It’s nice to have friends you can ask for advice. I’m not, at this point, talking about life-changing advice like should I take that new job, should I move to Lower Slobbovia and become a sheepherder, or should I have white or whole-wheat toast with breakfast.
No, I’m talking about friends from my former life as a newspaper reporter, who I sometimes ask for advice on something in this column.
This week’s column was going to be about a couple of pedestrians I came up behind on Sunday afternoon. One of them was pushing a stroller, the other was walking beside him, but over about seven or eight feet.
As I say, I was coming up behind them because they, like so many other pedestrians in the city, insist on walking with their backs to oncoming traffic, which is not recommended.
I came up behind them. The man with the stroller obviously heard me, glanced over his shoulder, and moved about two feet over.
This made it necessary for me to swing out into the oncoming lane of traffic to pass them.
This is where the question I posed to a couple of my newspaper friends came up. As I was composing the matter in my head while I continued to drive, I worded it as “there, luckily, was no one in the other lane.”
I drove for a few more seconds, then rephrased it mentally as, “there was, luckily, no one in the other lane.” As I continued my drive, I kept turning the two phrases over in my mind.
I knew the second one sounded better for some reason, but couldn’t figure out why.
So when I got home, I sent Facebook messages to a couple of my newspaper friends, asking their opinion. They were unanimous that the second one sounded better because it was more grammatically correct, but none of them really got into details.
I wasn’t too concerned about the precise details. I just wanted validation of my own feeling the second phrase was better.
Which, of course, left me with one other question that none of my friends would be able to help me with: Why did I think first of the less grammatically correct phrase?
I don’t think of myself as a grammar freak, but I spent enough years in the newspaper business to know more than just the basics.
The only explanation I could come up with without wasting a lot of time on it was that the first phrase was something I may have used in a conversation with someone else about the matter.
Even if it wasn’t grammatically perfect, I feel certain most people would be able to figure out the meaning – and that’s the important thing in any communication.