Today is a good day to recognize one of the most underrated teachers in the world of Grammar.
Our teachers may teach us how to cross the ‘t’s’ and dot the ‘I’s,’ but grammar came into being when writing became an important source of record-keeping and communication.
Grammar as we know it did not come from its users. It was developed, curated and perfected by grammarians who picked up rules from latin, or by simply creating them. Shakespeare himself could not do this; his works are often peppered with violations of basic grammar rules.
The first best-selling grammarian was Robert Lowth, who studied at New College, Oxford where he penned A Short Introduction to English Grammar. The book was published anonymously in the year 1762 and reprinted every couple of years until 1838. This little book was often quoted and sometimes even plagiarized by others.
As Lowth put it, “Our best authors have committed gross mistakes, for want of a due knowledge of English grammar.”
Shakespeare’s use of the double superlative was looked down upon; Lowth simply stated that “the most unkindest cut of all” should be “the unkindest cut of all.”
His logic further included banning the use of prepositions at the end of sentences and use of a double negative.
Examples of these should bring back childhood memories of red marks on the English papers-
A sentence like “I don’t know what it is made of” could put you in the bad books of grammar, all because of the single preposition before the full stop.
“I didn’t do nothing” simply means you did do something, forever highlighting the danger of using a double negative. Lowth put this rather astutely: “Two negatives in English destroy one another, or are equivalent to an affirmative.”
Here’s wishing premier grammar teacher Robert Lowth a Happy Teachers’ Day!