CONTEXT

April 30, 2013

As she is spoke

As I am presently otherwise occupied, there will be very few posts in the next few weeks, but I would like to leave you with a little reminder: try not to split your infinitives if at all possible.

I say this in a spirit of relentless nitpicking, which is what good grammar calls for. Broadcast media  – and even occasionally print – continues to undermine standards of correct English whenever possible and we nitpickers are fighting a losing battle.

Early English Grammarian Bishop Robert Lowth

Early English Grammarian Bishop Robert Lowth

The use of ‘weaved’ for ‘wove, ‘had swam’ instead of ‘had swum’ and the reluctance to use ‘drunk’ except as an adjective are stones in my shoe.

“…citing Obama’s failure to reign in Iran’s nuclear aspirations…” makes me gag, as does “[she] shined in a metallic strapless frock…”

(If English is your second language, the first should be ‘rein’ and the second ‘shone’ – shined is what you did to the silver and your shoes.)

I am happy to say that there is a well-organized effort to keep us all on the straight and narrow – though I can’t figure out who’s behind it – and all you have to do is go to http://www.grammarist.com for help. (Sorry, the very bad URL link form isn’t working again…)

Although, as always, there is often a nit to pick there as well:  “Both forecast and forecasted are widely used as the past tense and past participle of the verb forecast, but the uninflected form is more common. In 21st-century English it prevails by a large margin, but not by such a large margin that anyone should consider forecasted wrong.”

Bosh.  I for one feel perfectly free to consider ‘forecasted’ egregiously ungrammatical and do.  Especially when the Grammarist points out that we owe the frequent misuse of the ‘ed’ ending to financial writers – a plague on all jargon.

But that’s always how it begins – it looks authoritative in print and the source seems respectable and before you know it, busy little bad grammar bees have pollinated the language with shoddy usage.

And rather than fight the good fight, large segments of the community will give up all together – as they are in Devon in England.  The Guardian reports (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/mar/15/council-ban-apostrophe) that the Mid Devon Council is considering the removal of apostrophes from all the area’s street signs since they are so widely misused.

(Apostrophe abuse is rampant – how many little house plaques have you seen saying ‘The Smith’s”?)

This of course will create lots of wonderful new errors – the Childrens’ Garden will become the Childrens Garden rather than the Children’s Garden – which hardly seems an improvement.

And there is a bit of backlash: According to the Guardian, ‘The Plain English Campaign led the criticism. “It’s nonsense,” said Steve Jenner, spokesperson and radio presenter. “Where’s it going to stop. Are we going to declare war on commas, outlaw full stops?”‘

(The Plain English Society website, btw, is worth a visit.)

Carry on, good Grammarians.

Breaking News from PES: Mid Devon District Council leaders have been forced to reconsider banning the apostrophe from street signs in the area.

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6 Comments »

  1. Excellent. 🙂

    Comment by ninachat — April 30, 2013 @ 12:12 pm | Reply

  2. Gosh! I’m afraid to comment for fear of making a grammatical error!

    Comment by galyatarmu — April 30, 2013 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

  3. And, what or who are we to blame for these growing anomalies?? Life moves ever faster, doesn’t it?

    Comment by Carol — April 30, 2013 @ 6:26 pm | Reply

  4. My current complaiint is about the virtual loss of the conjuctival use of “as.” “Like” seems to have routed it. “Reign” is a close second. “Meld” has been reinvented as a portmanteau of melt and weld instead of its original meaning as announcing or declaring a winning combination in pinochle.

    Comment by Jane — May 1, 2013 @ 6:03 am | Reply

  5. Two of my pet peeves: the use of lay for lie – My teacher-mom said, “Hens lay, you lie down on the couch.” And then there is “flounder” for a ship which is “foundering.” The English language is perhaps the richest in the world for varied terminology. We should use it well.

    Comment by Celia Carroll — May 3, 2013 @ 9:48 pm | Reply


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