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I heard it again, I groaned.


Someone on the radio saying, ‘I was sat…’

Oh, I know, agreed Brassica.  It’s really annoying.

It made me think of Browning’s poem about the

grammarian’s funeral, I reflected.

What’s it called? asked Brassie- only mildly interested.

‘The Grammarian’s Funeral’, I think Anyway, his body is

being carried by his students to an elevated position, suitable

for his entombment.  There’s a lot of ‘leave the vulgar thorpes’

and ‘leave the unlettered…’

That’s not very kind, is it? remarked Brassie.  Browning sounds a

bit arrogant.

Robert Browning by Herbert Rose Barraud c1888.jpg

Never confuse an adopted persona with the poet himself, or

herself, I cautioned.

Well, I bet he was full of himself, rejoined Brassie.

Hmmm, Richard D. Altick said the grammarian was a dead

gerund-grinder, I countered.

Who’s Richard…?

Don’t even go there, I replied. There aren’t so many grammarians

nowadays.  As a group, they seem to have declined. And never speak

to the moniker; only the gerund-grinder.

She didn’t get the jokes.

When I heard that journalist saying ‘I was sat’, what do you

think came into my head?

Candia, how could I ever guess what would come into your

crazy mind?

Maybe you’ve got a point, but it was pure Parry.

Parry?  Bruce?  He’s quite fit- in both senses of the



No, the composer.  Hubert.

Blank look.

(Image uploaded by Tim Riley)

Think Kate Middleton’s wedding.  Westminster Abbey.

Oh, that Parry!  Why?

All I could hear was:


I was sat…

sat’, when they said unto me.

You were NOT!  You were what??

‘Sitting’ is what it should be.

You stayed on that chair for some time,

so, in principle,

use a participle.

The past perfect’s a syntactic crime.

(Editor: This time the imperfect is fine)


You were sitting- ‘sitting’ is what was agreed

is the norm; judged good form-

what Dr Johnson decreed.

All right- a cat might be sat on a Yorkshire mat

and the vowel in ‘sat’ will be probably flat,

but it’s quite simply the wrong tense. That is that!

If you’d refer to the work of grammarians,

you’d have more class;

sound slightly less crass

and not be lin-guis-ti-cally bar-ba-ri-an!


O pray plenteous errors will justly decrease;

solecisms will wither and pall.

Recite declensions with fluency, ease:


and inflect-

shock them all!

You were ‘seated’;

‘seated’ is what is preferred.

It’s definitive,

like the infinitive:

so, ne-ver say ‘boldly go!’

Your feet ‘shall’ stand: that auxil-i-ary will show

your strength of will (in hail or snow);

you’ll be transfixed and simp-ly re-fuse to go.


I was gled.

Gled’ when I spoke marked RP.

Let us go…Tally ho!

into the royal marquee.

Inside I found jem and Jeru-salem

and tried to converge

(but then it emerged)

that the chep I thought was posh- just- made- the- tea.

I was glidding-

glidding‘ when they said unto me:

Let us go….Pedants, ho!

(That’s the subjunctive, you know.)

My feet...reprise

Da capo.

Then I was glud.

Glud‘ when some said unto me,

You’re prescriptive;

so restrictive.

Why don’t you go with the flow?

My heart leapt up as I su-dden-ly re-alised

that I’d been well advised

and parsed with ease, so easy pease, from way back in the mists of Prim’ry Three.

So, vivat Scolastica!

Vivat Grammatica!

Vivat Syntactica!

Vivat Pedagogica!

Vivat Logorrheica!

Vivat! Vivat! Vivat!

You just need an orchestra, said Brassie.

And a choir. And a large cheque book, or a sugar daddy.

I’ll have to ask if one can book Westminster Abbey.

You could reserve a New York venue like Ethel Smyth, the

conductor, or that Jenkins woman, suggested Brassie.

Narcissa Florence Jenkins?

Fits, said Brassie.  The name’s the giveaway.


Florence Foster Jenkins.jpg