Do you have the wind "sewed up" yet? Watch your usage!

The writer of a recent letter to the editor in The Birmingham News created a weird mixed metaphor while attempting to quote the Bible. Here is what he wrote:  

 

The Good Book says, "Sew the wind, and you will reap the whirl wind": that is exactly what we have in today's schools.  

 

Whoops! SEW is what you do with a needle and thread. This writer meant SOW, which is how you scatter seed on soil so it will grow.   The correct quotation from Hosea 8:7 is this:

 

"They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind…."  

 

There is another WHOOPS in the writer's attempted quotation. WHIRLWIND is one word.  

 

BONUS POINT #1: I will give this writer a huge bonus point, however, for getting the punctuation with the quotation marks and the colon correct. The rule is that colons and semicolons ALWAYS go outside the quotation marks.   Here is how he should have written his comment:  

 

The Good Book says, "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind": that is exactly what we have in today's schools.  

 

This writer, who is a teacher, was defending the principal who shaved off half the eyebrow of a defiant student who was using his eyebrow to display a gang symbol at school.  

 

BONUS POINT #2: A mixed metaphor is a literary image that combines elements of two different images in a confusing way. By using the word SEW (needle and thread image) and combining it with REAP (harvest image), this writer created a mixed metaphor. He meant to create the image of a person sowing seed and then reaping the harvest of what he planted.  

 

NOTE OF WELCOME: Welcome to all of the participants in my Grammar and Usage Brush-up workshop in Montgomery last week. It is because of a question from one of you that I added today's bonus point about quotation mark rules. I will present the three basic rules on quotation mark usage at your second workshop on May 26.   If any other readers would like to have those three basic rules covered in one blog entry, just let me know.  


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