KISS Level 2.1.4 Palimpsest Patterns
Notes for Teachers
To my knowledge, the
concept of the “palimpsest” pattern is unique to KISS Grammar. Once one
has spent a little time analyzing randomly selected texts, however, the
concept becomes somewhat obvious. As noted elsewhere in KISS, the traditional
“transitive,” “intransitive,” and “linking” verbs are not very helpful,
especially because “linking” verbs are usually presented in a short, incomplete
list that students are expected to memorize and then forget. They can't
use the list effectively because it is incomplete.
The moonlight flooded that great, silent
In analyzing real texts,
however, one will run across a sentence such as the following,
The reaped field lay yellow in it.
“Lay” is rarely, if ever, included in that useless
list of “linking” verbs. The KISS question (“Lay what?”) does not make
sense here, but that leaves the question of how to explain “yellow.” One
could, I suppose, call it an adverb, but it functions more as an adjective
to “field.” Thus, the palimpsest pattern—“lay” is “written over” “was.”
You will not find a lot of such patterns, but, as the exercises in this
section illustrate, there are enough to make the concept helpful. In most
cases, they are fairly obvious. I doubt that students will have many problems
with them, once they have a name for them.
might be interesting to study the stylistic implications of palimpsests,
especially against the context of post-positioned adjectives. (See KISS
Level 5.5) Conrad, for example, uses a number of palimpsests (or perhaps
I was just looking for them in his story), but compare Conrad’s palimpsest
It flowed cold and gray in the darkness.
to a version with commas added—
It flowed, cold and gray, in the darkness.
The commas cut “cold and gray” from the verb, thereby
making them function more like post-positioned adjectives.
The two exercises from
Maxwell’s Intermediate Grammar raise interesting questions of usage
and meaning. For example, in the sentence “Bessie felt bad because she
missed her lesson,” the use of “bad” means that Bessie felt that she had
been bad, but suppose the sentence were “Bessie felt badly because her
friend was hurt in an accident.” Traditional prescriptive grammars insisted
that in cases like this, "felt badly" should be used in both sentences,
but such prescriptiveness runs against common usage. It also hides a distinction
In most cases, palimpsest
patterns involve a verb written over an S/V/PA pattern, but sometimes the
pattern has a predicate noun. The following example is from The Dark
Frigate by Charles Boardman Hawes:
The other ship, in which he now sat a prisoner,
was like some great tiger.
I have no idea of how most grammar textbooks would
explain “prisoner” In KISS, however, this can easily be explained as a
palimpsest pattern with “sat” written over “was.” Note, however, that "prisoner"
can alternatively be explained as a noun used as an adverb.
|Suggested Directions for Analytical Exercises
1. Place parentheses ( ) around each prepositional phrase.
2. Underline every finite verb twice, its subject(s) once, and label
any complements (“PA,” “PN,” “IO,” or “DO”).
|Probable Time Required
One exercise ought to give students the concept.
After that you will run into cases, but if you want to be sure, you might
do one short exercise that focuses on palimpsests yearly.