Monday, July 16, 2007

Not So Fast, Whippersnapper

We found this in the Boston Globe:

Stop sign travesties!
Self-proclaimed "grammar vandal" goes after public mistakes that grate
By Danielle Dreilinger, Globe Correspondent July 15, 2007

The ads said "run easy," but they made Kate McCulley's teeth clench.

The 22-year-old grammarian stared at Reebok's Marathon-themed posters on her commute from Somerville to Fort Point this spring, on her way to her job as a research assistant at a concierge services company. "RUN EASY BOSTON," the ads
announced, inviting locals to . . . do what?

The question began to haunt her.

"Should I run an easy Boston? Should I run, and is Boston a promiscuous city?" she riffed on her travel blog, Her conclusion: "Without punctuation, we have nothing."

It didn't help her mood that she was reading "Eats, Shoots & Leaves," the best-selling book about grammar that tickles readers with its gentle wit but hits hard about the sorry state of language usage. Her copy included a packet of punctuation stickers as a do-it-yourself correction kit.

The Reebok sign should have read "run easily," McCulley observed, and it should have had a comma after "easily," before "Boston." (More... )

While we appreciate the zeal, easy can be used as an adverb that means "with ease," and has been used this way since 1400. (We checked in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

There is some widespread misunderstanding out there that all adverbs end in -ly, and anything that ends in -ly is also an adverb. Lolly, lolly, lolly, this just ain't so.

Deathly, as in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is an adjective. So are friendly, ghostly and ghastly. As we've said, "easy" can function as an adverb.

So how is one to know what's correct? The dictionary. We use ours several times a day -- when we encounter unfamiliar words, when we're double-checking usage or pronunciation, or just because it's fun to find new treasures in its pages.

It's too bad no one at the Boston Globe thought of doing this, but hey -- that would have ruined a perfectly good story. Why let the facts do that?

The grammar vandal is correct, though, in demanding a comma after "easy." Run easy, Boston. (As opposed to Run, easy Boston -- this really would mean run, you slutty city.)

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