Asked and answered
I told you I wasn’t going back to guns, and I meant it. My first post on the grammar of the Second Amendment provoked such intemperate and uninformed commentary that I attempted to clarify and expand on the point in a second, third and fourth post, hoping to establish the limited ground of my argument.
But now my Kent County colleague, Craig O’Donnell, comes up with a citation from the UC Davis Law Review, an article by Carl T. Bogus,* “The Hidden History of the Second Amendment,” which raises a number of interesting points. Mr. Bogus argues, in brief, that the Second Amendment was developed, not as an instrument to enable the populace to resist governmental tyranny, but rather as a guarantee to the Southern states that the general government would not use federal authority to disarm the state militia, the white population’s principal defense against slave insurrections.
You can read the article itself, which describes the historical background in some detail (and bristles with citations).
But if you continue to hold adamantly to the belief that citizens must arm themselves for protection against governmental tyranny, perhaps you might consider the means by which firearms can be made generally available to African-Americans and Native Americans. They are, after all, the segments of the population who have historically been victims of governmental oppression and lawless violence.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled pedantry.
Aaron Brager, a distinguished graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis, offer the sentence, Who'd you've lunch with? and asks, “Is it simply awkward-sounding, or is it grammatically incorrect?”
It’s awkward and non-idiomatic. Contracting the verb have usually occurs when the verb is an auxiliary, not the main verb: Who’d you’ve preferred to have lunch with? Not elegant, but not compelling the reader/hearer to backtrack to determine whether something has been left out.
A reader who heard my carrying on about National Grammar Day on Dan Rodricks’ Midday show on WYPR-FM, writes: “The grammatical mistake that drives me crazy is responding with ‘good’ when asked ‘how are you?’ I hear ‘good’ being used as a response, in schools, on NPR, on television — everywhere. Please make them stop!”
Leaving aside the reader’s touching faith in my powers to get anyone to do anything, I’m inclined to tell her to learn to live with it. I expect she wants the response to be “Well” or “I am well.” But that is to misunderstand the point of the question.
“How are you?” is not a question about one’s health, and it would be a mistake to respond to it with an inventory of aches, pains and complaints. While not actively insincere, it is a purely conventional formula. It is a shorthand for “I recognize you as a human being of my acquaintance and wish to initiate a conversation.” Since it is not really a question, the substance of the reply does not matter so long as it is not outright rude.
For my part, on a good day, I answer, “Tolerable,” sometimes rendering it as the Southern “tollable.” On a bad day, “Peachy.”
* Professor Bogus teaches at the School of Law at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.