Smile Politely

Grammar Lessons: To Be or Not to Be?

Yesterday, the summer edition of the Daily Illini read, “Where’s the party at? Princeton Review ranks Illinois No. 16 party school.” Does anyone know what’s wrong with this front page? That’s right English 101 students: The sentence ends in a preposition. In order to be “grammatically correct,” it should be rephrased, “Where’s the party?” Is this acceptable from a journalistic publication? Or should we shrug this off as merely a linguistic variation?

Ron Word, a writer from the Associated Press, wrote the cover’s article — but did an editor at the Daily Illini think twice about how this sentence was phrased before it was published? Perhaps this simply distinguishes us from the more refined publications such as the New York Times: We’re making a statement — we’re from the Midwest and we say things such as, “Where’s the party at?” and “It ain’t never going to happen for the Cubs.” (And somehow, the latter sentence really does mean to those fans, “It won’t ever happen.” It’s not just an optimistic Cubs fan using a double negative on purpose.)

Even the most grammatically educated are perplexed by which word they should use, “me” or “I” and “him” or “her,” in certain sentences or are confused by which tense should be used for a verb. You can find incorrect grammatical reinforcement practically anywhere: lyrics, President George W. Bush or on the cover of a local magazine. Has the mass media truly homogenized our entire culture, making us all talk the same, dress the same, walk the same and party as hard? Or have we become “lax” in our grammarian corrections?

After all, you can understand what the question asks — but could that be the reason why we’re the No. 16 party school (and No. 18, where students study the least) and not in the top ten in academics? Does ending your sentence with a preposition really matter all that much? How hard are the students working at the best colleges? Apparently, ours aren’t working hard enough. They’re blowing off studying, partying instead and ending sentences in prepositions. Though we’re ones to talk; at Smile Politely, try as we may, we’re just as prone to mistakes as the rest of the town. Oh, right. Almost all of us got our degrees here, too.

Watch out world — we just might, may, will, or is be teaching at an English department near you.

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