Gateway to the Classics: Grammar-Land by M. L. Nesbitt
 
Grammar-Land by  M. L. Nesbitt


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Introduction

Judge Grammar and His Subjects

W HAT is Grammar-land? Where is Grammar-land? Have you ever been to Grammar-land? Wait a minute and you shall hear. You will not find Grammar-land marked on the globe, and I never saw a map of it; but then, who ever saw a map of Fairy-land? and yet you have all heard of that, and know a great deal about it, of course. Well, Grammar-land is a place every bit as real as Fairy-land, and much more important. The Fairy Queen is all very well, and a very great little queen in her way; but Judge Grammar! great, stern, old Judge Grammar, is far mightier than any Fairy Queen, for he rules over real kings and queens down here in Matter-of-fact-land. Our kings and queens, and emperors too, have all to obey Judge Grammar's laws, or else they would talk what is called bad grammar;  and then, even their own subjects would laugh at them, and would say: "Poor things! When they were children, and lived in Schoolroom-shire, they can never have been taken to Grammar-land! How shocking!" And Judge Grammar himself—well, I cannot say what he would do, as I suppose such a thing never really happened; for who could imagine a king or queen saying, "I is"  or "you was"  or "it wasn't me."  No one speaks in that way except people who have never heard of Judge Grammar.

Ah! I wish you could see him—this great Judge—sitting on his throne in his court, and giving orders about his precious words, which are the riches of Grammar-land. For Judge Grammar says that all the words that you can say belong really to him, and he can do what he likes with them; he is, in fact, King as well as Judge over Grammar-land. Now, you know that when William the Conqueror conquered England he divided the land among his nobles, and they had it for their own so long as they obeyed the king and helped him in his wars. It was just the same with Judge Grammar when he took possession of Grammar-land; he gave all the words to his nine followers, to take for their very own as long as they obeyed him. These nine followers he called the nine Parts-of-Speech, and to one or other of them every word in Grammar-land was given.

They are funny fellows, these nine Parts-of-Speech. You will find out by-and-by which you like best amongst them all. There is rich Mr. Noun, and his useful friend Pronoun; little ragged Article, and talkative Adjective; busy Dr. Verb, and Adverb; perky Preposition, convenient Conjunction, and that tiresome Interjection, the oddest of them all.

Now, as some of these Parts-of-Speech are richer, that is, have more words than others, and as they all like to have as many as they can get, it follows, I am sorry to say, that they are rather given to quarrelling; and so it fell out that one day, when my story begins, they made so much noise, wrangling and jangling in the court, that they woke Judge Grammar up from a long and very comfortable nap.

"What is all this about?" he growled out, angrily. "Brother Parsing! Dr. Syntax! here!"

In an instant the Judge's two learned counsellors were by his side.

Serjeant Parsing (Brother Parsing, the Judge calls him) has a sharp nose, bright eyes, a little round wig with a tail to it, and an eye-glass. He is very quick and cunning in finding out who people are and what they mean, and making them tell "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." It is of no use to say "I don't know" to Serjeant Parsing. He will question you, and question you, till somehow or other he makes you know, and finds out all about you. When I say he will question you,  of course I mean he will question the Parts-of-Speech, for that is his business, and that is why Judge Grammar summoned him. For whenever there is a fuss in Grammar-land, Serjeant Parsing has to find out all about it, and Dr. Syntax has to say what is right or wrong, according to the law.

"Brother Parsing," said the Judge, "this racket must be stopped. What are they fighting about? I divided the words clearly enough once amongst the nine Parts-of-Speech. Why cannot they keep the peace?"

"My lord," answered Serjeant Parsing, "the fact is that it is a long time since you portioned out the words, and the Parts-of Speech since then have been left to do pretty much as they like. Some of them are greedy, and have stolen their neighbours' words. Some of them have got hold of new words, which the others say they had no right to make; and some of them are even inclined to think that Dr. Syntax is old-fashioned, and need not be obeyed. In fact, unless your lordship takes the matter in hand at once, I am afraid the good old laws of Grammar-land will all go to wreck and ruin."

"That must never be," said the Judge, solemnly shaking his wig: "that must never be. We must stop it at once. Go and summon all my court before me."

"Certainly, my lord," answered Serjeant Parsing; "but may I ask if there is any Part-of-Speech you wish for in particular?"

"I wish for them all, sir, every one," replied the Judge. "They shall all come before me, and you shall question them in turn, and make them say what right they have to the titles and the words which they claim; and then if there is any disagreement between them, I will settle the matter once for all."

"Quite so, my lord," said Serjeant Parsing; "and shall I invite our friends in Schoolroom-shire?"

"Our friends in Schoolroom-shire? By all means let them come," replied the Judge. "If we wish to have peace among the Parts-of-Speech it is most important that the people of Matter-of-fact-land should know how to use them well. And as the people of Matter-of-fact-land generally spend at least a part of their lives in Schoolroom-shire, we cannot do better than send our invitation there. Go, Brother Parsing, and request them to come, and to bring their slates and pencils with them, that they may keep an account of what we do, and let our Parts-of-Speech prepare to come before us at once."

Away went Serjeant Parsing, as quick as thought, and soon the whole court was assembled. There was Judge Grammar on his throne, with a long flowing wig and gorgeous robes. At the table below him sat his two counsellors, Serjeant Parsing and Dr. Syntax. Dr. Syntax is very tall and thin and dark. He has a long thin neck covered up with a stiff black tie, which looks as though it nearly choked him. When he speaks he stands up, looks straight through his spectacles, sticks out his chin, and says his say in a gruff and melancholy voice, as if he were repeating a lesson. He is the terror of all little boys, for he never smiles, and he is so very, very old, that people say he never was young like other folks; that when he was a baby he always cried in Greek, and that his first attempt at talking was in Latin. However that may be, there he sat, side by side with Serjeant Parsing, while the company from Schoolroom-shire, armed with slates and pencils, prepared to listen to the examination that was to take place, and the Parts-of-Speech crowded together at the end of the court, waiting for their names to be called.


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