Trend Stetting 12: Enlighten Up

Mia Lipman on February 07, 2012

CaruthersThe rules of grammar may be many things—arbitrary, exasperating, surprisingly malleable—but you'd be hard-pressed to call them amusing. Fortunately for those in need of a refresher on the basics of sin and syntax, Phineas J. Caruthers (I'm equally hard-pressed to believe that's his real name) is here to entertain us into learning something.

Master Caruthers' cheeky new Style & Circumstance: The Gentleperson's Guide to Good Grammar, boasts a vintage-looking design and a wealth of wordsmithing wisdom. Broken down into easily digestible nuggets (Parts of Speech, Verb Varieties, Pronoun Predicaments, and so on), the guide operates under the assumption that "one is in dire need of assistance." If that one happens to be you, then "the Author shall offer enlightenment regarding how best to overcome one's vexation with the English language and learn to avoid the most common mistakes."

A lofty promise, to be sure, but Caruthers delivers on it by gently chiding us through the building blocks of a well-constructed sentence in as straightforward a manner as Victorian speech allows. "It is bootless—the vainest of vain endeavors!—to try to collect a list of words and call them adjectives," he proclaims, then launches into a explanation of transitive vs. intransitive verbs that even modern-day gentlepersons can easily follow.

If the quotes above seem just a little annoying, then you won't last five minutes without wanting to toss our man Carruthers' derby into the nearest fountain. But if you grew up devouring Austen and James instead of Mario and Frogger (stand tall, English majors), I hereby present Style & Circumstance for your edification and—dare I whisper it?—pleasure. The lessons therein are less titillating than a glimpse of stocking, but they'll last much longer.


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