Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Why I Hated English Class

Most of my life has been spent writing. I've written about people and events for newspapers, I've written fiction for magazines, I've written stuff just for the helluva it. All this time there was a little fact hidden away in some dark recess of my mind: I know nothing about the English language.
That isn't quite true. I know a noun is a person, place or thing. That has a nice ring to it so it has stayed with me all these years. I know an adjective . . . well, it sort of describes something, that's the best I can do. If you say, "A big dog," big is an adjective and dog is a noun.
That's the extent of my knowledge. With that in mind I Googled prepositions. Then I Googled conjunctions. I even Googled adverbs. Regular verbs, the fact is I've never been certain about them so I Googled them too. I printed out lists of these things although I'm not sure why. Just something to do, I guess.
So now I've got all these lists and I still have no idea what purpose it would serve to understand this stuff. I'm not going to spend one second pondering whether or not I need to add a conjunction here or a preposition there.
Most of us were subjected to the ridiculous time-waster called diagramming sentences in school. English teachers never saw a sentence that didn't need diagramming so you'd draw a straight line and then little lines branching off from it and then more lines shooting off from the branches. I was pretty good at drawing all those lines, not so hot at putting words on them. I suppose there were some kind of rules that told you verbs go on this line and conjunctions go on that line but I must have been absent the day the rules were laid down.
So what difference does it make? Either you can write an understandable sentence or you cannot. I've always known that and it's a good thing because I just tossed my lists in the wastebasket.
I do wonder about one thing, though. Would I have been fired from newspaper jobs if editors were aware of my lack of knowledge concerning the language? Would all my stories have been deep-sixed by magazine editors? Might they have said, "My God, this man doesn't know his adverbs from his elbows."
We'll never know, will we? Somehow I doubt that would have happened.


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