It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to an entire series of recorded lectures, but last week I picked up Michael Drout’s A Way With Words III: Understanding Grammar at the library, and I was immediately enraptured. I haven’t listened to anything else since, burning straight through the seven discs during my drive times this week, absorbing the whole eight hour extravaganza.
Drout is one of the most personable speakers I’ve ever heard lecture; his humor, pop references, voices, and casual approach were always perfect: he could have been sitting right next to me. The lectures were substantive, too. Not only does he review the basics, with some twists, but he clearly explained some things that I’ve seen other teachers clumsily belabor.
For example, when the sticky issue of the pronoun of indeterminate gender came up (using “he” or “she” when you don’t know if the subject being referenced is actually male or female, as in, “Any student who wants to get a good education should read his little heart out”), instead of resigning himself to the lame stand by of using an inappropriate “their” (it’s singular, not plural), and decisively rejecting such politically correct constructs as “s/he,” he announces a policy so catchy and utilitarian that I’ve wanted to shout it as a battle cry ever since: Pluralize the antecedent! (Which would make my example from before into, “Any students who want to get a good education should read their little hearts out.”)