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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Prepositional Magic

from Mama Leone's Restaurant, Newport, R.I.

It all started over dinner at Carmelina's, a local Italian restaurant.  My family sat across the aisle from a couple who were deeply engaged in conversation.  Their eye contact seemed unbreakable.  When the woman wanted a sip of her wine, I watched her fingers delicately seek the stem of her glass, never looking down to locate it.  The couple would touch each other often in very discrete movements of affection.  A brush of fingers, a lingering stroke on a sleeveless arm, it was all a prelude to a dance they would enjoy later, that much was clear.  What most struck me was how their bodies leaned in, toward each other.  Casually, I followed that thought. They are leaning in, toward each other, across the table. At times they most likely lean on each other, onto their car, and they are bound to lean over to pick up their young child.  Prepositions make magic happen. In eighth grade, I memorized a list of 24 commonly used prepositions. They have resided, inviolate, in my memory.  When I cracked open my grammar books to pursue this whole preposition deal, I realized how woefully inadequate my tired list of prepositions was.  Once I found the nearly 150 prepositions in the English language, I began to write sentences using all of them.  It was not difficult, but as with any skill, it was good to practice.  I discovered that the words, off, to, and in are three of the ten words most often used in English. The more esoteric prepositions had slipped my mind completely; counting, depending on, notwithstanding, cum -- these words certainly can do the job of a preposition, but I have not regularly framed them as the helpers that they are.
Prepositions are words that link a noun (or a pronoun) to some other word or part of the sentence.  
As a writer and a person who loves to play with words, my favorite part of a sentence has to be a verb.  It is the doing. Then a noun.  It anchors us in the things around us.  Finally, I have a little crush on prepositions. They work so hard, and get such little credit. Adjectives are so showy, and to my mind, adverbs are bossy.  Let’s take the time to appreciate prepositions.
Go ahead, imagine life without those pesky little prepositions.  That couple, lingering over the remains of their meal, would suffer.  He couldn’t lie beside her, beneath her or alongside her. She couldn’t move under him, over him or astride him. Contrary to all signs at dinner, their romantic interlude might never get off the ground.
If you need a refresher on how to diagram a sentence, or what is a preposition, anyway? I can suggest http://www.english-grammar-revolution.com Elizabeth O’Brien breaks it down so it makes sense for anyone.
A complete list of prepositions is available at the following link:http://www.englishclub.com/downloads/PDF/EnglishClub-English-Prepositions-List.pdf

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