A grammatical tirade never fixed the roof

Burt's Eye View

I have always admired the kind of guy who can move into a broken-down place and renovate it exquisitely.

The kind of guy who stands in the middle of a shambles and sees a room’s potential. The kind of guy who replumbs a kitchen, miters a chair rail and installs a countertop. The kind of guy who owns power tools.

I can hardly wait to dump my home so that kind of guy can move in and fix it. Thanks to my handyman efforts, that kind of guy is going to have a blast.

My skill set tends toward subject-verb agreements, semicolon usage and understanding the apostrophe. In other words, grammar.

I have yet to find a piece of grammar that will cut a straight line with a circular saw. True, I have heard a flurry of ungrammatical tirades spoken when said saw veers off course, but the grammar itself isn’t much use in home renovations.

It’s not that I haven’t tried. But often, my best efforts are sabotaged by outside forces.

“I gave those baseboards to Mark,” said my wife, aka Outside Forces.

“But I was going to install those. How can I renovate anything around here if you give away the materials as soon as I cart them through the door?”

“They’ve sat in the garage for 12 years,” Outside Forces said.

“Yeah, well…”

“You bought this house 22 years ago.”

“Yeah, well…”

“I’ve learned to live without baseboards. I’d rather you repair the eaves.”

I scratched my head. “Those are the curly things under the sink, right?”


“The stuff to hang pictures?”

“I hung the landscape myself six months ago.”

“I thought I did that,” I said.

She shook her head. “That was me. And the eaves are the things that support the gutters. If you’d fix the eaves, you could attach the gutters.”

“Oh.” I slumped into my chair, exhausted from renovations, and flipped through the mail. “Not again. Somebody addressed this envelope to The Cole’s. Which Cole? And which one of us has what in this singular possessive grammatical tense?”

“Some people just don’t know how to fix things,” Terry said.

I pounded the armrest. “You cannot pull an apostrophe out of your grammar toolbox and nail it down willy-nilly. And it absolutely does not expand a singular noun into a room for two or more. It’s makes a possessive, not a plural.”

By this time, I paced circles in the living room. “Look at people’s mailboxes — The Smith’s. That means it belongs to one Smith. Why don’t the others Smiths who live there get to have a house number, too? And why is that Smith so important as to be known as THE Smith? Mailboxes are wrong, wrong, wrong.”

“Speaking of which…” Terry handed me a shiny metal container with a handle.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a toolbox,” she said. “The door on our mailbox — The Coles — broke. A year ago. You use the things inside this box to repair it. Get going, Buster.”

I muttered an ungrammatical tirade all the way to the roadside. Someday, I’m going to dump this house on that guy who knows how to fix things. Until then, I need to lay off the grammar. It never did cut a straight line but it sure hammers me with trouble.

— Write The Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.