Jewish World Review April 11, 2011 / 7 Nissan, 5771
Where It's At
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Dear Reader,
It was wholly a pleasure to receive your complaint about a headline over one of our stories in the Sports section the other day. The story was about
"I realize that English evolves," you write, "but I still think this is wrong. Do you agree?"
Short answer: No.
The long answer comes in the form of a story I bet every kid from the South who's gone off to an
A new freshman from
"Excuse me," he asks an upper classman, "would you tell me where the library's at?"
The Harvard student, peering down his nose, replies: "Here at Harvard, we do not end sentences with a preposition."
"Oh," the kid from
I've cleaned up the punch line slightly for a family newspaper, but Gentle Reader will get the point.
If my answer-and-story isn't sufficiently definitive to settle the ever disputable question of whether to end a sentence with a preposition, here is the late great
What a ride through the American language he offered. He was a one-man verbal pyrotechnic.
Here is the crux of his comments on the fabled Avoid Terminal Prepositions rule. which really isn't one.
" ...First off, the Avoid Terminal Prepositions rule is the invention of one Fr.
"...Plus the apparent redundancy of 'Where's it at?' is offset by its metrical logic. What the at really does is license the contraction of is after the interrogative adverb. You can't say 'Where's it?' So the choice is between 'Where is it?' and 'Where's it at?' and the latter, a strong anapest, is prettier and trips off the tongue better than 'Where is it?' "
For me, the more rural Southern as well as Midwestern "Where's it at?" is preferable simply on the basis of euphony. It's got rhythm, it's got music, it's got the punch of punctuation at the end with that final at. Who could ask for anything more? You heard me what I said -- a phrase that beats the pallid alternative, "You heard what I said," all to heck.
I would trust the ear rather than eye in these matters. When in doubt, go for the phrase that rolls trippingly off the tongue. Speak the speech, I pray you, that sounds more like home -- and Shakespeare, too. Which is no mean combination for a fancier of the language.
Just remember it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing, 'cause that's where it's at. Which sounds so much better to me than "That's where it is." Surely that impeccable linguist
Maybe my Southern origins are showing, but I've never had reason to hide them -- or my preference for the musical over the pedantic. Language, among other criteria, should not only communicate but sing and zing, not just explicate but exhilarate. (Snap your fingers at this point.)
What else can I say except be of good cheer? Which is not a bad guide to language -- or life.
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