Note: This will make more sense if you are familiar with the Style-Style Continuum.
I was shocked recently to learn that a close friend of mine, who shall
remain nameless (but is obvi a guy), had never heard the rule about not
wearing black and brown together. I mean, really? That's practically
the 11th commandment. Fortunately for him though, he is relatively
strong with grammar. That will give him a reference point for today's
post, which will explain why you can't wear a black shirt with brown
shoes (or vice versa) by relating it to the concept of why you can't
have a plural verb with a singular subject (or vice versa).
If you happen to be one of those people who already knew the
black/brown rule but could stand to brush up on subject/verb agreement
(ahem, Cassie), you can also benefit from this post because your
fashion knowledge will give you an in to the analogy.
If you have no knowledge of fashion or grammar, read this and
see if you can pick up anything whatsoever. (Baby steps, Paris.)
If you are an
all-star in both areas, you can go to recess early today.
for the lesson! There is, believe it or not, a strong principle at
work in the universe that makes it very easy to compare the fashion sin
of mixing black and brown with the usage sin of clashing your subject
and your verb. This principle is:
IGNORE THE SHIT IN THE MIDDLE, AND THE ANSWER BECOMES CLEAR.
look at this from a fashion angle first. Look at the man in the
picture. He probably thought he was putting together a pretty crisp
outfit this morning. Maybe he's never heard the black and brown rule
before, or maybe he just thought that the khakis neutralized everything
and made the combo OK. I'm sorry, but no. What he needs to know is
that in order for an outfit to match, all of its components have to be
in harmony. You have to be able to take the sweater, put it right next
to the shoes, and still have everything work together. When we do
that, the mismatch becomes extremely obvious:
Interestingly, this same concept is at work in the English language. We just have
to regard the subject in the sentence as a sweater and the verb as
the shoes. In a sentence like, "My cats runs all over the couch," we
can easily see that the shoes ain't matchin the shirt. However, In a
sentence like, "A variety of fruits and vegetables were
available," it can be hard to tell if our subject (variety) agrees with
our verb (was/were). What's a woebegone grammarphobe to do?
remember our rule: ignore the shit in the middle and the answer becomes
clear! Just as we removed the khakis from the equation in the first
example, we can remove the prepositional phrase that is cluttering our
sentence here and easily see what we're up against:
Now, the answer is as clear as "the cats runs!" With the
subject and verb right next to each other, we realize that "A variety
were" pairs a plural noun with a plural verb, which is incorrect. The
sentence should read, "A variety of fruits and vegetables was
Whether you are a fashion reject grammarphile or a grammar
reject fashionphile, you have learned an important lesson today. So
tomorrow, when you are choosing your outfit or your next sentence,
remember to ignore the shit in the middle, and you will be fine. Now
you can go to recess too!