Well, you knew it had to be, didn't you? Yes, people, today's post will be about grammar. Again. No, I never will get tired of it. Not as long as I am needed.
As followers of this blog will be aware, I have been writing new material for a second edition of Grammar Without Tears. Today, I have chosen for my subject the frequent confusion that occurs between 'continuous' and 'continual'.
As I don't care to repeat myself, I'm not going to say anything about these frequently-confused words here. Instead, I shall give you a rare sneak preview of what's coming.
SCENE: A stone chamber. From the ceiling, numerous bell ropes hang down. QUASIMODO is seated on a three-legged stool, polishing a small bell.
Enter ESMERALDA, bearing a tray.
E: Good morning, Quasimodo. Hard at work already, I see. Don’t you ever take a break? Anyway, I’ve brought your breakfast.
She sets down the tray on a small table littered with ancient texts on change-ringing.
Q: No time for brekkie today, Esmeralda! I must get Little Davey polished and hooked up again in time for ten o’clock Mass.
E: Oh, Quasimodo! You’re continuously polishing those stupid bells. What does it matter, no one but you ever sees them.
Q: Silence, wench! Din not such cacophony into my ears! How can you say I am continuously polishing the bells when everyone in Paris knows I am ringing them many times a day!
E: Well, you are. Whenever you’re not ringing, you’re polishing them or reading those dull old books. I sometimes wonder if you even realise there’s a world out there. It’s such a beautiful day, and I wanted you to come for a walk along the Left Bank.
Q: You miss the point, my dear Esmeralda. ‘CONTINUOUS’ means never ceasing. For example, my heart is CONTINUOUSLY beating. The cathedral is CONTINUOUSLY standing. But I am not CONTINUOUSLY ringing the bells, because sometimes I am doing other things. The word you wanted was CONTINUAL. That means occurring very frequently.
E: Whatever, Q. It’s a beautiful day, and the sun is continually shining, not like yesterday when we had scattered showers. It’s a perfect day for-
Q: There you go again! If there are no clouds, then the sun would be CONTINUOUSLY shining. Not CONTINUALLY, which is what it did yesterday, its golden rays constantly appearing in between the scattered showers. Really, Esmeralda, I am continuously telling you about these things, the least you might do is listen occasionally.
E: Aha! Aha ha! Hee hee!
Q: What’s that? Are you getting hay fever again? Here, take this old rag. I don’t want you spraying snot all over my ropes.
E: I’m not sneezing, you fool. I’m laughing! Because you did it yourself! You said you were CONTINUOUSLY telling me all this boring stuff, but you’re not! Most of the time, in fact. You’re nearly always ringing the bells. And sleeping, and stuff.
Q: I just did that to show you how wrong it was. A sort of practical example.
E: Yeah, right! You are SO busted, Quasimodo.
Q: Well, I have to get on. Got to get Little Davey hooked up.
He swarms up a rope ladder and disappears into the ceiling.
E: Well, toodles, Q. Since you won’t come out, I’ll have to go with Frollo. He is CONTINUALLY asking me out, and I guess his CONTINUOUS devotion deserves a reward.
From above, a lonely cry rings out.