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Richard Nordquist

The Parts of Speech at Schoolhouse Rock!

By July 5, 2010

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Members of Generation X, feel free to sing along:

A noun's a special kind of word,
It's any name you ever heard,
I find it quite interesting,
A noun's a person, place, or thing.

Oh I took a train, took a train to another state.
The flora and the fauna that I saw were really great.
When I saw some bandits chasin' the train.
I was wishin' I was back home again.
I took a train, took a train to another state.
If you grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons on ABC in the 1970s and '80s, it's likely that you know this ditty by heart. Just as you know that you can "tell them 'bout it with adjectives," visit "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly" to "get your adverbs," and "eat this or that, grow thin or fat" at--where else--"Conjunction Junction."

In three-minute animated segments, Schoolhouse Rock! introduced a generation of youngsters to the parts of speech, along with such diverse topics as the women's rights movement ("Sufferin' 'til Suffrage"), the solar system ("Interplanet Janet"), and the national debt ("Tyrannosaurus Debt").

So full credit to Schoolhouse Rock! for tunefully acquainting us with nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, as well as pronouns, conjunctions, and (Eeeeeek!) interjections. But if you sense that something is missing, you're right: one part of speech was inexplicably omitted from the original lineup.

It wasn't until 1993, almost 10 years after the original series had gone off the air (and you, presumably, had long since quit watching Saturday morning cartoons), that Schoolhouse Rock! composer Bob Dorough got around to celebrating the achievements of the "Busy Prepositions":

Nine or ten of them
Do most all of the work
Of, on, to, with, in, from
By, for, at, over, across

And many others do their jobs,
Which is simply to connect
Their noun or pronoun object
To some other word in the sentence.
So now you know why you were a B student in school--just one part of speech short of an A.

If you're feeling nostalgic for Schoolhouse Rock! despite this prepositional letdown, you'll find all 46 programs on the anniversary edition DVD. Alternatively, if you simply want to review your grammar, visit our less lyrical but still lovable introduction to the Basic Parts of Speech (prepositions included).

More About the Parts of Speech:

Image: Schoolhouse Rock! ABC Inc. and Buena Vista Home Entertainment


July 7, 2010 at 4:28 am
(1) Irfan says:

Upon comparison with the previous work, one gets the feeling that the fellow writing this missing part did not have his soul in it, instead was just trying to fill a gap.

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