What is Grammar?

In my search for a definition of grammar, I grabbed the first handy reference book, a 1992 Oxford Thesaurus.   I often prefer using a reference book.  That way I won?t have to avoid the ads, scroll down, be tempted to follow links that will lead me down rabbit holes.

I thumbed through this nearly 1,000-page book, found the g?s, and then landed on the gr- page:

  • grace, graceful, gracious, grade, gradual, gradually, graduate, graft, graft, grain, grand.

Wait a minute!  I looked again.  Grammar should be between grain and grand.  Does this mean it has no synonym?

This picture does not contain a definition of grammar

Google time had arrived, and it was not particularly helpful because the synonyms I found?such as syntax, punctuation, semantics?are branches of grammar.  That would be like saying that molecular biology is a synonym for biology. Syntax is not a definition of grammar but one element.

Before giving up on the thesaurus, I checked the index.  There I found that grammar was a synonym for a schoolbook from the 19th century.  Some grammars focused on rhetoric while others were more like reading textbooks.  These were often called Readers or Primers.

How Does the Dictionary Define Grammar?

If the thesaurus wasn?t much help, it was time to turn to the dictionary.  So I grabbed my 2,100-page Webster?s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, a book I have had for at least 30 years.  The pages are yellowing, but I can’t afford the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary or the 2-volume Oxford with accompanying magnifying glass, so I treasure it.

In it, I found 6 definitions for grammar.  This is definition 2 (it?s clearer and shorter than definition 1):

?The system of word structures and word arrangements of a given language at a given time.?

Then combine it with number 3:

?A system of rules for speaking and writing a given language.?

So grammar is the structure of a language. Many people think grammar is simply about rules, but knowing why the rules exist and what you can do with them is just as important.

A few other words caught my interest:

  • Grammarian: ?one who teacher or writes upon grammar?
  • Grammarianism: ?the strict observance of grammatical rules; pedantry?
  • Grammarless: ?devoid of grammar? (which seems almost impossible)
  • Grammaticaster: ?a pedantic or petty grammarian?
  • Grammatication: ?a discussion of points of grammar? (like this post!)
  • Grammatist: ?a grammarian: generally used disparagingly?.

Based on the number of negative entries, I get the sense people do not much like those who go on about grammar.

I also learned the word grammalogue is used in shorthand when a word is expressed by a singular letter.  So text-speak like C U later is grammaloguing. 

Graminology, I learned, is the science of grasses.

Then I closed the dictionary and lugged it back to the shelf; otherwise, who knows what rabbit hole I would go down while trying to find the definition of grammar.

What Words Rhyme with Grammar?

I could not resist the temptation to look through my Rhyming Dictionary.  It took some searching, but finally I found the section I needed (UR).  The selection for two-syllable words that rhyme was not long.  Potential two-syllable rhymes include

  • Concur/confer/defer/deter/incur/inter/infer/occur/prefer/yessir.

Three syllable words might do as well

  • as it were/cocklebur/disinter/emperor/him and her/Edinburgh.

I will leave you with this short verse:

Scotland, Here I Come

I concur

That grammar

Instruction must occur.

But I prefer

That it occur

While I?m in Edinburgh.

I’d love to see what you can do. Please send me your poems.

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