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showing results for: October, 2006

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  • Grammar: Good for your health?

    Students have always considered grammar a deadly subject, but the journal Nature is reporting that grammar may actually be a life saver.  Applying the rules of grammar, a team of MIT scientists has created new peptides which fight disease by destroying bacteria.  In a convincing demonstration that grammar is not only healthful, it’s also vital to our national security, two of the peptides even destroyed anthrax bacteria.

    We’ve suspected for centuries that grammar, known to be a nonaddictive sleep aid, may also be a powerful aphrodisiac.  Although grammar didn’t do much for Stanley Kowalski in his pleas to win back Stella in Tennessee Williams' Streetcar Named Desire, Sir Philip Sidney plied the powers of grammar in a sonnet sequence in order to get his own Stella to submit to his amorous advances.  Instead of animalistic cries of “Stella, Stella,” Sidney’s Astrophil takes the brainy approach, arguing that since grammar says two negatives make a positive, Stella’s “No, no” is actually a “Yes” (sonnet lxiii).

    Despite his working class syntax, Stanley Kowalski eventually gets his Stella back.  But Sidney's Stella probably resorted to the poet's twisted logic by using Morgenbesser’s gambit.   The 20th-century philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser created not only an unbeatable way for Stella to defend her virtue from Astrophil's prescriptive grammar, it’s also effective in vanquishing those grammarians who spin universal rules while ignoring how language really works.  In response to J. L. Austin’s assertion in a lecture that, while some double negatives affirm, double positives never become negative, Morgenbesser shouted from the back of the room, “Yeah, yeah.”

    Were Stella alive today, she could have deployed grammar not simply to thwart her Sidney's unwanted advances, but to stop his stalking altogether. But being a true Renaissance woman able to do everything Morgenbesser would later be able to do, only backwards and in heels, Stella surely couched her own ironic double positive “yeah, yeah” in elegant iambic pentameter.

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