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Write of Passage

Maureen Connors Badding arrived in Wauwatosa 22 years ago via Buffalo and Phoenix. She's a freelance writer and habitual volunteer who enjoys book clubs, travel, entertaining and cheering for her daughter's swim team.

Two's company, three's a superlative.

Grammar Nazi, Right of Way

The grammar grump is back. 

I was talking to a new acquaintance the other day about her kids. She told me about her "oldest," then she told me about her "youngest." I knew better than to ask about the middle child, because I was pretty sure there wasn't going to be one. This wasn't the first time I'd heard a mom using the superlative instead of the comparative when describing two kids.  

Is this ringing a bell from sixth grade English class? Maybe 11th grade ACT review? The comparative ending (-er) is for comparing two of something. The superlative (-est) is used for three or more. Think: good, better, best; or fast, faster, fastest. 

I don't know if this is peculiar to the Midwest or it's a 21st century thing, but I had a couple of pretty awkward conversations the first few times parents used "oldest" and "youngest" to describe their two children. I was sure there had to be a third child somewhere, but I got a blank stare when I asked about the middle child.

It's not a big thing, I know, but this is a perfect example of how using correct grammar helps us communicate better.  

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As long as I'm getting things off my chest, there's something that gets me muttering under my breath frequently these days: drivers who don't yield the right of way when there's an obstruction on their side of the road.

Imagine that you're driving along and there's a huge pile of leaves or construction vehicles on your side of the street. Do you speed up and veer into the other lane to get around it, causing the person coming toward you to stop and let you through? Or do you stop and wait until the road is clear to go around the obstruction? More often than not, I see Tosa drivers doing the former, causing me to slam on the brakes and suffer minor heart palpitations. Between WE Energies replacing gas lines and water main work in my neighborhood, this is happening a lot lately. 

As I was writing this, I googled the Wisconsin DOT Motorists' Handbook to check the exact wording of the law, and IT'S NOT IN THE BOOKLET! No wonder this is an issue -- there's a whole generation of drivers not learning this rule. The best I could find was this wording from a British website called driving-test-success.com. I couldn't have said it better myself:

Giving Way 
If an obstruction is on your side of the road then it is you who should stop and give way to oncoming traffic. If the right of way is yours then never take for granted that an oncoming vehicle will stop and give way. Always be prepared to stop and give way.

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