These ones almost snuck by: high school friends, verb tenses, submissive butches, and demonstrative pronouns
Pardon me, for this blog post contains sexually explicit examples or content. If you are under the age of 18 or just uncomfortable with sexually explicit material, you may want to check out one of these sites about grammar and writing instead.
Last month, a new idea struck my blog via Facebook like lightning from heaven–why not answer grammar questions from readers in a sort of salute to Dear Abby? Answering just a couple of questions on my blog stirred up a flurry of comments and questions. I could barely keep up.
But I love this idea because of the way it encourages dialogue. And I truly believe that dialogue is the whole point of this ever-expanding blog-o-sphere.
Two grammar questions, both from old high school friends, almost slipped through the cracks, so in the interest of cultivating dialogue during dialogue month, I address them today.
On Facebook, my pal Rachel complained that too many people replace the words those and these with these ones.
And Ginger Chew wrote:
Love it. Next will you please explain the acceptance of snuck in writing and conversation?
Let’s look at some examples of this grammatically questionable vocabulary:
Nothing in the porn magazines turned her on, so she snuck a peek at these ones instead.
Since you snuck a new brand of condoms into my toy bag, can I assume you don’t want those ones on the nightstand?
Let’s start with snuck, the past tense of the verb to sneak. Alternatively, these sentences could read:
Nothing in the porn magazines turned her on, so she sneaked a peek at these ones instead.
Since you sneaked a new brand of condoms into my toy bag, can I assume you don’t want those ones on the nightstand?
How does that sound to you? Your answer probably depends on your age more than your region or educational level. According to Webster’s Unabridged, snuck started sneaking into English toward the end of the 19th century in the U.S.A., and by the 1970s, it had become accepted because of its widespread appearance in both journalistic and fictional published writing. Webster’s still lists sneaked first, before snuck, implying a preference for the former, but that doesn’t mean you you can’t use snuck.
As for these ones and those ones, let’s start by clarifying that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with pluralizing the inherently singular word one:
I love all women, but I’m most attracted to the butch ones.
The ones I meet usually end up being really toppy in bed.
I always wonder where all the submissive, butch ones hang out.
But our previous examples, and what’s bothering my pal Rachel, is the combination of the plural form ones with a plural determiner: these
When the word ones is preceded by a plural determiner (like these or those), you can drop the word ones, and the determiner turns into a demonstrative pronoun:
. . . can I assume you don’t want those on the nightstand?
While there’s nothing grammatically incorrect about keeping the word ones in this situation, the extra word does make for an unnecessarily wordy sentence. Here are the two sentences again, written the way I would write them:
Nothing in the porn magazines turned her on, so she snuck a peek at these instead.
Since you snuck a new brand of condoms into my toy bag, can I assume you don’t want those on the nightstand?
Thanks, Ginger and Rachel, for bringing up these grammatical dilemmas. You’re both right, though neither case truly presents a right from wrong dynamic.