I Only Have Eyes for Willie

Okay, this is off topic. But because it involves the glamorous Willie and the use of proper grammar, I’m going to call it:

GLAMMAR Lesson # 1:

I Only Have Eyes for Willie

(Technically this could be a Great Find or a Giveaway. I‘m sure you’ll let me know if it’s of value to you. It’s technically just for me. Only me? You decide. Smiley face.)

Ready? Here goes.

I only want to talk to my Willie … if only I could figure out what that means!

Have you ever noticed how the word “only” likes to wander where it shouldn’t?

(“Even,” “still,” and “just,” have this problem, too.)

But wanderlust notwithstanding, each “only” is like a chicken run amok in the lettuce bed—you have just GOT to reign that bugger in! Here, I’ll show you:

MaryJane only wanted to talk to her Willie. (Yeah, I JUST wanted to talk to him!)

MaryJane wanted only to talk to her Willie. (And I wanted nothing else!)

MaryJane wanted to talk only to her Willie. (Everyone else should march a great distance through a rural area.)

MaryJane wanted to talk to her only Willie. (I’ve only got one Willie. And I wanted to talk to him.)

MaryJane wanted to talk to her Willie only. (Only … what? He was busy singing? He was buried at the bottom of my purse and his screams were muffled by the vintage wallpaper squares I’d just scored?)

While each sentence is technically correct, those delicate variations really change the meaning. And we can’t afford to be unclear where Willie’s concerned.

My advice? We need to reread sentences with “only” and make sure it refers to the right word or phrase. If we’re really not sure, we can always take the easy way out: eliminate “only” altogether. Most times, we’ll still get our point across. Like so:

MaryJane wanted to talk to her Willie. (Still works! Am I helpful or what? Don’t answer that.)

But as for catching wayward chickens in the lettuce bed … that’s up to you and only you

Ever messed up “only” with hilarious results?

  1. carolj says:

    Love the grammar comment. If only I can remember to share it with my high school English students. . . . It reminded me of Mark Twain saying that to improve writing insert the word “damn” every time you want to write “very.” You would never use the d-word that many times. Remove it and your writing will be just write. Oh, there’s the “just” word.

  2. Jan MacKay says:

    Good one!
    How about this here?
    Do you want this here one?
    Do you want this one here?

  3. Alee says:

    What a wonderful blog. I enjoyed reading it and laughed out loud several times. Nora asked me what was so funny!

  4. Lisa says:

    I, too, am a word fiend!
    I am TOO a word fiend!
    I am a word fiend, too!
    I can tell I’m going to enjoy this part, Mary Jane.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *