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KISS Grammar

Lewis Thomas
[1913 - ]


From "Alchemy" in Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony
Toronto: Bantam Books, 1983, p. 31-32. 

     This paragraph caught my attention because of the second part, which is about the meaning of "grammar." It is too long for a single exercise, so I have split it into two parts. You may want to read one part to your students and have them do the other part as an exercise.
     I could, of course, have used only the second part, but the first part contains some very interesting syntactic constructions. It includes an unusual subordinate clause fragment. It also has numerous appositives, including two clauses that can alternatively be explained either as main clauses or as subordinate (noun) clauses that function as appositives. Further on, an interesting parenthetical subordinate clause can be explored for its stylistic effects as it slides between an adjectival clause and an interjection. An within that parenthetical expression, there is an unusual, but not rare elliptical clause construction -- "for the vacuums they believed were needed in their work." Taken together, these constructions make this short passage an excellent exercise for discussing both "bending the rules" and alternative explanations.
     The second part of the paragraph, the part that first caught my attention, did so because it suggests that the word "grammar" was at one time not only associated with high learning, but also with magical power and even glamour! (How things have changed! -- In suggesting this passage, I obviously have propaganda objectives in mind.) The syntax of the second part is much simpler than that of the first, but it does include a participle ("casting") that can alternatively be explained as either a gerund or a gerundive.

Exercise 1a Analysis Key - Punctuation
Exercise 1b Analysis Key