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Words, July 30 

From a report on an annual meeting of Southern Baptists:

“I was amused by a motion to refrain from using secular music in worship. That would eliminate most of the hymns in our hymnals. You do remember hymnals?”

Random House defines secular as “not pertaining to or connected with religion (opposed to sacred): secular music.” Baptists have changed since I was a boy, but it's hard for me to believe their hymnals are now filled with secular music. No more “Up from the grave He arose”? Maybe guitarist Mike Huckabee and his band have driven the old music out. I'm reminded of an episode of  “The Simpsons” in which Bart tricks the church organist into playing the hymn “Inna Gadda Da Vida,” by “I. Ron Butterfly.”

Or maybe the reporter here was confusing secular with sectarian.

 

Gary M. Newton asks that we address “the misuse (or non-use) of the gerund. … I get peeved by professional communicators'  writing and speaking about ‘him doing' whatever [instead of ‘his doing']. I fear our sliding into acceptance – or as they would say/write ‘us sliding' …”

I usually like to avoid these grammatical confrontations, and so am not the stickler for proper use of the gerund that Mr. Newton is. But if he insists …

A gerund (also called a verbal noun), is made by adding the suffix –ing to a verb. Traditionally, the subject of a gerund is put in the possessive case: “His leaving like that distressed us,” rather than “Him leaving like that distressed us.”

But increasingly, the usage manual “Success With Words” says, phrases are structured in such a way that the subject is not put in the possessive … “The rage and uproar over me becoming a Muslim was still at a fever pitch.”

SWW recommends the traditional construction of possessive plus verbal noun in most cases, but authorizes variation when the possessive seems awkward.

The fused participle has something to do with all this. I say, leave  the fused participle alone and it'll leave you alone. 

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