Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla and The Parts of Speech – How the NC General Assembly Teaches Us How to Use Prepositions

The English language as we speak it has eight parts of speech. Can you name them?

Hint: they are nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, interjections, and prepositions. If you younger than 40, you might want to google School House Rock or maybe go to You Tube. School House Rock probably taught me more about the parts of speech than any other entity.


Many of you can probably sing a few of the jingles; they are priceless and timeless.

“Conjuction Junction, what’s your function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.”

“Interjections (hey!) show excitement (Yow!) or emotion, (Ouch!)
they’re generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point,
or by a comma when the feelings not as strong.”

“Busy prepositions,
Always on the go.
Like a bunch of busy bees,
Floating pollen on the breeze.”

“Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here.
Father, son, and Lolly selling adverbs here.
Got a lot of adverbs, and we make it clear,
So come to Lolly! (Lolly, Lolly, Lolly)”

“Well, every person you can know
And every place that you can go
And anything that you can show
You know they’re nouns – you know they’re nouns, oh…”

“Now, I have a friend named Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla,
And I could say that Rufus found a kangaroo
That followed Rufus home
And now that kangaroo belongs
To Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla.”

“Adjectives are words you use to really describe things,
Handy words to carry around.
Days are sunny or they’re rainy
Boys are dumb or else they’re brainy
Adjectives can show you which way.”

“I get my thing in action (Verb!)
In being, (Verb!) In doing, (Verb!)
In saying
A verb expresses action, being, or state of being.
A verb makes a statement.
Yeah, a verb tells it like it is!”

I’m getting a little emotional and nostalgic for my youth. Hell, I’ve got tears in my eyes.

So back to the parts of speech. Of the eight parts of speech, three are fairly set in their place in the lexicon. The other parts rather evolve as some are created with an expanding language and some are forgotten. We can create new nouns and verbs and adjectives and adverbs and interjections, but we cannot really add new pronouns or conjunctions or, my favorite – prepositions. (Did you notice the number of conjunctions used in the last sentence?)

Prepositions express a relation between entities: the object of the preposition and another word outside the prepositional phrase but in the same clause. More simply put, it shows a relationship between two words.

In elementary school, I was taught that a preposition was anything a squirrel could do to a tree. However, you could make a lesson plan concerning prepositions by coming up with a list of relationships between, say, the current North Carolina General Assembly and the citizens of North Carolina.

The following is a list of the twenty-five most used prepositions in the English language from Using these prepositions in sentences showing a relationship between the NCGA and North Carolinians might be a perfect lesson in how powerful these words really are. In some instances more than one preposition may be used.

Prepositions are also in bold text, with the primary example in red.

  1. Of – The people elected to the North Carolina General Assembly are supposed to be representatives of the people whose districts they reside.
  2. In – The people in North Carolina should be served by the lawmakers in Raleigh.
  3. To – The NCGA should be enacting legislation for the people in the state, not to the people of the state.
  4. For – See the preceding sentence for an example of this one.
  5. With – Lawmakers should be working with each other, not against each other.
  6. On – The NCGA meets on West Jones Street, sometimes behind opaque closed doors at midnight.
  7. At – Look at the sentence for #6.
  8. From – The governor is from Charlotte, but he will not explain to the Queen City why HB2 has not been repealed.
  9. By – The Bathroom Bill was passed by a GOP supermajority  in both sides of the NCGA, but the governor blames the Democrats when no “compromise” was reached in the last week of the session.
  10. About – Why did the NCGA pass so many bills about not regulating the charter school industry?
  11. As – Some of the approved bills from this last session make about as much sense as cutting one’s nose off.
  12. Into – The “Carolina Comeback” has turned into the “Carolina Retreat”.
  13. Like – Putting away half a million dollars to provide defense for HB2 in court is like throwing away a half a million dollars down the toilet, a public toilet in Charlotte.
  14. Through – Hopefully we will get through this ordeal when elections come in November.
  15. AfterAfter November, we will hopefully have better people in office.
  16. Over – But it will many years to get over the last four years.
  17. BetweenBetween you and me, there has not been much to praise when it comes to the NCGA’s treatment of public education.
  18. Out – Veteran teacher pay fell out the window in the last few years.
  19. Against – Oftentimes, the NCGA works against working class people in funding public services.
  20. DuringDuring the recent summer session, the NCGA passed a lot of ridiculous laws and bills.
  21. WithoutWithout proper funding, many schools will not be able to provide constitutionally mandated services to public services.
  22. BeforeBefore this current administration, teachers felt more appreciated.
  23. Under– Now teachers feel like they are under a mountain of regulation and red tape.
  24. Around – Many legislators should be around more public schools to see exactly what great work is being done.
  25. Among – Alas, many in the NCGA refuse to be among those they supposedly serve.


Ironically, when one looks at these sample sentences, many interjections come to mind.

The ones with exclamation points behind them.