More Word Wisdom from Lydel Sims

Today I happened again upon some yellowed clippings from Lydel Sim’s old “Watch Your Language” columns. You may recall I wrote about him and his writing advice in my earlier post, Remembering My Mentor, Lydel Sims.

It has been more than 30 years since I first took one of Lydel’s writing classes at then Memphis State University (now it’s the University of Memphis), but I still am grateful for the help he gave during those long-ago classes, and for starting me on my writing career. Lydel’s advice was always tinged with his brand of humor — maybe that’s why I’ve recalled it so many times since then.

Here are two questions from the column along with his responses:

Sir: Plagued as I am by early English teachers, I’m still bothered by the use of “none” as a plural. But I’ve seen the use in many publications. Care to comment? — Bill C.

Gladly. The idea that “none” always takes a singular verb is one of the most potent, and mistaken, ideas of the uninformed. “None” may be either singular or plural and its use in the plural is actually more common. If your teacher taught you otherwise, ask for your money back.

Sir: A story in my newspaper said “she is one of those who was willing to speak out.” Is “was” correct? Shouldn’t it be “were”? “Of those who were. . . ” sounds better. Grammar can be so nitpicky. —J.S..

It can indeed, but I agree with you completely. It should be “she is one of those who were…” But I must regretfully confess that some authorities insist it’s all right to use the singular verb if you prefer. That leaves me feeling just as frustrated as the reader who thinks “none” should always take a singular verb. ‘Taint fair!

Since Lydel left this world, I’ve had to get my grammar help elsewhere. That’s okay, but I still greatly miss his advice and his unique humor.

Please leave a comment

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9 Comments on “More Word Wisdom from Lydel Sims”

  1. Kini Kedigh Plumlee says:

    Laverne – I never knew you took a writing course from Lydell Sims. How lucky you were to have studied with one of the best! K

  2. ldaley says:

    Hi, Kini,
    I took several magazine writing classes from Lydel and it was at his suggestion that I entered the Journalism program at MSU. Did you read my earlier post about him? He was a fine gentleman and so helpful to me and other beginning writers. His classes were the best I’ve ever known. Thanks for your comment.

  3. June White says:

    Hi, Laverne. I was just remembering Lydel today since it is his 94th birthday. He married my mother after his first wife died. I still miss him terribly.
    Happy Birthday, Lydel!

  4. ldaley says:

    June, So good to hear from you. I never knew when Lydel’s birthday was so I’m happy to get that information.

    I miss him, too.

  5. racheld says:

    Thank you for this lovely remembrance, for I was a child of the Deeeeep South during almost all the years of his writing for the Commercial Appeal. I DO believe that every reader glanced first right there at the lower corner of the paper, before looking at the headlines.

    His wit, his gentlemanly nature, his sheer turn of phrase and manner of poking gentle fun without offending or causing hurt feelings—those all shone brightly from that little corner of the page, and he was probably discussed at as many huntin’ camps, farm meetings, caffay-gatherings, and beauty shops as the football scores and What Was Sissy Maud THINKING, Anyhow?

    What a wonderful man, and how nice to remember him—I’d just mentioned him today, merely in passing, in my own blog, and did the “google” thing to see if any archives might be available. I found you first, and will return, but I’m off to see if there’s perhaps just a snippet from the Old Master somewhere to be had on this snowy evening.

    Wouldn’t that be a treat?


  6. ldaley says:

    Quite a treat! Rachel, thank you so much for your comment. Indeed, I always read his column before anything else in the paper and I know others had that habit too. Lydel was a true Southern gentleman and it was a pleasure to know him. I’m so glad you remember him.

  7. Les Tivers says:

    I carry on the proper use of English. These two items I’ve preached numerous times. I still am a stickler for healthful food to make you healthy.

    Mr. Sims wrote about me when I was in the first grade at Idlewild School. I believe the title of the article was “States Put to Rights by Young Jigsaw Geographer.” I drew the U.S. map and knew the states, capitals, and dates of entry into the union.

  8. Rodney Roe says:

    I read Lydel’s column in the Commercial Appeal in the late ’70s’. It was the first thing in the newspaper that I read each day. I just borrowed a bit of your story to illustrate a point about personal and ‘virtual’ reality and then returned to find that this is copyright protected. I can’t take the comment off the blog and ask your permission belatedly. My point was that Lydel was funnier in print than in person, but that did not detract from his work.

  9. Dave says:

    Always loved the puns, and still use the “cat that chewed your new shoes” occasionally. Too funny! Or I thought so anyway!

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