Friday, November 17, 2017


We were hanging out with Rachel and Talia, with an Amazon Dot playing Beatles tunes. I was looking through my RSS feeds, and started reading a post from Grammarphobia. A reader had a question:

Can you give me a very simplified way to remember how to use “there,” “their,” and “they’re”? I know “there” is a place or shows ownership, and “their” is more figurative, but I still sometimes get them wrong. HELP!
You can guess what Beatles song started as I read that last word. Swear.

Related reading
All OCA synchronicity posts (Pinboard)

comments: 6

Stefan said...

As you know, I love stuff like this. Here's one that just happened to me yesterday, out running with the iPod on shuffle. First, a Carter Family song, "John Hardy," came on. Then I heard Uncle Tupelo's cover of "Orange Blossom Special." And then another Carter Family song, "No Depression in Heaven,"played. How does it all fit together? Well, Uncle Tupelo's first record, No Depression, is named after the Carter Family song, and they cover both it and "John Hardy" on the record. Johnny Cash popularized "Orange Blossom Special" and of course married into the next generation of Carters. And now I'm writing this "Orange Blossom Special" comment to be posted on Orange Crate Art.

Michael Leddy said...


On an unrelated note, I’m happy to know that at least one other person is using an iPod (and not a phone) to bring the tunes.

Berit said...

I'd also like to take this opportunity to ask for a little "help" with grammar, if you'll indulge me.

I recently became aware of myself building sentences like this, and thought, a. it sounds awful! and b. It's probably wretched grammar, and so tried to make an alteration. Example as follows: "He is a man that cannot back down", also "Be a dancer that has musicality as well as good flexibility." Should not the "that"s in those example sentences be "who"s instead? Because they reference people, humans—not inanimate objects?

Lately, since making this change, hearing others continue to speak it around me hurts my hears as much as "X and I" in the back half of sentences! I'm rather hoping you'll tell me that this hill is only a stylistic choice (Rather like William Strunk's objection to "student body" and solution of "studentry") so that I can move on with less pain from tongue-biting and perhaps fewer grammarian corrective outbursts!

Michael Leddy said...

I’m not sure I’d rely on me to answer these questions. :) So I’ll cite Garner’s Modern English Usage. From the entry on who: “That, of course, is permissible when referring to humans: the people that were present or the people who were present. Editors tend, however, to prefer the latter phrasing.”

And from the entry on that: “Is it permissible to say people that, or must one say people who? The answer is that people that has always been good English, and it’s a silly fetish to insist that who is the only relative pronoun that can refer to humans.”

In the sentences you quoted, who falls better on my ear. That sounds a little too depersonalized. But then there’s the Harold Arlen–Ira Gershwin song “The Man That Got Away,” in which that doesn’t sound strange at all.

Slywy said...

The first paragraph, with its Amazon device, RSS feed, etc., etc., reminded me how unfamiliar the world now is to me vs. the one I grew up in, where I'd say, "As we listened to the transistor radio and Mom cranked the meat grinder . . ."

Michael Leddy said...

And it could be the same music (1965).