One afternoon almost seven (!) years ago I received a degree in English with a concentration in writing from a respected and respectable institution. Had my life depended on being able to define a grammatical predicate as I walked through West Philadelphia that evening, it would have been ka-blammo.
It wasn’t the university’s fault; it probably wasn’t my high school’s fault; it may not have been my fault. But it shouldn’t have been so, I’m sure of that. This is weaselly, but really I think it was the fault of grammar itself, and its failure to remain essential. There is no Snake sticking a shotgun in your face. Even if you don’t know what a predicate is, you can still communicate. You can still communicate well. And–the scary part–you can still hoodwink people into thinking you have some expertise concerning the English language and get a $160,000 piece of paper that says so.
I’ve spent a lot of time since 2005 refurbishing the lemon of a grammar education I ended up with at the end of school. A professional writer drawing a blank about predicates, noun cases or coordinate adjectives is almost as bad as a surgeon drawing a blank about which is the uvula and which is the urethra.
The sky isn’t falling yet, but our language is going to get really bizarre and eventually really fractured if we keep telling ourselves that a set of standards for how we arrange our words either doesn’t matter or doesn’t exist. Grammar’s failure to remain essential will be our failure.
“One of the two main constituents of a sentence or clause, modifying the subject and including the verb, objects, or phrases governed by the verb as opened the door in Jane opened the door.” (American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Ed.)