NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - For those exiting or entering the 72nd and Broadway subway stop this Thanksgiving week who find themselves suddenly in need of someone to arbitrate the apostrophe in an "it's", a "who's" or a "you're", someone to explain "effect" vs. "affect", someone to opine on the Oxford comma, 53-year-old Ellen Jovin sits before a folding table she's dubbed The Grammar Table awaiting your questions.
“The choice is a question of style not correctness,” Ellen explained to a woman asking whether to use "myriad" as a noun or adjective, Wednesday.
The co-owner and co-founder of the communication consultancy Syntaxis, Ellen started Grammar Table earlier this fall as an exercise in both language recreation and language community service.
“This is grammar for the people," she said. "I’m taking grammar to the streets.” And when the streets hit Ellen with something her multiple degrees (and entire professional life spent considering language in multiple languages) struggle to answer, Ellen consults the library of style books strewn about her table.
“I use AP sometimes," she said. "I use Chicago sometimes. I love Garner’s Modern English Usage.” The duplicity and bend-ability of language's many rules excite Ellen most. "I think my commas have declined by about 5 percent since social media happened," she told one Grammar Table visitor.
“I’m flexible," Ellen said to Fox 5, "which I think describes my orientation generally about a lot of gray area grammar topics.” That includes the aforementioned (and definitely incorrect, if you asked this reporter) abomination that is the Oxford comma.
“The most common question by far," Ellen said of the Oxford comma, "like five times more common than the second most-common question.” The approaching winter may soon drive Grammar Table somewhere indoors, but even there -- in the Times Square subway station, Penn Station or Grand Central -- Ellen still plans to spend four days a week watching over "who" and "whom", teaching the "their"s and "there"s and "their's" and "they're"s and "there's", and examining ending a sentence in a preposition — on all of these subjects asking her style books:
Where you at?
“I don’t wait ‘on line.’ I wait ‘in line'," a woman stopping at the table said. Ellen paused.
"I don't wait 'on line' either," she said. "I wait 'in line.'"