Reading though today’s media (online because, although I may be a grumpy Grammar, I am at least one who is up to date) I am constantly reminded of the quip by Sir Winston Churchill: “This is the language up with which I will not put”.
I love this phrase because it is, on the one hand, completely ridiculous but, on the other, grammatically correct. As for whether or not Winston Churchill actually said it, who cares? The great leader said lots of things, not all of them entirely sensible but, again, always grammatically correct.
I understand that today’s media happens at the speed of light and that the era of the “grammar nazi” has given way to the era of “feed me information NOW” and I accept that language and its accompanying scaffolding are shifty beasts, but there are rules, people, and without rules what have you got? Anarchy… Or, worse, poetry.
In her ground-breaking book Eats Shoots & Leaves, which, in my humble opinion, should be mandatory reading for anyone with eyes, Lynne Truss writes about surreptitiously scribbling an apostrophe on the promotional poster for the film Two Weeks (sic) Notice. She worried people might think her mad. I think she acted perfectly reasonably.
Aside from obvious crimes against apostrophes, here are just a few of a long list of common wrongs I’d love to see righted (aka the list of things they bloody well should teach in school).
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While I managed to restrain myself from slapping a dear friend who reported she had been “humming and haaing” over a tough decision, I have been known to snap “it’s tit!” at anyone who dares use the American “tidbit”. Other commonly mangled expressions include “another thing coming”, which, as you know, should be “another think coming”, and “one foul swoop”. It’s “fell” – one fell swoop.
Which versus what
I am this close to giving up on this one (okay, that’s a lie). What meal would you like? What celebrity was spotted in some ungainly position? What colour lipstick did Ita Buttrose go to extraordinarily lengths to procure? Sigh. As I tell alarmed-looking strangers on trains, if there are finite options, please use “which”. Please.
Confusion over quanity
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I remember once waging a war over “over”, specifically the phrase “over 365 idea inside”, which was to be plastered over the front cover of a magazine. Call me a stickler, but it should be “more than”. That’s the rule, and I am sticking to it.
While we’re at it, why does no one know the difference between “fewer ” and “less” these days? In vain hope, I regularly declare to my grandchildren, “Oh look! There’s less fruit in the bowl, and fewer apples still!”
They usually pay me no attention so I storm out in a huff. They don’t call me Grumpy Grammar for no reason.
Do you get your knickers in a knot over poor grammar and spelling? Which digressions get you going?
photo credit: Grammar via photopin (license)