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Louie & Ernest Clay-Crew
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Is AGENDA ever singular? and other questions

  • Subject: Is AGENDA ever singular? and other questions
  • From: Louie Crew <>
  • Date: Sun, 29 Apr 2007 17:03:07 -0400 (EDT)

On Apr 29 4:36pm ********   wrote:

> In a message dated 4/29/2007 2:12:27 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
> writes:
> the
> political agendas
> political agendae?  is agenda ever singular?  The Miss Manners of  English
> grammar wants to know.  Also, Dr. Crew, I have seen, even in the  New York
> Times, phrases such as "I was looking for a friend THAT would
> understand....."  or
> She was a person THAT knew exactly what she  wanted.............    Mrs.
> Hendrix taught us that THAT and WHICH  referred to things, and WHO
> referred to persons.  Has there been a shift in  what is acceptable, 
> or are we  southern boys just lost in a grammar time  warp?

Google gives 865,000 hits for "political agendas"; 1,220,000 hits of "a
friend that"; 1,240,000 hits for "a person that."

Linguists describe; they do not prescribe.  They do sometimes describe
shifts of usage from one discourse community to another, and certainly the
community of the internet is vastly inclusive.

In the first 6 years as an academic, I taught in elite prep schools, where
the 'A' students used their mastery of such distinctions to help secure
their 'A.'  Few of them maintained those distinctions after graduation.

I spent the next 38 years teaching mainly first-generation college
Certainly I demanded basic proficiency of grammar and spelling, but I spent
most of my energies trying to help them discover their capacity for insight
and imagination.  Most had been talked down to as if they had no such things,
as if they first must wash their mouths with grammatical soap to prove their
worth to say anything at all.  I found, however, that once they discovered
(at least a few; who rescues more than a few in any setting?) their own
powers to think originally and cogently, they came to me for help with the
niceties so that they wouldn't be faulted again.

I once discovered the college papers of my grandfather, who did well enough
with his education, and I wouldn't have passed a one of them. I doubt there
is a golden age when students were a whole lot better than they are now.

Thanks for the prompt.


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