Fixing other people’s problems and grammar rules

Recite this mantra to avoid drama

Every morning, before I turn my phone on, I recite a mantra…

“The sky is blue. The grass is green. And today, I won’t be mean.”

Because some days, the world and all of its problems hit me while I’m half awake.

On those days, I don’t like myself very much.

But if I say that mantra to myself, I remember that I can’t fix everyone’s issues. Because every time I try to help someone, I end up caught in their mess and thinking, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

When I remind myself of that, I go from mean to my usual grumpy self.

You know who else should have embraced and recited my mantra? Robert Lowth — a leader in the Church of England during the 1700s.

In 1762, he wrote a book called A Short Introduction to English Grammar that was filled with Latin-inspired restrictions on English grammar.

One such grammar rule he invented based on Latin was that the double negative had no place in English grammar. Even though English speakers had been using double negatives for centuries.

For example — the first English translation of the Bible by King James (in 1611) used double negatives.

William Shakespeare even doubled down on the double negative. He used a triple negative in his 1633 play Richard III. (Wow, this is starting to sound like figure skating speak.) Shakespeare wrote, “I never was nor never will be.”

Now, I would think that a bishop would’ve noticed its usage in a Bible. But I get it…

Between the smog from the factories during the Industrial Revolution and the powder from his wigs, his judgment must have really been clouded.

Regardless, Lowth’s grammar rule book was a huge success and became wildly popular. Mostly because people who were climbing the socio-economic ladder during the Industrial Revolution wanted to speak “correct” English to distinguish themselves from the peasants.

Eventually, his rules became the standard for teaching grammar all over the English-speaking world. And he became known as the father of prescriptivism (a fancy word for proper grammar stickler).

But there’s the real story — Lowth never intended to write a prescriptive grammar book or have it become the gold-star grammar standard.

No, he actually wrote the book to fix a problem for his son who was starting school to formally study Latin. Lowth thought that by compiling and refining his version of the rules of English, he would give his son a rock-solid foundation for learning Latin grammar.

I guess that really backfired, didn’t it?

No good deed goes unpunished.

Even Ginger would agree. If she wasn’t busy walking.