To whit and too whooo; There, Their, They’re

The Cranky Old English Teacher bustles in on me, just in time for afternoon tea (which is a meal I only have when SHE shows up.)  I put the kettle on and plate up some cookies, slice cheese and pepperoni, and lay out some crackers.  She flings off her coat, which I catch mid-air, and then she flounces into a dining chair and uses her cane to drag herself toward the table.

I hang up the coat and grab the whistling kettle and set the tea to steeping.  All the while, the COET watches me benevolently, and waits till I finally sit down to begin.

“I am,” she says, helping herself to cheese and crackers, sprinkling slices of pepperoni atop, and grabbing a handful of cookies, “tired of seeing the word ‘their’ misspelled.”

It seems that she saw a billboard on her way to my house for McDougall’s House of Carpet.  It read (COET wrote it out for me; I shook the cracker crumbs off to read it): You haven’t felt soft till you’ve stepped on there carpet!

I agree.  “I know I’m not very sympathetic,” I say.  “That particular issue–spelling there, their, and they’re–has always just seemed obvious to me.”

She humphs.  “Well,” she says, “some people just have THAT kind of mind.”

The way she says it is NOT complimentary, and I realize this spelling distinction must be something she worked at nailing down.

“For others,” she says, “I have developed some little memory games that seem to help my students.”

“Really?” I say.  “Those might be nice to share more broadly.”

She inclines her head, a regal grammar and spelling queen conferring a favor, and I think that perhaps this is the purpose of her visit: a little spreading of the COET wisdom.

“Their heir received their chair,” she begins.

“Hmm?” I look up from pouring tea, not quite getting it.

“Their HEIR!” she snaps.  “The word heir is in the possessive THEIR. Belongs to them!  Belongs to them!  Their HEIR!”

“Oh, I see! I see!” I say, hastily.  “That’s a good way to remember that THEIR is a possessive pronoun.”

“Yes.” She nods at me sadly, as if at a slow and wayward child.  “And then the word HERE is in the word THERE–so, thinking ‘Here, there, and everywhere,’ reminds us we’re talking about a place. So, ask, Where?  and answer THERE.  Get it?”

“I do,” I agree.

“And I guess we just review apostrophe rules for they’re,” she ruminates.  “The apostrophe in this case indicates a missing letter. ‘They’re’ is missing an a.  THEREfore…” She grins, slyly.

I smile wanly at her little wordplay.

“Do you think,” she asks, “these little methods might help some people?”

“Why, sure,” say.  “A lot of people like to have little memory tricks to help with spelling words that are hard to keep straight.”

“That’s what I thought,” she says.  She waves a hand regally. “You may share them with your blogging community.”

“Well, gee,” I say. “That’s awfully generous of you.”

“Now,” she says smugly. “YOU think of some catchy ways to remember to, too, and two!”

She pops a cookie, whole, into her mouth and chews vigorously. Crumbs fly as she looks at me expectantly.

“Well,” I say, thoughtfully, “the double O’s in too COULD stand for One Other.”

She purses her lips thoughtfully.

“Yes,” she finally agrees. “TOO is this one, and One Other.  Very good.”

I feel ridiculously proud, as If I have redeemed myself.

“And how about,” I say, thinking fast, “a little rhyme?  Maybe, ‘T-O, T-O, a way to go’???”

“Hmmm.”  She clearly is weighing this. “Well,” she says.  “It could work.  Why don’t you ask those blogging buddies of your if they have any special ways of remembering to, too, and two?”

I can’t help it; obedience is engrained. So…DO you have any tricks that might help others keep their too’s and to’s, their there’s and they’re’s, straight?  If so, I hope you’ll share them here, so I’ll have something to report!

Happy blogging, my friends!



#grammar and punctuation