January 7: Grammar No-No Day


On this day in 1948, the movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was released. Directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, the film is the story of four American men and their desperate quest for gold in 1920s Mexico.

One particular scene in the film features some famous dialogue between one of the Americans, Dobbs, and bandits posing as police officers:

Bandit: “We are Federales… you know, the mounted police.”

Dobbs: “If you’re the police, where are your badges?”

Bandit: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”

The last line of dialogue concerning “Badges?” was chosen as number 36 on the American Film Institute’s list of most memorable movie lines.  In addition to being a famous movie quote, the line “We don’t need no badges!” is an example of one of the most infamous of grammar no nos:  the double negative. Using two forms of negation in the same sentence is considered non-standard English, primarily because it confuses the reader, as in the following examples (1):

Double Negative                                       Correct Version

I don’t have no time to eat.                       I don’t have any time to eat.

I can’t find my keys nowhere.                 I can’t find my keys anywhere.

I can’t get no satisfaction.                       I can’t get any satisfaction.

We don’t need no education.                  We don’t need any education.

Since keeping sentences lucid and clear for the reader is a priority of every writer, double negatives should be avoided.

Today’s Challenge:  Turning Wrongs into Rights

If you were to teach a lesson in English grammar, what common grammar mistakes would you consider explaining?  Select one specific grammar faux pas to address.  Then, research and write the text of your lesson, including examples of the error and corrections.  The following are examples of some classic no nos.

Dangling participles, Misplaced modifiers, Run-on sentences, Sentence fragments, Comma splices, Passive voice, Lack of parallelism, Lack of subject verb agreement, Apostrophe errors, Incorrect word choice, Vague pronoun reference, Capitalization errors  (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day: The greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar.  –Michel de Montaigne

1-American Film Institute.   AFI’s 100 Greatest Movie Quotes. http://www.afi.com/100Years/quotes.aspx.

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