidays/valentn.htm


9:37 am pst 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Andrew Jackson

This' year President's' Day falls' on February 19.  Because, apparently, nobody in the English speaking world know's the difference between singular and plural possessive, or even when a possessive e's's' i's required at all (or when its not), here at the Holy Grail Press', we use this' opportunity to celebrate the life of whichever President we choose, and thi's year we choose Andrew Jackson!

Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States (1829-1837), was born into poverty on March 15, 1767, so deep in the Carolina woods that it wasn't ever clear which Carolina his family lived in. (Freidel)  To date, Jackson is the only president who was a prisoner of war (even though he was only 14 at the time), captured as a boy by the British during the Revolutionary War.  His two brothers, along with his mother, died as a direct result of the Revolution, which is why Jackson, understandably, never really cared for the British. (Bradley)

Though Jackson didn't have much formal education, and what little he had was interrupted by the Revolution, following that war he read for the law in North Carolina, and went on to become a prosecuting attorney in the territory west of North Carolina, in what would soon become Tennessee.  (Andrew Jackson)  Jackson was a very successful lawyer in Tennessee, and eventually bought a mansion, "the Hermitage," along with enough slaves to run it, in his adopted state of Tennessee. (Freidel) 

Jackson apparently never considered the moral implications of slavery.  He grew up with slavery, and he bought and sold slaves.  Slaves were just a part of life (though there were certainly those at the time who thought slavery was odious).  He supported the westward expansion of slavery and was opposed to the rising tide of those who sought to end slavery.  Ending slavery, he knew, would divide the country.  Therefore, he was opposed to abolishing slavery, as well as even debating it, if, for no other reason, simply to keep the country together. (Feller)

Jackson's success as a lawyer led to his initial involvement in national politics, serving both as Tennessee's first Representative, and then later as a Senator.  Both early forays into politics were brief, with Jackson not serving the full run of either office.  On his return to Tennessee, among other things, Jackson was elected Major General of the Tennessee militia.  It was through that position that he became a national hero in the War of 1812, both for his victory over the Creek Indians in the Battle of Tohopeka, and over the British in the Battle of New Orleans, (Bradley) even though the war had officially ended before the battle occurred.  News traveled a bit more slowly back then.  (Andrew Jackson)

Following the War of 1812, Jackson, pretty much on his own authority, invaded the Spanish possession of Florida.  Understandably, Spain was a bit perturbed, but Jackson was backed by then Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, and the short of it was that Spain was effectively booted out of yet another one of its possessions. (Bradley)

Jackson's military prowess, more than anything else, led to his national popularity, and that led him to run for president in 1824. (Bradley)  When the votes were counted, none of the four candidates running for office had a majority of electoral votes.  Jackson (who led in popular votes) ultimately lost the election to John Quincey Adams (who finished second in popular votes), but only after William H. Crawford (who finished third) effectively removed himself from contention by having a stroke, and Henry Clay (who finished fourth) threw his support to Adams.  In what Jackson called a "'corrupt bargain,'" Clay became Adams' Secretary of State.  Four years later, in a re-match, Jackson soundly defeated Adams. (Andrew Jackson)

Even so, the 1828 campaign was particularly nasty, with Jackson and his wife, Rachel, being portrayed as adulterers.  And, technically, they were.  Andrew and Rachel were first married (unknowingly) before Rachel's divorce from her first husband was finalized, so technically they weren't married at all.  And that meant they were "living in sin."  Even though they were remarried after the mistake had been discovered, it was still enough to cause public acrimony, especially among Jackson's foes.  People cared about such things then.  Even though Jackson won the election, his wife died before he could take office.  Many (including Jackson) blamed her death on the personal attacks on her character.  Jackson never remarried. (Bradley)

Not that any of this sounds familiar... Jackson, who became the first president from west of the Appalachians (Bradley), ran his campaign in 1828 as an outsider, pitting himself against the "corrupt" Washington elites, even though Jackson had plenty of experience in politics before he ran for president, having served in both the House and the Senate, and even having lost in his first bid to become president, which he claimed was "rigged." (Inskeep)  Jackson was the first president that won by directly appealing to the mass voters. (Bradley) He "...sought to act as a direct representative to the common man."  Of course, at that time, the "common man" who was allowed to vote in the United States was just that, a man, and, more so, a white man who owned land. (Freidel)

As president, Jackson pretty much did as he pleased, ignoring advice from just about everybody.  Indeed, Jackson was so polarizing that it led (eventually) to the creation of today's two party system, with Jackson representing the Democrats, which would become the modern day Republican party, in opposition to the Whigs (namely Daniel Webster and Clay), which would eventually become the modern day Democratic Party.  (Andrew Jackson)  Jackson also sought to reform the government by removing long-standing officials from public office.  Many, though, believe Jackson's true goal was revenge, going after those people who had opposed him in the election of 1824 and replacing them with cronies who were arguably just as corrupt, if not more so. (Feller)

Like many national leaders before Jackson, what to do with the Native Americans – all those Indians who were still living east of the Mississippi – was a definite concern.  Even though Jackson fought in many battles against Native Americans, he apparently had no major problems with them as people.  Indeed, he adopted two Native American boys, "'[savages] that fortune [had] thrown into his hands."  Neither child survived to adulthood. (Klein)  However, Jackson believed "...he could judge the Indians' true welfare better than they..." and "...he regarded tribes resident within the states not as independent sovereign entities but as wards of the government and tenants-at-will." (Feller) 

When it came to how states treated Native Americans, regardless of treaties the various tribes had signed with the Federal Government, Jackson pretty much let the states do as they pleased, allowing Georgia, for instance, to steal millions of acres of land from the Cherokee Indians that had been promised to them by the Federal Government, and confirmed by the Supreme Court.  (Andrew Jackson)  This valuable land was then sold to Jackson's friends, as well as Jackson himself, among others.  (Inskeep) 

Along those lines, as far as Jackson was concerned it was perfectly acceptable for Native Americans to own land, and even have tribal jurisdiction over that land... just as long as that land wasn't anywhere white folk wanted to live, namely, anywhere east of the Mississippi River. (Feller)  This led to the Indian Removal Act, which eventually removed the Cherokees altogether from Georgia in 1838, with thousands of them dying on the Trail of Tears on their way to reservations in Oklahoma.  (Andrew Jackson)  For the most part, the deals offered to the Native Americans were good (aside from the Tribal Americans having no real choice), offering to pay fair prices for the tribal lands and removing the Indians in a humane way.  However, the actual execution of the deals was horrible.  Though Jackson did not necessarily like what was happening to the Native Americans, he didn't dislike it enough to do anything about it. (Feller)

Protective tariffs, which were designed to "foster domestic industry," and federally subsidized infrastructure improvements – both collectively known as the American System of Economic Development – also plagued Jackson's presidency.  The South believed both were designed to siphon money from the South to the North.  What it came down to, predictably, was that those who lived in states that benefitted from these policies loved them, and those who didn't, hated them.  Overall, Jackson supported protective tariffs, but he did not support improving the country's infrastructure, even though poor roads had severely hampered the military in the War of 1812. (Feller)

Jackson's second term was marked by a shift in policy on the Bank of the United States, which had long served as a national bank.  Jackson was opposed to the Bank because it depended largely on banknotes – the folding stuff, and not on specie – coins.  Jackson believed that our economy should be based on actual wealth – the precious metals that, at that time, the coins were made of (in particular, gold and silver), and not on the assumed wealth represented by pieces of paper.  Though Jackson couldn't eliminate bank notes completely, he was able to enact the Specie Circular, which required that only gold and silver could be used in the purchase of federal lands.  The end result was a demand for coin currency that the banks could not meet, and that caused a rippling effect of bank failures, and ultimately led to the economic crash of 1937, which Jackson left for his predecessor, Martin Van Buren, to deal with.  (Bradley)

Ironically, even though Andrew Jackson "detested paper money," trusting only gold and silver, his portrait has appeared on 5, 10, 50, and 10,000 dollar bills (which is a lot easier than carrying around 10,000 one dollar bills), as well as the Confederate 1,000 dollar bill, and his portrait is still on the 20 dollar bill.  (Klein)

Andrew Jackson was a man of many nicknames.  "Old Hickory" (as in, "tough as old hickory") was a nickname given to him by the men he commanded in the War of 1812 for his refusal to abandon them, even though he was given orders to do so.  Jackson was given the nickname "Sharp Knife" by the Creek Indians because of his refusal to negotiate, and generally for the nasty treatment he gave both the Creeks and the Red Sticks. (Andrew Jackson Gains His Nicknames)

It's surprising, though, that Jackson doesn't have a nickname for shooting people.  It is estimated that Jackson was in anywhere from five to 100 duels in his life, apparently finding shooting people to be an easy way to solve disputes.  In fact, he lived out his life with two bullets in his body (one that barely missed his heart), both from duels, and he killed at least one man in a duel.  (Klein)

Jackson almost had a third bullet in his body, becoming the first president to survive an assassination attempt.  A man named Richard Lawrence, who is described as a "deranged house painter" (watch out for those guys) tried to shoot Jackson... twice with two different guns.  Each gun misfired, allowing Jackson to attack the man with his cane.  (Klein)

Jackson was also known for his gambling, once losing his grandfather's entire inheritance while on a gambling trip, presumably not at any Native American owned casinos.  (Klein)  And it was under Jackson's presidency that running water was finally made available in the White House.  (Bradley)

After Jackson left the White House in 1837, he retired to the Hermitage, his home in Tennessee, where he died on June 8, 1845.  (Andrew Jackson)



Work Cited

"Andrew Jackson."  History.  A & E Television Networks, LLC (2018): n. pag.  Web.  18 Jan. 2018  http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/andrew-jackson

"Andrew Jackson Gains His Nicknames."  National Park Service.  US Department of the Interior (14 Apr. 2015):   n. pag.  Web.  18 Jan. 2018  https://www.nps.gov/natr/learn/historyculture/andrew-jackson-gains-his-nicknames.htm

Bradley, Harold Whitman.  "Andrew Jackson:  President of the United States."  Encyclopædia Britannica.  Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. (2018):  n. pag.  Web.  18 Jan. 2018  https://www.britannica.com/biography/Andrew-Jackson

Feller, Daniel.  "Andrew Jackson:  Domestic Affairs."  Miller Center.  Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (2017): n. pag.  Web.  18 Jan. 2018  https://millercenter.org/president/jackson/domestic-affairs

Freidel, Frank, and Hugh Sidey.   "7.  Andrew Jackson."  The Presidents of the United States of America.  The White House (2006):  n. pag.  Web.  18 Jan. 2018  https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/andrew-jackson/

Inskeep, Steve.  "Donald Trump and the Legacy of Andrew Jackson."  The Atlantic.  The Atlantic Group (30 Nov. 2016):  n. pag.  Web.  19 Jan. 2018  https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/trump-and-andrew-jackson/508973/

Klein, Christopher.  "10 Things You May Not Know About Andrew Jackson."  History.  A & E Television Networks, LLC (15 Mar. 2017): n. pag.  Web.  18 Jan. 2018  http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-andrew-jackson


10:11 am pst 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Primary and Secondary Evidence

Primary information is anything that is gotten first hand.  Secondary information is anything that is gotten... well... second hand.  If you actually witnessed the accident – you were there, you saw it – then that is primary.  If you heard about it on the evening news, read about it on your phone, or heard your officemate's description of what she observed, then that's secondary.

Sure, even if you witness something, you may not get it completely right.  The whole concept of perspective means everybody sees everything just slightly (if not a whole lot) differently.  If you were standing on one side of the street, your version of that accident might be different from the lady who was standing on the other side of the street, simply because of the angle of the sun.  If you know the person who was driving the car, that might introduce bias.  Sure, it clearly looks like it ought to be the other guy's fault, but you've seen Bob drive.  Heck, you've even ridden with him, and he's a terrible driver.  That information, alone, can introduce doubt into what you witnessed.  If you think that women or black people or young people or "foreigners" or whoever are worse drivers, that, too, can introduce bias.  But at least you actually saw the accident.  You know the light was red, and you saw the blue car pull out in front of the yellow car, when the yellow car clearly had the right of way.

Now imagine arguing who was at fault when all you have to go on is your officemate's account of the accident, and all she had to go on was what she heard on the radio this morning, public radio, at that.  That's why if the police are looking for witnesses in an accident or a crime, they want eye witnesses.  They want primary evidence.  You never hear the police asking for anybody to come forward who only heard about the crime on TV.

Need another example?  Let's say you saw a really good movie when you were out on a date with your spouse.  As far as seeing the movie goes, that makes you a primary source.  The next day, your pre-adolescent children are wanting to know what the movie was about.  How much are you going to tell them?  Sure, the steamy sex scenes added to the plot, and made it believable that the lead male actor would be under the influence of that evil woman, that he would be willing to kill for her.  And then just how gruesome those murders were really shows how truly evil that woman was.  But hopefully those are details that won't be shared with your children.  Regardless, though, it would probably be a mistake for anybody to see that movie based solely on the recommendation of your children, who weren't there at all, and, at best, got a very mild version of the overall plot.

Or let's say that your neighbor's child brought a book home from the school library.  Your neighbor, who is just a bit... preachy...reads the book herself, and goes ballistic, so to speak.  She finds the book to be totally inappropriate for children, and, therefore, wants it removed from the school's library.  She is getting her information first hand.  She read the book.  And she very well might be right.  However, her account of that book that she gives to others becomes secondary information.  It has been filtered through her and her biases.  Hopefully, the school board wouldn't ban that book on your neighbor's testimony alone.  And hopefully they won't ignore your neighbor based on their biases, because they know she can be a bit preachy, too.  Hopefully, they would actually read the book – all of them – before they would ever consider banning it.  Put another way, your neighbor is primary evidence of somebody who read the book and was offended.  She is not, though, primary evidence that the book should be considered offensive to everybody, or that it should be considered inappropriate for children.

Reading any summary of a work has the same problems.  If you've ever read a high school freshman's book report, then you probably get the general idea here.  Sure, some high school freshmen can read a book (making them a primary source) and then accurately write a report that catches the overall idea behind the entire book (secondary source). 

But then there are those students who only read the summary on the dustjacket, or a brief online description, or maybe the "Cliff's Notes" version, or they only saw the movie – all of which is secondary evidence.  Or those students who just make up nonsense, hoping the teacher has no knowledge of their book.  Those book reports can be really entertaining, but they are not "evidence" of anything.

Then there is the whole problem with context.  It is very easy, for instance, to consider Mark Twain's classic novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as racist, because of Twain's repeated use of what are now considered racist terms for black people.  To be clear, those terms were always considered racist.  However, in context, it is not Twain who is using those terms.  It is his characters.  Twain wanted to accurately show how people referred to African Americans at that time, and, more importantly, he wanted to show how those beliefs were wrong.  Just because a book contains clearly racist terms does not make it clearly racist.

This all leads to the Nuñez Memo, which is based on another document that may, or may not, show that the FBI was politically biased when it came to whom they chose to investigate.  This is a memo written by people who read the original document.  It is not the original document.

Yes, it's tempting to say that, because the authors of the Nuñez Memo saw the original document – because they were there – then they are primary witnesses, and that makes their point of view valid.  And it may.  But we truly shouldn't take their word for it. 

First there is the context to consider.  Without reading the entire document – the primary evidence – it's impossible for anyone, including the president, to know if that information has been correctly summarized, even if those memo authors were trying their very best not be biased when they wrote that summary.  It's a bit like a teacher trying to judge the accuracy of a student's book report without also having read the book.

Mostly, though, there is the very real possibility of bias.  Those folks that read the original document that the Nuñez Memo is based on are not just "people."  They are Republicans.  No, it doesn't mean just because they are Republicans that they are automatically biased toward the Republican Party, no more than it means that all Democrats are automatically biased toward the Democratic Party.  However, it definitely introduces the possibility of bias, just as an all white jury would introduce the possibility of bias in the trial of a black man.  Sure, that black guy could be guilty as hell, which any competent jury would be able to see, regardless of their ethnicity, but there would be far less doubt if the jury had been composed equally of white and black jurors to begin with.

True, the Democrats are biased, too, very much so.  So any "memo" the Democrats might use as a rebuttal to the Nuñez Memo is secondary evidence as well, and equally tainted with bias, just like an all black jury in the above example would equally suppose the possibility of bias.

So how do we know if the FBI is guilty of anything?  And Lord knows, they could be.  Without reading the entire original document, we don't.  And we probably won't.  After all, it does reportedly contain information that is classified, and very well probably should remain that way.  Therefore, our only hope to ever find the truth is for a group of unbiased, non-partisan individuals to come together for the sole purpose of discovering that truth, and the truth must be more important to them than currying political favour in their party to get re-elected.  As long as we want to "prove" that somebody is guilty of a crime more than we want to find out if a crime was ever committed – as long as supporting our point of view with "evidence" is more important than discovering if our point of view is correct to begin with – as long as secondary evidence is more convenient to believe than primary evidence -- then there's little hope for truth... ever.  The one thing we do know, though, is that the further away we get from primary evidence, then the further it is we get away from the truth.

11:06 am pst 

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