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In Which I Receive a Grammar Lesson

Oct 16 '10

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So I was quoted in “this Washington Post story”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/15/AR2010101503575.html about the large proportion of people with social science degrees in the Washington DC area. Speaking about another well-represented group, liberal arts majors, I said:

bq. “There’s museums, there’s art galleries, there’s music performances,” said John Sides, an assistant professor at George Washington University and one of 52,000 Washingtonians with social science degrees. “There’s just a lot of opportunities you’re going to have in these cities that you’re not going to have anywhere else.”

See the problem(s)? Someone did. I received this email:

bq. Dear Dr. Sides,

bq. I came across your quotes at the close of Daniel de Vise’s article on educational levels of the local population in today’s on-line edition of The Washington Post. I was dismayed to see that your remarks were ungrammatical – very difficult to justify for an academic at an institution of higher learning.

bq. For the record, you used a singular verb with a plural predicate not just once, but four times. And only two sentences were in your quote! The verb was “is”, used with: “museums”, art galleries”, music performances”, and “opportunities”. The correct verb in each case should have been “are.”

bq. As a former adjunct faculty member at GWU for twenty-five years, it pains me to see the University represented in this way. One can only hope that your statement was an absent-minded slip of the tongue.

bq. Sincerely,

bq. [name redacted}

I replied:

bq. Dear Mr. [name],

bq. It were not a slip of the tongue, I’m afraid.

bq. Only joking! Daniel de Vise and I had a wide-ranging conversation over about 20 minutes. I was sharing lots of off-the-cuff observations with him and wasn’t really trying to craft every single remark for the public domain.

bq. Rest assured, I usually conjugates verbs correctly.

bq. Yours,

bq. John