'Rebel with a clause.' Meet Ellen Jovin, the brains behind the Grammar Table
Ellen Jovin calls herself a rebel with a clause.
She sets up her grammar table at different locations across New York City and the country answering people’s questions about grammar. She says one of her favorite parts of her job is meeting other grammar nerds like Manhattan resident Toby Hall.
“For the words all or none, what’s the subject verb agreement and what are the conditions in which it changes?” Hall asked Jovin at her table in Central Park. “I can imagine cases where I might go plural, but I would imagine it’s very distressing to a lot of American English speakers,” Jovin replied.
She says her syntax skills are her calling.
“In elementary school, I loved penmanship, I loved spelling lists, I loved writing. In the fifth-grade, we had to make our own little book,” she told News 12 New York.
After answering grammar questions for years online, Jovin – who lives on the Upper West Side – took her skills to the streets. She started the grammar table in 2018 and has taken it to all 50 states.
“I love talking to strangers, I love grammar, and I get to do this everywhere...this is my dream,” she said.
She says the most common question is how to use the Oxford comma. It’s the comma used before the last item in a list. Some people use it, some don’t. Jovin says it’s a grammatical gray area and both ways are fine.
“I support your no Oxford comma ways, I think you should be okay with it,” she told one person who came to her table for advice.