Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Grammar Lesson

I wrote:

Anderson Cooper has just announced that he was gay.
and Wolfgang replied:

Does this mean he no longer is ?

This critique sent me into a deep grammatical funk. Wolfgang's point makes sense, but somehow, the alternate construction doesn't feel quite right.

The funk eventually sent me to the inter-tubes, where I found:

If the primary clause is in past tense, then the subordinate clause also must be.

Aha! Ammo!

Unless the subordinate clause expresses a general truth, as in "Columbus knew that the World is round."

So is AC's gender orientation a "general truth" or just a special truth, as in:

Wilma whispered that she wanted waffles.

Beats me, but another filter might be the question of time frame. Wilma might have wanted waffles back then, but who knows about today. Anderson, I expect, is still gay.

Here is another one:

The Lord Chamberlain announced that the King was/is dead!

Well, the guy who had been the King is presumably going to remain deceased, but, if I recall correctly, the next words out of the LC's mouth are:

Long live the King!