Happy summer! For many of us, summer means traveling, cookouts and trips to the beach. But Grammar Guardians have little time for rest.
This month, I want to respond to readers’ emails, so here we go:
I enjoy reading your articles in the Town Crier but take exception to your use of “’a” before the word ukulele. It is a word from the Hawaiian language and we on the mainland don’t pronounce it right. The “u” at the beginning is pronounced like “oo” not a” you” so should have “an” in front of it instead of “a”. Keep up the good work and I look forward to more of your articles.
I love grammar challenges because I get to learn something new along with readers of this column. My grandfather played the ukulele, but I had never heard it referred to as “an ukulele.” I turned to www.ukuleleunderground.com, a site I didn’t know existed until now. Here is the response to this question, posted on that site:
There are two general approaches to grammar: prescriptive and descriptive. A prescriptive approach is one in which authoritative experts prescribe proper usage. Descriptive approaches describe the ways language is commonly used. According to a strict prescriptive approach, an ‘ukulele is proper. The word ‘ukulele is Hawaiian in origin and should be spoken with the original Hawaiian pronunciation, ook-uh-leh-leh. However, a descriptive grammar would state that a ukulele is also acceptable, since the word has been almost exclusively pronounced yook-uh-lay-lee in the mainland for a very, very long time. In a phone conversation with MusicGuyMic, a Hawaiian, he told me “I don’t care how you pronounce it as long as I can sell you one!”
Humorous and informational. I love it.
I am a German citizen and spend six months of the year in the Valley. I am not sure if you answer a grammar question to an individual. If you do, please tell me when to say I or me, for example: “My friend and I (or my friend and me) are members of a club.”
This is actually one of my favorite topics, and I have covered it previously; however, it seems to confuse a lot of people, so it is worth repeating. The best way I’ve heard it explained is this: Take out the other person (and change the conjugation of the verb, if necessary) and see how it sounds. For example:
• My friend and I are going to the party.
• My friend and me are going to the party.
If you remove “My friend” from the sentences and change “are” to “am,” you quickly realize that “me” is incorrect. Let’s try another one:
• Do you want to go to a movie with my sister and I?
• Do you want to go to a movie with my sister and me?
This one is simple. Remove “my sister” and repeat the sentence. Here, “I” would be incorrect. It is OK to put “me” before or after “my sister.” Either is correct. The more we practice the correct usage, the more this reader and I will become adept at knowing when to use “I” and when to use “me.”
Throughout the summer, I will address emails from readers. It’s great to know so many of you are out there Guarding Our Grammar.
Chris Ardis teaches American Sign Language as a foreign language at McAllen High School. You can visit her web site at chrisardis.com and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.