Friday, July 21, 2006

Subsiding Island Gossip

That was Lou Ann's original title for yesterday's journal entry. I changed it before I published it. Lou Ann thinks my title, "Minimizing Island Gossip," is "stupid." Luckily, she's still talking to me.

"Subside," as I so helpfully pointed out, is an intransitive verb (it doesn't take an object). It's like the verb "fall." A tree can fall, but you can't fall a tree. Gossip can subside, but you can't subside gossip. Of course, Lou Ann might have been using "subsiding" as a gerund ("an English verbal noun in -ing that has the function of a substantive and at the same time shows the verbal features of tense, voice, and capacity to take adverbial qualifiers and to govern objects"). But somehow I don't think that's what Lou Ann had in mind.

Lou Ann says she was always looking for a college professor who sat in his book-lined office wearing a jacket with leather elbow patches. I have built shelves upstairs above the Village Craftsmen and turned that room into a library of Island History. But even though I know the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs (was I the only one paying attention in 9th grade English classes?) I'm usually barefooted and wearing a t-shirt. Maybe I should buy a pipe.

Well, to all of you English teachers out there, I'm going to bow to Lou Ann after all. In addition to being a big fan of Lou Ann's I am also a big fan of Humpty Dumpty, who is reported to have said (in a rather scornful tone, I'm told), "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

You can read our latest newsletter here. It's about Ocracoke Islanders and "tokens of death."


  1. Anonymous1:52 PM

    I am not an English teacher, but I am a fan of Humpty Dumpty and Lou Ann. One vote for them!

  2. ...This entry from the folks who bring you "Pizer" ;)

  3. Anonymous6:32 PM

    That would be 'teachers of English'.

  4. Anonymous7:50 PM

    I ain't never had no problem with english. I think you done real good!