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October 16, 2014

by Tom Morrow

I just returned on a sojourn back to what’s left of my small hometown in Southern Iowa. Most of the visit was depressing, however there were some bright spots. I helped to celebrate the 99th birthday of my old high school English teacher and football coach.

More than a half-century ago when I began high school, I had three teachers who were very instrumental in me becoming the person I am today — my history teacher, Miss Ermil Banning, my grammar teacher, Mrs. Betty Friedmeyer, and my old football coach, Mr. Maurice Stamps.

While Miss Banning provided a strong grounding in history, Mrs. Friedmeyer scared the living daylights out of me and my other classmates, ensuring we knew a predicate from a pronown. I’m still not sure whether I could explain the difference, but I’ve managed to make a fairly good living putting words together over the past 50 years.

At 99, Coach Stamps continues to maintain I “murder the King’s English.” He began telling me this back in 1954. I never did have the heart to remind him that it was “the Queen’s English” I was fracturing, but I digress.
Those three high school teachers provided the foundation of who I am today. Now, I’m not the smartest guy in the world, by any stretch of the imagination, but this trio of teachers armed me with enough to present myself anywhere in the world. Most of you could probably say the same thing about teachers you had.

Since retiring several years back, Coach Stamps has written four history books of memories about our hometown and those who lived there. We’ve exchanged letters and each other’s books for the past 20 years. He admits I do a better job of putting words together now than I did back in 1957.

I still remember some of his lessons. Here are a couple of things that jump out at me as I’ve plodded through in society: Have you ever heard anyone use the phrase, “It was a ‘most unique’ (very unique, quite unique) performance? As Mr. Stamps told us lo those many years ago, “One cannot improve upon ‘unique.'” It’s redundant to use anything else with the word. (Okay, so some of you know the proper term for “anything else,” but not me. I just know that “unique” stands alone). And, there’s no such thing as “I have a myriad of books.” Correct: “I have myriad of books.”

There’s no such word as “irregardless,” regardless of what you might think.
And, for golly sakes, remember your “helpers,” (have, had, and had), when using “saw” and “seen.” I saw a great movie last night. Have you seen it?

So, if you have seen these myriad of grammatical points, regardless of their triviality, they point out a few unique quirks of the Queen’s English.


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