Posted by: ritagone | May 22, 2019

If We Have Not Grammar…

I’m reading one of the most esoteric books I’ve ever read.  I can’t even remember why I’m reading it, where the recommendation came from, except that I read her last book a while back, “Between You and Me,” which was Mary Norris’ fun foray into the uses and misuses of grammar and punctuation.  Yes, that book too was rather esoteric unless you happen to be, as I am, a former copy editor (‘TEEN Magazine, 1968-1970), trained by one of the best copy editors around to catch and eliminate all kinds of punctuation and grammar mis-steps.

Those of us who think this task is actually important – and Mary Norris is one of them, because she worked in the New Yorker Magazine’s copy department for many years – are often obnoxious about commas and semicolons and such.  We don’t think the world will end with a bang or a whimper but with one misplaced modifier too many.

So as I’m laboriously reading through the Greek words that are literally “Greek to me” and unintelligible, but enjoying her autobiographical stories of college and discovery of  her particular travel interests and such, relishing much of the book and kind of ignoring the rest, I was shocked – literally shocked – to come upon these two sentences yesterday, a day that will live in infamy in my copy editor’s heart: “My mother, like Demeter, had lost a child. He was a boy, named Patrick, and he was two years older than me.”


I read that second sentence again.  Surely I had been mistaken.  How could this be?  Surely a copy editor from the New Yorker – with a professional staff of copy editors who must have read and re-read this book in manuscript form before it went to print – could not, would not have let such an error get by them?

Did you see it?  Are you too short of breath right now?

Yes, her older brother Patrick was not two years older than “me,” but older than “I.”  You would not say “older than me am,” would you?  Then why would you write “older than me?”  That’s the prescriptive way to catch this very common grammar error: take away or add the proper missing word and see if the sentence still makes sense.  It’s one of the most basic mistakes people make, along with using “your” instead of “you’re” or confusing the “there, their and they’re”s.


I think Western Civilization as I know it is definitely about to end.  While everyone else is looking for icebergs to melt and vast food shortages, I’m telling you that a professional copy editor who wrote a major book published by a major publishing house has made a major grammar mistake.

We are all doomed.


  1. AMEN!!!! And thanks for the compliment! 🙂

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