My friend Lois Smith had some interesting responses to two recent blog posts.

You may remember that I asked my husband to rescue a lizard that turned out to be a carpet stain in a hallway. I was impressed that Charlie made a connection to military camouflage, which often tries to make something flat look three dimensional.

Lois made another connection – to facial recognition, which she says “is why we see things in the dark, and in ink blots – see two women in hats, facing each other in that famous illustration, etc.  So I’m thinking our facial recognition slips over to other recognitions, like lizard stains.”

Intriguing! Thanks, Lois.

Lois also had some thoughts about a grammar issue I discussed in a recent post. I was comparing these two sentences:

The arena is big.

The arena is west of here.

In the first sentence, big is an adjective modifying a noun – arena. But in the second sentence, west is an adverb. Adverbs don’t modify nouns. What’s going on here?

Lois dug into her memory bank and came up with the term predicate adverb from grammar lessons in elementary school.

I looked it up, and Lois is right – but it seems to be a questionable term. Most grammar websites don’t mention it.

Here’s what I think happened: At some point a grammarian noticed this anomaly – an adverb with a copulative verb. Aughhh! Formal grammar doesn’t allow anomalies. And so the term “predicate adverb” was invented to cover this situation.

To put it another way: Language – not grammar – is primary. I suspect that many hallowed grammar rules were invented by grammarians trying to cover gaps in their theories.

There’s a lesson here for all of us: Language – not grammar categories – should always be our first priority.

And now I want to veer off to another topic: Feedback. Writing posts for this blog has show me again and again how important it is for writers to have a living, responsive audience (and not just a copyeditor or teacher who makes corrections).

Feedback for this blog shows up in the Comments section and in responses from friends in conversations and emails. Even though I have a plugin that gives me detailed statistics about activity on my blog, there’s nothing like a thoughtful response from a real, live reader.

You’re reading this post because you’re a writer. Who regularly gives you feedback? If the answer is “no one,” please find a support group!



Leave a Reply