Once there was a time when writers of English could relax their syntax and let their participles dangle. However, 257 years ago this week, that all changed when Oxford Professor of Poetry Robert Lowth published A Short Introduction to English Grammar (1762). This work criticized the unstructured scribblings of the popular wordmongers of the day like Shakespeare and Jonathan Swift and set about to codify the rules English needed to be more like Mr. Lowth's beloved Latin. His treatise would become the authority on grammar for school textbooks for centuries. So if you ever felt trepidation before using punctuation, you can thank Mr. Lowth. But no man is pure evil, and Lowth would try to lighten his otherwise mirthless musings with a grammatical gutbuster or two. For example, here is an excerpt from his definitions of the different parts of speech:
"Pro-noun = a word that is paid to be the subject of a sentence."
Hmmm.... ok, maybe this guy was pure evil.
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