First published by Mesquite Local News OCTOBER 23, 2014 BY 

Hearing today’s youths butcher basic grammar makes me grateful that adults took time to sit on the front porches of my own youth and create grammar lessons, cleverly disguised as games.

Grannies and Aunts began teaching pre-school aged children grammar and increasing their vocabulary with silly phrases filled with words of multiple meaning and differing pronunciation.

  • A bandage was wound around the wound.
  • Farmers  produce produce.
  • We must polish the Polish furniture.
  • He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  • The soldier decided to desert in the desert.
  • A picture of a bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
  • When the shooting started, the little gray dove dove into the bushes.
  • I don’t object to that object.
  • They were close to the door so they could close it.
  • Upon seeing a tear in the dress, I shed a tear.

Riddles were used to encourage children to think about word composition and quirky grammar.

  • Why is there no egg in eggplant, no ham in hamburger and no apple or pine in pineapple
  • Why are sweetmeats candies when sweetbreads are meats
  • Why are boxing rings square
  • If writers write, why is it that fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce, and hammers don’t ham
  • If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth
  • If you have a bunch of odds & ends and you get rid of all but one of them, what is left – an odd or an end
  • Why do people recite at a play and play at a recital
  • Why do we have noses that run and feet that smell
  • How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same but a wise man and a wise guy be opposites
  • How can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell the next
  • Why is it that stars are only visible when they are out but when lights are out they are invisible

My Granny had a keen sense of fun that helped me appreciate the lunacy of the English language.  With a twinkle in her eye, she would ask: “Don’t you think it silly that:

  • your house can burn up as it burns down
  • you bake cookies but cook bacon
  • you fill in a form by filling it out
  • an alarm goes off by going on
  • you wind up a watch to start it, but you wind up an essay to end it?”

Perhaps the quality of education would improve is those old front porches came back into style.

Betty Freeman Haines, an author and award winning columnist, lives in Mesquite, NV.  Her books/e-books, Reluctant Hero and Grieving Sucks or Does It, can be ordered from  Share your thoughts and opinions with her at

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