Right now, I’m in London. So, while I am (hopefully) having fun there, I hope this post is a bit of fun for you, wherever you are.

Excerpted from THE ROAD TO KNOWLEDGE: Or, Young Man & Woman’s Best Friend, by George Stapleton, published in London in 1797. (The actual title is about twenty times as long as that, actually — perhaps one day I’ll make a blog post of nothing but the title of this book.)


[words] are divided into eight parts of speech, called noun, pronoun, verb, participle, adverb, conjunction, preposition and interjection…

Nouns are divided into Nouns Substantive, and Nouns Adjective. A noun substantive is the thing itself; as, a man, a boy, a girl; and the adjective expresses the qualities or properties of a thing, as handsome, poor, &c. For if any one should say “I see a handsome, or a poor,” he would not be understood, unless a substantive be added, as “I see a handsome woman, or a poor man.”

Adjectives, in reality, are only the modificatives of nouns; though in one view they may be considered as nouns, viz. as they do not so much represent a quality of circumstance of the object, as the object itself, clothed with that quality of circumstance: nor must it be omitted, that a noun adjective frequently becomes a substantive; for as its nature is to express the quality of an object, if that quality happen to be the object itself spoken of, then it becomes a substantive.

Thus if I say, “a good intention,” the word good is an adjective, representing the intention as clothed with the quality of goodness; but if I say, “the good is to be chosen,” it is evident that good is here the subject spoken of, and consequently is a noun substantive.


…indeed, there is scarce any thing in the province of grammarians so little fixed and ascertained as this.

Some of them lay down grammar rules for it; but as a mere grammarian is a mere blockhead, their rules are not worth attending to.

Few precise rules can be given which will hold, without exception, in all cases, but much must be left to the judgment and taste of the writer.

There you go. I bet you never knew before that an adjective is just one type of noun. Or that a grammarian is a blockhead. (Though some of you may have suspected the latter.)

Next week…the truth about Europeans, as seen by Stapleton. (Same Risky Time, same Risky Channel!)

And remember — the first Tuesday of the month is the Jane Austen Movie Club! (July’s movie: the 1995 version of PERSUASION. Please join us!)

Cara King, blockhead extraordinaire

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Amanda McCabe
15 years ago

I think I had a professor once who was a blockhead grammarian…

But then, I think my family says the same about me, after all my “improper use of the apostrophe s” tantrums. 🙂 (Really, it’s maddening to see things like “The Smith’s” on mailboxes, when obviously they aren’t indicating that the mailbox belongs to the Smiths!!!!)

Megan Frampton
15 years ago

I’m guilty as charged, too, the second generation of blockhead grammarians, only my dad is WAY worse than me.

I liked reading this excerpt, Cara, hope you are having a fabulous time!

Keira Soleore
15 years ago

Cara, hope you’re having TONS of fun in London!!

15 years ago

Bonjour, mes chères Riskies! Nous sommes maintenant en La Belle France!

I used to be worse than a Blockhead Grammarian–I used to be an Unrepentant Pedant. I have somewhat mellowed with time. (But only somewhat.)

Of course, that kind of detail-oriented mindset can be very useful in scientific pursuits…which has led me here to La Côte d’Azur only to work like the proverbial chien. Work, work, work. Pity my sufferings, while I sit on my terrace in the Mediterranean sun, because I am undoubtedly thinking about work the whole time.

Au revoir!


Diane Gaston
15 years ago

Dang, Did I get it mixed up? I am Cara’s official poster which means I have two posts to make for her, a French on and a British one. I mayhap (to use a Regency sort of word) chose the wrong one!
Alors! You shall see France next time.

I love correct punctuation….. except my little dots!

Elena Greene
15 years ago

But what do blockhead grammarians say about a profusion of question marks and exclamation points??????!!!!!!!

Cara King
15 years ago

Really, it’s maddening to see things like “The Smith’s” on mailboxes

But Amanda, Y do U let tho’se thing’s bother you? You’d have oodle’s more fun if you didn’t “worry” so much about “such” thing’s! 🙂

And Megan, I am having a fabulous time! And tons of fun, Keira! 🙂

And Diane, sorry Todd confused you — you posted the correct post! Tuesday was my last day in England, and on Wednesday (very very early) we flew to France. And what with the time change, it made it seem like we were in France on Tuesday. (If that makes sense.) 🙂

But what do blockhead grammarians say about a profusion of question marks and exclamation points??????!!!!!!!

How should I know???????!!!!!!!!

Sorry. Oh, but surely that too is best left to the discretion of the writer? 🙂

(I shall not comment on the question of how many smileys is too many — because I’m sure whatever the number is, I always reach it.) 🙂

(who will give details on her trip shortly!) (sorry, Amanda, I meant “detail’s”!)

Cara King
15 years ago

Okay, here are a few facts about my trip so far, before I go to sleep (got about four hours sleep last night — very early plane flight!)

1) It seems I now have a persistent habit of walking right by things I’m looking for!

a) Todd and I took the train to see Syon House (gorgeous) and then walked…and walked right by the pedestrian entrance. Wasted about fifteen minutes and wore our feet out far too soon.

b) I went to see Leighton House — and after making a wrong turn and walking through half of Holland Park, I got correct directions — and still walked right past it. Luckily, the street dead ended soon, and I had to turn back. (All this, by the way, was in the rain!)

c) On the way back, I walked right past the tube station. My feet were killing me, but I had to walk an extra ten minutes before realizing.

Odd! I’ve never had this problem before.

Anyway, I had great fun in London, feet notwithstanding!

2) Todd and I also saw The Wallace Collection — lots of Canalettos and Watteaus and Bouchers and some paintings by Fragonard and Reynolds and Lawrence, my favorite kind of art!

Anyway, I’ll blog more about my trip at some later time! The bed is calling out to me “sleep, sleep” in a very hard-to-refuse, Alan-Rickman-ish voice. 🙂

Au revoir!


15 years ago


Sorry for the confusion…we have only just gotten to France today. London was very nice, though sometimes gray and rainy. So far, Nice is sunny and HOT!

Whoops, should I have used an exclamation point there? Guess I should ask a blockhead grammarian…


Keira Soleore
15 years ago

Ooh! Thank you for sharing those lovely details. Too bad England was gray and rainy even in June. The south of France is sure to make up for it.

Todd, boo hoo hoo, my heart does go out to you pondering physics imponderables in the beautiful Azurean sunshine (AKA snoozing in the sun).

15 years ago

Keira wrote:

Todd, boo hoo hoo, my heart does go out to you pondering physics imponderables in the beautiful Azurean sunshine (AKA snoozing in the sun).

You don’t understand–I do some of my best work while asleep!


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