Friday, May 6, 2022

Andy Young: I eye bad grammar, thinking May may be the best

By Andy Young

May may be my favorite month of the year.

Hmmm. That doesn’t sound quite right. Have I just inadvertently violated some arcane rule of sentence structure?

I’m not sure where I got the impression that starting an essay (or a sentence, for that matter) by repeating the same word or sound is bad form. Maybe it was from some grammar book, although that’s pretty unlikely, given the number of grammar books I’ve ever read from cover to cover (zero). 

The idea of avoiding beginning a sentence by using the same word twice (or with consecutive homonyms) was most likely planted in the recesses of my still-absorbent brain years ago by some well-intentioned teacher. That information has lain dormant for decades, brought back to life only because of the oddly discordant sound this opus’s opening makes when read aloud.

But why obsess over obscure (and possibly imaginary) grammar rules when there are other issues to resolve? Is May considered a terrific month based solely on its own merits? Or is the general affection for it (at least in the northern hemisphere) based on the anticipation of the months people know for certain are going to follow?

Certainly, the fifth month of the year has much to recommend it. For openers, there’s May Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Mother’s Day. And then there’s Memorial Day, which for Americans is both a festive and solemn occasion. 

That three-day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, but also serves as a tribute to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that those of us still extant in the 21st century can continue pursuing life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness with minimal interference from those who’d deny us such privileges. 

Teacher Appreciation Week and Nurse Appreciation Week both fall in May, and in my only slightly biased opinion everyone should not only sincerely appreciate people who ply their trades in the fields of education and health care, they should do so every day.

(Full disclosure, this column’s writer is himself a member of one of the two groups of public servants referenced in the preceding paragraph and has availed himself of the services of the other group on numerous occasions.)

May is chock full of other less-known days that are worthy of celebration, like National Endangered Species Day (May 20), National Armed Forces Day (the 21), and Peace Officers Memorial Day (the 15). It’s also fraught with less prominent occasions, like Walnut Day (May 17), Turtle Day (May 23), and the mysterious National Shrimp Day (May 10). Is this intended as a salute to shellfish, or to small people? Perhaps it should be designated to honor both these too-often-underappreciated groups. 

May is historically significant, too. New York’s Empire State Building opened on May 1, 1931. Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile on May 6, 1954. Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president on May 10, 1994.

John F. Kennedy was born in May, as were Florence Nightingale, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Sally Ride, Malcolm X, Queen Victoria, Stevie Wonder, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Andre the Giant, Bob Dylan, Salvador Dali, Tina Fey, Rob Gronkowski, Harry Truman, Mr. T, George Carlin, Bono, Pope John Paul II, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, just to name 20.

That repeated word thing is still bothering me, though.

Eight ate at the octagonal table? Bill Bill for the broken window? Our hour of need is now? Fax facts, not lies? Half the milk spilled; what a poor pour?

None of those sound right, either.

May might be my favorite month of the year.

There. That’s better. <

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