Monday, February 29, 2016

Grammar (Fewer Drugs Than in the 1970s Edition)

If you are of a certain age, you grew up watching "Schoolhouse Rock" in between Saturday morning cartoons. 

Or maybe you ironically checked out the 90s revival.
Still makes you going on old. And awesome.
I'm completely unashamed to admit that to this day the only way I can count by threes is by recalling the middle part of "Three Is a Magic Number" (and picturing the big football player bursting through the wall, Kool Aid Man-style). Or that I can't recite the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, but I sure as hell can sing it.

Buy me a drink and find out.

But mostly I was into Grammar Rock. Nouns, adjectives, verbs (that's what's happening!)...I did not learn about the parts of speech in any classroom. I learned them between episodes of "Scooby Doo" and commercials for Lucky Charms and the Game of Life.

And they used to wonder why Generation X was such a bunch of snotty, entitled slackers (really, they did). It's because we had "Schoolhouse Rock" and the rest of you geezers and hippies and millennials didn't.

But here's the thing. I just discovered that "Schoolhouse Rock" was totally late to the party when it came to teaching grammar.

I don't even know how I stumbled across this, except that my Internet searches typically take me to the weirdest places on the Web that aren't actually porn or anime (or, of course, both). But when I found it recently, I knew I had to share it with you guys. Because it's super-neat. And because even if you don't think it's super-neat, you love me enough to indulge me.

Goddamn, you guys are awesome.

If Bill Murray says so, it must be true.
Anyway, long story short. Apparently there was a dude who lived in the 19th century whose name was Elias Howe, and he didn't invent the sewing machine. This was a different guy, and he was into music and dancing. Specifically, he liked to make up dance calls - you know, like the square dances you had to do in grade school, but back then people actually enjoyed that shit.

Elias Howe wrote a LOT of dance calls. Books and books worth. Um, you can check them out on Google Books if you really have a hankering to read 19th century dance calls. No pressure.

But I found this one that is truly amazing. It is the Victorian-era version of Grammar Rock. I love, love, love it. It's catchy and perfectly correct, just like those cherished cartoons of my youth, without the sometimes-trippy animation.

It makes me happy to read. I hope it makes you happy, too, whether you're a grammar nerd like me or a fan of catchy verses or just kind of a weirdo who can appreciate a 150-year-old version of a Saturday morning cartoon.

Enjoy. :)


Mrs. Grammar she gave a ball
To the nine different parts of speech;
To the big and the small,
To the short and the tall,
There were pies, plums and puddings for each.

And first little Articles came,
In a hurry to make themselves known —
Fat AAn and The,
But none of the three,
Could stand for a minute alone.

Then Adjectives came to announce
That their dear friends the Nouns were at hand —
Rough, Rougher and Roughest,
Tough, Tougher and Toughest,
Fat, Merry, Good-natured and Grand.

The Nouns were indeed on their way —
Ten thousand and more I should think;
For each name that we utter —
Shop, Shoulder and Shutter —
Is a Noun, Lady, Lion and Link.

The Pronouns were following fast
To push the Nouns out of their places;
I, Thou, You and Me,
We, They, He and She,
With their merry, good-humored old faces.

Some cried out “Make way for the Verbs!”
A great crowd is coming in view —
To bite and to smite,
And to light, and to fight,
To be, and to have, and to do.

The Adverbs attend on the Verbs,
Behind them as footmen they run;
As thus: “To fight badly,
They runaway gladly,
Shows how fighting and running were done."

Prepositions came — In, By and Near,
With Conjunctions, a poor little band,
As “either you or me,
But neither them nor he” —
They held their great friends by the hand.

Then with a Hip, hip, hurrah!
Rushed Interjections uproarious —
Oh, dear! Well a day!
When they saw the display.
Ha! ha!” they all shouted out, “glorious!

But, alas, what misfortunes were nigh!
While the fun and the feastings pleased each,
They pounced in at once
A monster — a DUNCE,
And confounded the nine parts of speech.

Help, friends! to rescue! on you
For aid Noun and Article call —
Oh give your protection
To poor Interjections,
Verb, Adverb, Conjunction and all!

The Golden Era (San Francisco, California) – Jan 22, 1865
Author: Elias Howe
Publisher: E. Howe, 1866


  1. It would be impossible to improve on Howe's verse but I would love to hear it sung and have it animated Schoolhouse Rock style.

    Why? Because it's OK to do stuff.


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