How to master the parts of speech, before they master you
You thought you learned them in grade school. You know, the parts of speech, those eight basic elements of making meaning. But here's a little secret: Those seemingly demure parts of speech are, in practice, naughty cross-dressers.
In his book, "When You See an Adjective, Kill It", writing and language expert Ben Yagoda asks us to consider the title of the reality television show "Pimp My Ride." It's a show in which the most broken-down jalopies are transformed into customized masterpieces.
So let's break down that title: Pimp (well that's a noun, right, a street guy who manages ladies of the evening). And Ride (well that's got to be a verb because it describes an action, what you do in a car).
But wait a minute: Yagoda shows us that in this title Pimp turns into a verb meaning "to make worthy of a pimp" and Ride turns into a noun, a word that by its action describes an automobile. Wow, who knew that the parts of speech could be so interesting -- and problematic.
In this week's writing chat, Yagoda -- a blogger, journalist, biographer, author, social networker and an influential teacher at the University of Delaware -- talked about how our infinitives split and our participles dangle (no offense, Ben).
You can replay the chat here: