The Shurley Method?!

KUAR listener Travis from Little Rock writes in with questions and comments.

Hi! I’m writing in response to a recent “Says You!” episode: Original Syntax.

I listen to “Says You!” every Saturday, and have been an ardent fan from the age of 15 (now 29, for what it’s worth). This is my first time writing to you. A phrase said by Dave Zobel triggered a very deep memory. While I’m writing, I will mention one (rather insignificant) comment, then ask my burning question.

First, the comment:
I noticed that Dave stated that “whatever” is not an adverb. However, this is untrue. According to Merriam-Webster, the Cambridge English dictionary, and the Oxford English dictionary, whatever may be used as an adverb.

Now the (far more important) question:
When David suggested that “whatever” was not an adverb, he explained that it’s not, as it does not modify “a verb, adjective, or another adverb.” This particular phrasing gave me a sudden flashback to the fourth grade, in which I was taught grammar via the “Shurley Method,” in which jingles are used to teach English grammar. This exact line is in a song defining adverbs. “A verb, adjective, or another adverb.” Can you PLEASE check with Dave and see if he experienced this same training. I realize it’s a long shot to suggest that David remembered this due to his elementary schooling. However, the fact that he uses the exact phrasing as the song does leave me quite curious. At any rate, can you check on this?

Travis is correct that “whatever” can sometimes function as an adverb, but when Dave said, “It does feel like an adverb, but it’s not, because it doesn’t modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb,” he was talking not about “whatever” but about “whatsoever.” (Tony had just said, “‘Whatsoever’ — it sounds like an adverb, it feels like an adverb.”)

And to answer Travis’s far more important question: While Dave has been known to hum the occasional grammar-related jingle -we’ve yet to hear him belt out any of the Shurley Method’s greatest hits.

1 reply
  1. Erica
    Erica says:

    Hi- I was just catching up on podcasts and listened to the episode rebroadcasted on October 21, 2018 entitled Gift-Wrapped Gab. Love the show, but felt the need to write this one time.

    I was disappointed that in the “odd one out” category about Christmas movies – the right answer was It’s a Wonderful Life because it was the only one that was not released in the summer. I would have thought that Holiday Inn being the only musical among the four would have been a better answer – requiring a contestant only having seen all of the movies rather than knowing a random piece of trivia – not that any of the panelists got that either.

    Still love the show.


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