Tuesday, 30 October 2007
More gastronomic & linguistic innovation from As You Like It.
Apologies for the poor quality photo; I must have been shaking with contempt when I noticed that their latest menu referred to "Gateaux's & Cakes".
UPDATE: Here's an article discussing the above issue.
Is this what will happen to us if we continue down this path? Are our destinies full of terrible cardigans and side partings?
She does have a cool computer though.
Sunday, 28 October 2007
I wish people would fink before putting variously coloured pens to paper.
Saturday, 27 October 2007
I was recently surprised to discover that GrammarBlog lost 38 subscribers following the publishing of 'Thanx' (which contains a naughty word meaning poo). I wouldn't have thought our readers are quite so sensitive.
We have previously decided that GrammarBlog should follow the Guardian style guide when it comes to swear words; however I censored the title of this post so those easily offended would be given a fighting chance of avoiding personal turmoil. In order to avoid an en masse unsubscription please heed the below warning.
If you are of a linguistically sensitive disposition, particularly with regards to expletives, please read no further. If you do read on please be aware that this post contains some pretty fucking strong language.
Right, now those prissy twats have fucked off, the rest of us can address the important business at hand. Stephen Pinker has written a great article for the The New Republic in which the Harvard psychology professor sorts through some of the paradoxes of profanity. In particular, Pinker looks at the futility and stupidity of the Clean Airways Act which caused a bit of a kerfuffle a few years back by trying to define the profanity of seven well known swear words in all possible contexts. Apart from the morality issue, Pinker points out that the sheer unorthodoxy of swearing grammar makes the contexts difficult to pin down, especially if the persons proposing the bill are linguistic morons.
[Regarding] the syntactic classification of curse words. Ose’s grammatically illiterate bill not only misspelled cocksucker, motherfucker, and asshole, and misidentified them as “phrases,” it didn’t even close the loophole that it had targeted. The Clean Airwaves Act assumed that fucking is a participial adjective. But this is not correct. With a true adjective like lazy, you can alternate between 'Drown the lazy cat' and 'Drown the cat which is lazy'. But 'Drown the fucking cat' is certainly not interchangeable with 'Drown the cat which is fucking'.It's interesting to note that the catalyst for the Clean Airways Act was a man who, for me at least, creates an uncontrollable urge to use the worst expletives known to mankind. I'm referring of course to that most irrepressible of utter cunts: Bono.
If the fucking in 'fucking brilliant' is to be assigned a traditional part of speech, it would be adverb, because it modifies an adjective and only adverbs can do that, as in truly bad, very nice, and really big. Yet “adverb” is the one grammatical category that Ose forgot to include in his list! As it happens, most expletives aren’t genuine adverbs, either. One study notes that, while you can say 'That’s too fucking bad', you can’t say 'That’s too very bad'. Also, as linguist Geoffrey Nunberg pointed out, while you can imagine the dialogue 'How brilliant was it? Very', you would never hear the dialogue 'How brilliant was it? Fucking'.
Five minutes and forty-four seconds into this clip, Bono says the dreaded F-word live on NBC. The network was not charged with profanity due to a subsequent FCC ruling stating that their definition of indecent only covers "material that describes or depicts sexual or excretory organs or activities". NBC were let off the hook as Bono used the word merely as "an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation." Conservative America was appalled and an idiotic politician named Doug Ose tried to secure a few reactionary votes by attempting to pass a ridiculous bill. Is there a lesson to be learned here? Fucked if I know.
**UPDATE** It appears the New Republic has removed Pinker's article. Luckily, you can still read it here.
Friday, 26 October 2007
Personalize'd Photo's, found here
Abuse of the word 'Photos' is unsettlingly common; in fact all words ending in vowels seem to cause some people problems. They can't simply add an 'S', it's like a mental block. The other one is a rare gem.
Personalize'dAlso note the unnecessary capitals and exclamation point.
Additional Animals!read more | digg story
Inspired by a trip to a local restaurant, my good lady wife and I now enjoy getting ‘an’ and ‘a’ the wrong way around. This, taken from their menu, is why:
Leaving aside the tautological content of this menu filler (why didn’t they just leave a space there? Which words could possibly add to the enjoyment of a meal apart from ‘Your meal tonight will be served by a wheelchair-bound Margaret Thatcher, who has just 15 minutes left to live. Feel free to kick her up the arse as you see fit and empty the contents of your pickle tray onto her rotting corpse’), just how did they get this so wrong?
They certainly aren’t alone. This appeared in the Guardian’s G2 section a couple of weeks back:
The matter is mentioned in the Wikipedia entry for 'Till Death Do Us Part', and it seems the Beeb has often been confused too:
The BBC, which broadcast the series, refers to the title differently in different locations. The 2004 DVD release uses two 'l's. Even the show's creator referred to it differently on occasions. But "'til" (with an apostrophe) is simply an erroneous twentieth-century rendering of "till", due to the mistaken impression that this is a short form of "until", itself in reality an unnecessary Middle English lengthening of the original (and still perfectly good) word "till". (This lengthening is taken even further in the phrase "up until".) The show's title and that of its sequel were both taken from the traditional wedding vow:
"I N. take thee N. to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth."
Here is the 'Till' entry in my 1955 Oxford Dictionary:
Till next time.
*This refers to one of my favourite jokes: "A mate of mine worked in a pet shop but he just got the sack. Yeah, he got caught with his hand in the Trill".
Thursday, 25 October 2007
This really bugs me. Can everyone please read this next sentence carefully.
(see update below)
So unless these banners are advertising the fact that a till will be open at midnight (Rob me! Rob me!), they should read, "open 'til 12 midnight".
Credit to Dave Winer for spotting this and twittering about it.
I'm wrong (again). Till, rather than being a misspelled abbreviation, actually pre-dates until. Please know that I am suitably embarrassed. I considered taking this post down but I think it should stand here as a warning to other rash, ignorant bloggers too lazy to research their posts.
Tuesday, 23 October 2007
If one is trying to politely but firmly get a point like this across, using a smiley or unnecessarily-cutesy text-speak comes across as very disingenuous, even passive-aggressive.
It really reminds be of one of my favourite blogs, Passive-aggressive notes. I don't know why they crack me up so much; maybe I can identify with pent-up frustration. I also like the last minute apostrophe in this photo – clearly an after thought but at least this person is trying.
Monday, 22 October 2007
Imagine, if you will, that I am a purveyor of tasty snacks. Tasty as they are, I decide to improve the recipe with which my snacks are created. When I sit down to design the packaging I decide to put the phrase "NEW, IMPROVED RECIPE!" all over it.
Aside from the glaring error of using capitalised type, I find myself with another quandary: can my recipe be both new and improved at the same time?
I've seen this quite a lot on packaging; I suspect we all have. On the one hand I can see that the recipe is a new recipe, it improves on the old, thus it is a "new, improved recipe". Equally if the recipe is new it replaces the old recipe and therefore isn't improving anything, except perhaps sales figures for my ludicrously tasty snack.
Help me, if you can, to quell my quandary.
Thursday, 18 October 2007
In my professional life I work for a digital marketing agency, and as a result I spend a lot of time on the internet.
Therefore I'm usually pretty up to date with the latest memes but this one completely passed me by until a GrammarBlog reader called Alex brought it to my attention.
Apparently the 'Get a Brain! Morans' thing is quite old now but it caused quite a stir, especially as there are some accusing those dreaded "liberals" of forging the picture to make pro-war Americans appear stupid. [Insert joke here.]
While we're on the topics of spelling and memes, I might as well share some of my favourite lolcats with you.
Read more about lolcat grammar here.
I know it's all just a bit of fun but I often think that internet meme contributors should take more care with their spelling, punctuation and grammar. Take this for example:
This example of the ever-recurring your/you're error is the perfect excuse to get the Hoff onto GrammarBlog. There are many reasons why I like him, none of which is rational or reasonable.
Tuesday, 16 October 2007
I've been close to blogging about this in the past. The first time I came across the Brothers brand of pear cider was about 5 months ago, on an all too infrequent outing with fellow GrammarBlog contributors in Newcastle.
It was on the grassy knoll outside the Cluny where I gave an extended eulogy on the punctuation, (or lack-there-of ) on my bottles of perry, fuelled by the bottles' contents and my righteous indignation.
"Surely it should be Brothers' or maybe even Brother's?", I vaguely remember shouting to anyone foolish enough to listen (I was oblivious the the fact that they couldn't hear the distinction in apostrophe placement) but in the cold light of sobriety I began to doubt myself.
Is it in the realm of possibility that a company could be called Brothers and yet not need an apostrophe anywhere on the label of their "Strawberry mixed-pear cider"? I'll put this question to you, dear readers: should Brothers become the latest addition to The List?
P.S. I make no apologies for following Dan's historical and erudite post with my plebeian tale of drunken buffoonery; that's just the way events unfold sometimes.
It seems pedantry has been in existence for a pleasingly long time, and I applaud the lengths gone to in order to prove a point here:
A trifling incident hath sometimes been the occasion of the greatest quarrels, and such as have ended fatally. I remember two gentlemen who were constant companions, disputing one evening at “Grecian” Coffee House concerning the accent of a Greek word. This dispute was carried to such a length, that the two friends thought proper to determine it with their swords. For this purpose they stepped out into Devereux Court, where one of them (whose name, if I remember, was Fitzgerald) was run thro’ the body, and died on the spot.Summary justice for the use of poor grammar. Utopian.
Thursday, 11 October 2007
The irony of this comment, however, made me chuckle:
A noble and correct sentiment, egregiously delivered. Admit it, even for YouTube – that's a cracker.
P.S. You can see the video and the comment here. The video is not relevant to this post but involves a teacher who is either incredibly stupid or incredibly stupid and racist.
Tuesday, 9 October 2007
This is a particularly brilliant example, found today on Premier Travel Inn’s website:
Did the cartographer think there were places called ‘Middlesbrough’ and ‘Middlesborough’ right next to each other?
Elsewhere, when a customer wishing to stay on Teesside reaches the Booking Summary page, Premier Travel Inn employ the 12-character abbreviation ‘Midd’borough’.
This is like abbreviating abbreviation to abrvv’ation: not only have they saved just one character, they have also introduced a completely erroneous additional letter.
Makes. Me. Mad.
Monday, 8 October 2007
If the well-meaning but averagely-educated reader accused this blog of regularly eviscerating relatively innocuous grammatical errors, he or she might not be completely off-mark.
Obviously I don't agree, but I do think that we've missed out by not publicly skewering a few more egregious howlers, once and for all. With that in mind, and given the fact that I've not had the time to post anything more substantial recently, I thought I'd build on Dan's recent passing reference and take the opportunity to properly draw attention to this:
"I might loose my keys!"
"I hope City don't loose this weekend."
This really gets me. Absolute garbage. At what point in one's life does one miss the distinction between 'lose' and 'loose'? They look different, they sound different and (brace yourself for this phrasal cliché) they sure as hell mean different things. Whilst I can understand (but not necessarily tolerate) errors involving fairly unassuming pronouns (eg their, they're etc), I do not see how anyone can type or write 'loose' when they mean 'lose'.
I'm no expert on linguistic/grammatical cognition, but surely the brain picks up on these things whilst they're being committed to screen/paper and screams at the culprit, "WRONG, WRONG, WRONG
– YOU ARE A MORON".
Sunday's, bloody Sunday's!
Sunday, 7 October 2007
I'm not going to have an anti-American rant. I realise that the US is poorly represented in the world grammar league (how I wish that existed) due to the misfortune of having a leader who seems to have missed out on his natural calling of becoming a P.E. teacher.
In fact despite the unnecessary alterations to our spelling and their propensity to "verb" words, most Americans I've met have been very well spoken. One could argue that this is because most of those Americans were met in countries other than the US so I've met a cross-section of the few who actually own a passport
–but let's not split hairs. There is one Americanism that drives me absolutely potty (actually there are a few but I promised not to have a rant).
I could care less.How can an entire nation not realise that the above phrase means you do care?
I can't remember which TV programme I was watching when I first became aware of this phrase but I assumed it was a slip, that the speaker had meant to say, "I couldn't care less." But no, I keep on hearing it and every time it makes me twitch involuntarily with rage. I wouldn't mind so much if I only heard it used by guests on 'Springer' and MTV morons like Ashton Kutcher but in the past I've heard it used by Jon Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Moore, Larry David and more. These are clever people!
It came as a relief, therefore, when I found this neat little diagram on Flickr.
Well done Meredith G, GrammarBlog salutes you. Now all you have to do is spread that message to the other 214,999,999 English speakers in the US. Good Luck.
**Update: Meredith has got in touch to say she found the diagram at Incompitech. How very honest and gracious of you, Meredith, others might have been tempted to ninja the glory for themselves (and yes, I know I've used a verbed word after complaining about it in the post).
Saturday, 6 October 2007
This is a great idea. Word Girl teaches kids a new word in each exciting instalment. It's actually quite funny.
I was a bit miffed when the girl on the desk said:
You used tonnage wrong.I think she should have said 'incorrectly'.
Anyway, hopefully this will nurture a new generation of grammar nazis.
He went to Yale? Honestly?
Friday, 5 October 2007
I took this picture ages ago and forgot to post it. Oh well, here it is now.
For example, What??andWhat?! both indicate a measure of tone that is difficult to achieve with a single question mark or exclamation point.
Yet according to Grammar Girl:
You're supposed to pick the terminal punctuation mark that is most appropriate and use just one. Is your statement more of a question or more of an outburst?
Why choose? Now one can use the delightfully named interrobang, which is basically a cross between a question mark and an exclamation point.
The main drawback is that if you want to use it you have to dig around in wingdings 2 trying to find the damned thing.
What‽ What the hell‽
I quite like it, what do think?
NB: Apologies if you can't see the interrobang. Why don't you try using a decent browser?
Wednesday, 3 October 2007
This menu was sent to my phone.
I love getting texts like this, even if they indicate that my girlfriend is having fun in London's cocktail bars while I'm stuck at work. As well as the apostrophe abuse, check out the erratic capitalisations.
According to the BBC, last month the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary announced that its sixth edition will remove hyphens from no fewer than 16,000 words.
Some of these, such as leap-frog, will become one word while others will just lose the hyphen; walking-stick for example, will be changed to walking stick.
"But how will we differentiate between a stick designed to aid mobility and a magical stick that can walk?", I hear you cry. The answer is a mixture of context and old fashioned common sense (formerly known as old-fashioned common-sense). If there is genuine ambiguity as to whether the prefix is a verbal noun or a participle adjective then the hyphen must remain; otherwise I find them wholly unnecessary. I would never assume that a pot belly is the belly of an earthenware vessel (unless the context suggested so) so why would I need a hyphen?
The article, however, suggests that technology is the reason the hyphen is becoming unfashionable.
The blame, as is so often the case, has been put at least in part on electronic communication. In our time-poor lifestyles, dominated by the dashed-off [or should that be dashed off or dashedoff] e-mail, we no longer have time to reach over to the hyphen key.Balderdash, I say. Especially as the decrease in hyphen use has coincided with an increase in the use of the dash — an entirely different piece of punctuation but the same button on your keyboard. I have discussed my reasons for liking the dash in a previous post.
But hang on a minute. I don't think I'm quite ready to pen the hyphen's obituary as when I look at the above quote it's my view that "dashed-off" benefits from the hyphen. It just reads better — more smoothly somehow. The hyphen in e-mail, however, doesn't serve any purpose at all and I'm always cursing the Beeb's dogged refusal to join in with the rest of the world and drop it.
I don't know, I guess we're just going to have to play it by ear and be forgiving when it comes to other people's use of this messy, cluttering, largely redundant little character.
Tuesday, 2 October 2007
Naturally, misplaced apostrophes and the like do cause anger, but in equal measure errors often engender mirth.
Yesterday, I received an email which contained the words:
"Thank you for your email. I resent the system confirmation, but just in case you don't receive it…"
What, I thought, has the system confirmation ever done to the sender? Was she so affronted by its failings that she began to harbour murderous thoughts? Did she dream of taking a sledge hammer to the main network computer?
Another classic recently sent to me included the line:
"…needles to say that the hired furniture arrived on time and on specification."
This reads as if the author is giving a stage direction for a play about diabetes or heroin in which furnishings-obsessed syringes actually perform part of the dialogue.
At the end of the aforementioned email, someone is thanked for "not loosing his composure". Does this mean he kept a tight rein on his calmness, never letting rigorous pre-stated standards slip?
However, my recent favourite was sent by an old colleague of mine, Steve the Geordie. On being charged with informing local health professionals that a meeting was to be postponed, Steve signed off his email:
"Sorry for any incontinence this may have caused".
GrammarBlog has moved
We are now live at http://www.grammarblog.co.uk/
Subscribe and Share
- 1000 Tiny Things I Hate
- AA Gill's Times Column
- Apostrophe Abuse
- Stephen Fry's blog
- The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks
- Mighty Red Pen
- lowercase L
- Literally a web log
- Elisabeth Writes
- Never in all my life
- The Engine Room
- I Love Typography
- spEak You’re bRanes
- Passive Aggressive Notes