"Oo! My belly hurts!" Natalie yowled.
"You might have little gas bubbles that need to work their way out," Jim said, hoping to get Natalie through dinner so she wouldn't wander downstairs from her bedroom after the whole pjs-toothbrushing-books-tuck-in routine to tell us that she is still hungry, as she has done several nights over the last few weeks.
"Nooo. It really, really hurts."
"Come here." Jim left the table and walked with Natalie over to the couch, where she sprawled back and pumped her legs like we used to do for her when she was a little gassy baby.
Connor, sitting with me at the table eating pasta and meatballs, let out a meek little toot.
"Did me tooting help you, Natalie?" he called to his sister.
Ever the editor, I saw my chance and—boy, oh, boy—did I ever take it, launching into a <gripping and utterly awe-inspiring> lesson on grammar: "Actually, Connor, it would be 'Did my tooting help you?' My tooting. You've taken a noun—'toot'—and turned it into a gerund, a word that looks like a verb but acts like a noun, by adding -ing: 'tooting.'
"Do you remember the Calvin and Hobbes strip about verbing words where Calvin uses nouns and adjectives as verbs and says, 'Verbing weirds language'? This is sort of—but only sort of—like that."
Connor eats his pasta. I'm not sure he is listening. I prattle on just the same. I've got stuff to say. Ain't no one gonna stop me.
"We know that a gerund is a noun disguised as a verb because if we replace the gerund with another noun, the sentence still makes sense."
A rapt audience. I sally forth.
"So you said—"
"'Did me tooting help you?'"
"Right. Now let's go ahead and change that to 'Did my tooting help you?' And let's replace 'my tooting' with—oh, I don't know—'ice cream.' So now we have 'Did ice cream help you?' Does the sentence make sense?"
"Yep. Ice cream always helps." That's my boy.
"The sentence makes sense because we substituted one noun for another. We have a gerund."
The gentleman approves. I take that as a plea, a "please, do go on."
"Now, if we have a noun and we want to show that you own that noun, what word should we use? 'Me'? Or 'my'? That's me ice cream? Or that's my ice cream?"
"That's my ice cream," Connor replies.
"Right. So, you tooted. It's your toot. Own it, baby."
Connor guffaws. "That's my toot."
"Yes, it is. Now put it into the question you asked your sister."
"Did my tooting help you?"
"Yes! That's the proper way to ask."
Jim and Natalie have made it back to the table by now, Natalie wearing a sheepish grin. "Arg!" Jim snarls, squinting and sneering. "'Did me tooting help you?' Say it that way only if you're a pirate."
Excellent point. There is no proper way to ask about toots—or to toot at the table, for that matter—unless you are, in fact, a swashbuckling, seafaring pirate. But, really, would it kill the mateys to use proper grammar?