SHEILA ROBBSHAW is, in her own words, a “cantankerous old bat who likes to sound off about things”. As a retired journo from an era when grammar was drummed into you, she’s finding some of today’s writing sadly lacking.
THERE is a lovely story about an English teacher who asked her class who could describe in one sentence the content of the lesson just completed.
One child got up and said, “Yes, miss. You mustn’t use a preposition to end a sentence with”. Sadly, there are too many people today who won’t see the joke.
How our standards have slipped.
Remember the days when, for example, radio and TV newsreaders spoke beautifully and absolutely correctly – they would practise the pronunciation of difficult words and always got them right.
Recently, we have had “porting a ship”(?) and the River Thames pronounced as “Thaymes”.
No excuse for that.
Then we have the Americanisms that have crept in.
If the word was meant to be pronounced “prosess,” it would be spelt that way.
If “progress” was meant to be “proggress”, it would gave a double G”.
Same as “labratory” – rats may well still be used in some labs, but that is not the derivation of the word laboratory.
Why “add-ress,” when address has served us well for centuries?
I can’t work out where “aluminum” came from – perhaps someone who had difficulty reading long words?
I understand that languages evolve and change.
If you try reading Chaucer, you will see how far we have come!
“Apartments” and “the movies” have become part of our nomenclature and no-one bats an eyelid – but somehow, misuse of words is aggravating – and I use that word on purpose.
Of course, it should be “irritating;” aggravating” means to make worse!
Many years ago, I attended a meeting at my children’s school, a meeting called to introduce parents to the wonders of what was then termed “outcomes based education”.
At the end of the talk, one father got up and made the statement that the system was likely to turn out confident illiterates.
How right he was! (I wonder if his question was prompted by his far-sighted mother-in-law, who just happened to be a teacher at the school?)
Sadly, our standard of English, both written and verbal, has dropped alarmingly.
Teachers say that children have difficulty with creative writing – everything is visual, they have no imaginations.
The new phone lingo doesn’t assist much either – things like dunno, gonna, wanna, y’all are creeping into the mainstream.
“Wot u doin 2nite” somehow does not inspire one with confidence. Perhaps we won’t get onto the subject of spelling…
Why do we turn adjectives into verbs? My least favourite is “premiered” – there is no such word – “fronted” is not a word either, certainly not in the context in which it is used.
I heard a story once about a lawyer confusing a judge when he referred to a collective noun.
A bit nonplussed, the judge asked the lawyer to clarify.
Apparently, what he was referring to was a plural.
See what I mean about slipping standards? Is grammar still taught in schools? If not, it should be.
Another pet hate of mine – and there are a few: one cannot qualify an absolute – i.e. very dead, a little bit pregnant or absolutely unique.
And you persuade to and convince that!
Tautology? Return back – two twins – close proximity – first and foremost?
We all do it, but why use superfluous words?
What about “your” and “you’re”? “Your in trouble” – your what is I trouble?
Are kids actually taught the difference? Do they know what an apostrophe or a contraction is?
Or how about “draw” when what is meant is a drawer?
This seems an appropriate place to slot in “for free”. Something is either free or for nothing. Why, why, why do so many people insist on the phrase?
Confusion reigns supreme about licence/license and practice and practise.
In each case, the first is a noun and the other is a verb – so “He has a licence, therefore is licensed to practise law in a law practice”.
We have a local firm of “practicing accountants”. I hope they have by now practiced enough to be qualified to practise accounting – and that their maths is better than their spelling.
To assist, think of the words advice and advise – they will point you in the direction of the correct spelling.
People in the UK are far more comfortable/familiar with French phrases that have become part of English than we are in Australia.
It did take me a while, however, to work out (it was in a letter to the editor) what a calder sack was.
In case you are puzzled too – what was meant was a cul de sac.
How about, like, seeing what we can, like, do, like, to stop the overuse of words like – well, like, like?
There seems to be a move to discard punctuation – “commas are superfluous”.
Are they really?
Take the book title as an example, “Eats shoots and leaves” takes on an entirely different complexion when punctuated – “Eats, shoots and leaves”.
Think of something like court transcript where evidence has to be accurate, and where the judicious use of punctuation is essential in indicating the nuances of speech, and thus conveying the manner in which something was said – not just a string of words.
English is such a beautiful language, it is a tragedy that grammar and spelling are no longer considered important.
We have a wealth of wonderful literature – are writers a dying breed?
Will well-written books become a thing of the past? That simply doesn’t bear thinking about.