SEE if you feel the same way as parishioner Jose Oliveros about the conceit of some priests that they can’t go wrong in their English grammar. Here’s what he wrote me recently:
“May I request your comments on these announcements being made at our parish church: (a) before the start of the Mass, ‘Welcome to our Eucharistic celebration as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity… etc.’; and (b) before the final blessing, ‘You are invited to attend the (event)… etc.’ and ‘The free medical check-up (or whatever it is) is on a first come, first serve basis.’
“To me, that first sentence is redundant and should be rephrased as “Welcome to our Eucharistic celebration on this Feast of the Holy Trinity…etc.’; and in the second sentence, ‘to attend’ can be deleted because when you invite, you expect those invited to attend.
“I have called the attention of the people concerned in our parish about these glaring errors but they said that they cannot change what our parish priest had written. (Reminds me of Pontius Pilate when requested by the Pharisees and Scribes to change the inscription on the Cross of Jesus from ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews – INRI’ to ‘This man claims to be the king of the Jews.’ Pilate’s reply: ‘What I have written, stays written.’)
“Another thing: ‘First come, first serve’ should be ‘First come, first served’ because the complete phrase is ‘First to come, first to be served.’ This is what our high school English teachers taught us. Unfortunately, the same error appears on a tarpaulin streamer of a local college that, ironically, is encouraging its students to use correct English.”
My reply to Mr. Oliveros:
Yes, you’re right about the faulty English grammar and usage of your parish priest and local college, and your corrections are absolutely correct:
1. The statement “Welcome to our Eucharistic celebration as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity” is indeed redundant so it’s a wonder why the staff of your parish priest have not succeeded in making him correct the faulty usage. He should realize that converting the noun “celebration” into the verb “celebrate” doesn’t eliminate the redundancy, for the action of celebrating the particular feast is already subsumed by the noun “celebration” that precedes it.
So don’t hesitate to let your parish priest know that I have endorsed your revision. If he still persists in acting like Pontius Pilate and doesn’t correct the error of his ways, I suggest you appeal to a higher religious authority like Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who assuredly knows his English, as well as his theology.
2. Yes, it’s likewise advisable to apply the redundancy rule to the phrase “to attend” when the parish priest announces that, say, “You are invited to attend our seminar on the perils of premarital sex.” It will be much clearer and more concise to drop the verb “attend” and say “You are invited to our seminar on the perils of premarital sex.” I think your parish priest will much more quickly see the wisdom in applying the redundancy rule here, so there should be no need to bring this matter up to a higher ecclesiastical authority.
3. As to the parallel construction “First come, first serve,” you’re right that it’s grammatically faulty. Being an ellipted or streamlined form of “First to come, first to be served,” it should indeed take the form “First come, first served.” The elliptical form of the active-voice infinitive “to come” drops the function word “to” and becomes the bare infinitive “come,” while the elliptical form of the passive-voice infinitive form “to be served” drops both the function word “to” and the auxiliary verb “be” and becomes the past participle “served.”
Let’s pray that everybody says “Amen” to the above grammar prescriptions.
Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum at http://josecarilloforum.com. Visit me on Facebook. Follow me at Twitter.com @J8Carillo.