Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Thursday Soapbox: ARGH ARGH ARGH, The Zero Tolerance Approach to Grammar Freaks

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Thanks to Jeremy Paxman’s controversial comments about the apostrophe, this piece has suddenly become rather topical. Is the death of that cute little punctuation mark in sight? Will kids be spelling “through” as “thru” in their GCSEs. Will L8R become standard English?

RosyB doesn’t know about any of that but, instead, lets rip with a not-totally-rational howl against Grammar Freaks and the sinister rise of something called “The Literary Quiz”…

ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! The Zero Tolerance Approach to Grammar Freaks

Let me apologise in advance for the numbers of “argh”s and general expostulations of annoyance that will take place during the following soapbox. In fact, excuse me for just a moment whilst I get something off my chest:

ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! ARGH!

That’s better. Right. Where were we? Oh yes.

It’s all that Lynne Truss’s fault (or is that “Truss’ fault”?) with her runaway best-selling bible for punctuation pedants with far too much time on their hands: Eats, Shoots and Leaves: the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.

Just the title is enough to shoot my blood pressure up. That horrible phrase “Zero Tolerance” (which many have pointed out should strictly speaking have a hyphen) with its implication of three misuses of the apostrophe and it’s the electric chair for you.

The title comes from a joke about a panda, which comes into a restaurant, orders a sandwich, fires off a gun and heads for the exit. Asked why he has engaged in such unusual behaviour, he flings a copy of a badly-punctuated wildlife manual over his shoulder. And, sure enough, under the entry for Panda it says, “Eats, shoots and leaves”. Ho ho ho. (Make sure you note that comma there.)

(Excuse me whilst I just fall on the floor. Ho ho ho ho ho ho.)

Alright, it’s a joke about punctuation. And quite a good joke. But far from illustrating Truss’s argument, it underlines the fallacy. The idea that a misplaced comma can turn a description of the eating habits of a peaceable herbivore (“eats shoots and leaves”) into a murderous action by a gun-toting bear (“eats, shoots and leaves”) is just plain wrong!

NOBODY could mistake the meaning (unless you are a moron, or a newly arrived alien from the planet Ug) because it’s not about commas, but context.

Look, it’s really quite simple: if it is listed in an encyclopaedia under “Panda” – it’s dietary requirements. If it’s included in some wild piece of flash fiction about psychopathic bears (or in a humourous book about how punctuation is going to the dogs)…it’s the gun-toting panda. Got it?

(ARGH GLURGH YELP BURBLE BURBLE GURGLE BLARGH!)

Ok, ok, so Lynne Truss may be technically correct and actually right and all those other inconvenient things. But that’s not the point. The point is…The point is that, contrary to what the grammar freaks would have you believe, society is not about to be brought to its collective knees by the misplacement of a comma. A comma, out of place, is not the destroyer of civilisation as we know it. IT’S A TYPO.

You see this is what annoys me so much about grammar freaks. They act as if language is rendered completely incomprehensible by the odd misplaced apostrophe or semi-colon. But the things they get their knickers in a twist about are very rarely anything to do with actual meaning.

Take, for example, the typical kind of quarrel you find on forums all over the internet:

A: *Something intelligent about politics…*

B: *Something in disagreement with A*

A: No, no. no. *Good and detailed argument to back up what s/he was just saying.*

B: I refuse to see your very good and detailed argument. But instead will now dwell on the fact that you said “which” rather than “that” 3 posts ago.

A: But I just made a very good and detailed argument!

B: La la la. I’m not listening. And you missed an apostrophe 7 lines back. How can I listen to a very good and detailed argument from someone who can’t use an apostrophe?

A: But -?

B: Moron.

A: I –

B: Not listening! Not listening! You can’t use an apostrophe therefore I won even though I’m obviously an idiot and you’re clearly a lot cleverer than me.

Of course, these internet-savvy grammar freaks should really be classed as a subset of the grammar freak species as a whole. Traditional grammar freaks tend to decry the whole invention of the internet in the first place. Indeed, they usually blame it for the whole, rotten, poorly-punctuated edifice we call “modern life”. They certainly wouldn’t be contributing to internet forums; they are too busy sharpening their quills to fire off letters to Feedback about the pronunciation of “controversy” on Radio 4. Or complaining about dropped consonants and textspeak and the lack of the Queen’s English in schools, whilst looking back fondly to that Golden Age before Star Trek decided to boldly split the infinitive where no man had split it before.

(Has it ever occurred to these people that young persons might have invented textspeak so as NOT to have to talk to their grumpy, pedantic elders and betters?)

This group are less fussed about meaning and communication than fetishising a load of rules they rote-learnt at school. As if those rules are even consistent or made any sense in the first place. As if the majority of these rules aren’t just plain ANNOYING. Take the following examples:

1. It’s/its
Surely there is NOTHING as annoying in the whole of the English language as the whole debacle that is “it’s” versus “its”. It is almost as though it was specifically invented to plague proofreaders. Undetectable by spell-checkers, small enough to escape the naked eye, ubiquitous enough to easily trip off those typing fingers in an unguarded moment. What a stupid bloody rule. Why should it be “his”, “hers”, then “its”? Alright, you say, there’s a certain consistency about that. Well, why isn’t there another word for “its” like “tis” or “ters”? And what about “one’s”? (Ha! Got you there!) And why is MY stuff always riddled with the pesky little things.

2. Which/that
There are numerous long-winded and wildly differing explanations on writing forums all over the internet attempting to explain this rule. So I say – if it’s so blooming complicated and no one really knows – why bother? Does anyone really care? The only reason this rule seems to exist in the first place is to sort out the grammar wheat from the grammar chaff. Bin it, I say.

3. Do not split Infinitives
If there’s ever been a totally pointless rule, this is it. We aren’t Romans. We don’t speak Latin. So, what’s the problem? Why do I have to go somewhere? Why can’t I have to “urgently” go somewhere? Much more exciting – even I suddenly want to know what I’m up to.

Language is constantly evolving. People use language to express themselves, and what’s wrong with that? If grammar doesn’t fit with common usage, grammar will move and change.

But amongst the grammar freaks there is a real fear, as the wonderful A Customer put it so beautifully in a review of Truss’s book on Amazon:

“a sense of panic (as if there were only one-hundred mating-pairs of apostrophes left in the wild)”.

I love this idea. As though the world used to be some sort of punctuation paradise where commas roamed free without fear of misuse, flocks of well-enunciated consonants “tut-tutted” overhead, and herds of full-stops just sort of stood around not doing very much.

 

But all that is now under threat! We must get out there – round up the last few semicolons into captivity and set up a breeding programme right away!

Perhaps we could then invite Julian Fellows to host it and broadcast on BBC4 on one of those just-shoot-me-now (or preferably just shoot them) literary quizzes.

Excuse me again for a moment…(ARGH! KLERB! YERAGH! BLERARGH! YOWL!)

I don’t know what it is about Literary Quizzes that manage to so comprehensively ram themselves up my nostrils. I managed to watch about 5 minutes of Never Mind the Full-Stops before imminent suffocation by nasal obstruction threatened and I was forced to stop. Oscar winning script-writer (and Tory party speech-writer) Julian Fellowes plus panel discuss important matters such as whether “ize” is an “incorrect” Americanisation, or whether “St James” should be possessive in relation to parks.

(Where’s that gun-wielding panda when you need him?)

Again, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I find myself compelled to quote a commenter, TRM Burke, from the Never Mind the Full-Stops website:

“Having to endure this pompous, anal, oh-so-middle-class excuse for entertainment every week should be outlawed as a cruel and unusual punishment under the Geneva Convention. It’s akin to being stuck in a lift with Lynne Truss while repeats of “Quote, Unquote” are forcibly piped through its speaker system. Please Mr Controller of BBC Four, make it stop!”

But there’s more. We seem to be being besieged by a plethora of literary quizzes at the moment –  there’s Kirsty Wark quizzing literary contestants on BBC Four’s The Book Quiz, Sebastian Faulkes “pistaching” JK Rowling on Radio Four.  But all of these pale into insignificance next to my old favourite, Quote, Unquote.

What is it about Quote Unquote that has me frothing at the mouth and hurtling towards the off button like a rabid hedgehog? Is it just the smug voices, the annoying way the quotes are delivered: all portentous pauses and oh-so-over-egged-significance for the significant ones (if there’s one thing Quote UnQuote isn’t about, it’s challenging preconceptions) and oh-so-over-egged-wryness for the “witty” ones? Is it the uproarious laughter, quite out of proportion to any of the funnies on offer, signaling an audience desperate to show they know what the panelists are on about? (As a friend of mine once said “I may not have read the right books. But at least I know what the right books are.”)

The only point of Quote Unquote‘s existence, as far as I can see, is to provide comic fodder for the one of my all-time favourite shows I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. (So a necessary evil then.)

With its puns, double meanings, ambiguities, rudeness and just plain silliness – Clue celebrates everything that is glorious about the English language better than any literary quiz…by having fun. It revels in what is wonderful about language, its colour and creativity – not the nit-picky boring bits.

After all, isn’t that what is so great about English, that it’s just plain nuts? Moulded from so many other languages, full of idiosyncrasies and special cases – nobody can be expected to remember them all. And how boring would it be if they did? We wouldn’t have sites like these.

So, in the words of the textspeaking grammatically-challenged younger generation:

UN4TUN8ly gR W8s for no man. IMHO ppl should chill out cuz gR Fs are just ACORNS

L8R dudes (or 2dls)

(And anyone who can translate that will get a gold star.)

__________________________

*The photo is from Jrhyley on Flickr, reproduced under the Creative Commons License.

————————

Please let us know your grammar loves and hates in the comments. Do rogue apostrophes set your teeth on edge? Do you lie awake at night thinking about “its” versus “it’s”? Feel free to pitch in here and have your say. And if you find any mistakes in this piece – which there will be – tough! It’s a blog, ok? The enemy, remember?

More Thursday Soapboxes from the foxes and their guests here.

33 comments on “Thursday Soapbox: ARGH ARGH ARGH, The Zero Tolerance Approach to Grammar Freaks

  1. Luisa
    November 13, 2008

    Rosy, you are now officially my hero. I’ve had a lot of laughs about grammar and punctuation in my time. (I have, you know. I’m not ashamed to admit it!)

    But never as many as I had reading this. I absolutely loved this. Thanks for writing it!

  2. RosyB
    November 13, 2008

    Luisa – thank you so much for commenting. I was beginning to worry that people had taken it a bit too seriously! Being a proper expert, you must tell us your pet loves and pet hates with grammar and punctuation.

    I think my all time most-loathed is “Emma and I” versus “Emma and me” (Emma being my sister hence why I always associate this rule with her name). My mother and I had such fierce fights about this. She used to claim I would be virtually unemployable unless I got it right. Ah! Memories…

  3. Moira
    November 13, 2008

    There’s nothing quite like a really good rant to relax you … that’s what I always say …

    Wonderful, Rosy. Just what I needed on a slightly stress-inducing day.

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  5. clom
    November 13, 2008

    Some great targets there for lit-smuggery on our screens.

    There’s also the connections game that’s just come out with Victoria Coren and a number of other simpering self-appointed intelechewals preening themselves over identifying a series of mindbendingly straightforward connections.

    It’s frustrating and bewildering, like watching a charming and inebriated friend shovelling pound coins into pub trivia machines. Diverting, but only because you can’t understand why anyone would consider it worthwhile.

  6. rosyb
    November 13, 2008

    Ooo Clom, I wish I’d asked you before – I could have quoted you.

    What gets me is that sort of “of course the Spoon was invented by blah blah blah in blah blah blah. And there’s a rather interesting connection between the spoon and the sanitary towel dispenser what could it be? Aha! Yes, they both contain the letter “p””

    Arghhhhhhhhh! (Don’t set me off).

    I have to say I do think Qi has to take some of the blame for these sorts of spurious connections. I can’t decide if I like or loathe Qi. It would be appallingly smug with anyone else involved but they have nimbly acknowledged the smugness by representing both ways of thinking through Fry and Davies…

    But, more seriously, I do think it’s depressing that books have to be associated with a certain way of being…

  7. kirstyjane
    November 13, 2008

    You’ve just summed up why I have to run and barricade myself in somewhere whenever The News Quiz comes on in my house. Ho ho ho, funny accent, ho ho ho, portentious-sounding voiceover, ho ho ho ho ho.

    Hilarious piece, Rosy, if painfully true. 😀

  8. Kelly
    November 13, 2008

    I do feel your pain with regard to pointless pedantry. When I read Internet forums (or should that be fora?), I pay no attention to posters whose arguments consist mainly of ad hominem attacks on others’ grammar. But then I also pay no attention to posters whose grammar is so bad as to make their posts nonsensical. (And it takes more than a few missed commas to achieve that.)

    But we have those rules for a reason: Our writing is more clearly understood when we follow most of them, most of the time. Commas and apostrophes, used either too liberally or too sparingly, can dramatically change the meaning of a sentence — sometimes in ways that are harder to detect than that in Lynne Truss’s famous example. And what’s the big deal about its and it’s? Why not just remember that “it’s” is a contraction, and “its” isn’t? Is it really that hard? Sure, it’s easy to make a typo; I do it myself and readily forgive others’ similar foibles. But we should blame ourselves for our typos rather than assuming the fault is with the rule rather than with our own hurried carelessness.

    If you don’t like shows about grammar, why not do the same thing I do about shows I can’t stand? I don’t watch or listen to them. This method of avoiding irritating radio and TV shows has never been known to fail.

    Split infinitives, along with sentences ending in prepositions or beginning with conjunctions, are pretty much universally accepted now — at least by anyone who isn’t an insufferable snob. The reason for this is that slavishly adhering to silly, pretentious rules makes our writing less clear rather than more. Remember Churchill’s famous quote about pedantry up with which he would not put.

    Vulpes libris is a recent discovery for me, and I enjoy it very much. Thanks for the many helpful book reviews.

  9. Gaskella
    November 13, 2008

    I loved reading and chuckled over your piece, but don’t you get irked when people write ‘your’ when they mean ‘you’re’? That one really annoys me. I try not to mind about grammar, but it’s difficult when your 8yr old keeps putting rogue apostrophe’s in plural’s and the teacher’s don’t correct it!

  10. Gaskella
    November 13, 2008

    I loved reading your rant and chuckled away, but don’t you get irked when people write ‘your’ when they mean ‘you’re’? That one really annoys me. I try not to mind about grammar, but it’s difficult when your 8yr old keeps putting rogue apostrophe’s in plural’s and the teacher’s don’t correct it!

  11. rosyb
    November 13, 2008

    Gaskella, well that doesn’t particularly irk me. But it is a bit depressing about the “teacher’s” because if they don’t know – how are the rest of us supposed to get it?

    I’m very fickle about these matters. On the one hand, I get fed up with the apostrophe brigade. On the other, my boyfriend and I often have conflicting views about creating a standardised spelling. I don’t like the idea of this because I like the fact you can see so many other languages peeking out through the funny spellings in English. But I admit that is very sentimental and old-fogeyish of me and English spelling is a nightmare.

    Kelly said “And what’s the big deal about its and it’s? Why not just remember that “it’s” is a contraction, and “its” isn’t? Is it really that hard? Sure, it’s easy to make a typo; I do it myself and readily forgive others’ similar foibles. But we should blame ourselves for our typos rather than assuming the fault is with the rule rather than with our own hurried carelessness.”

    Thanks for commenting, Kelly. But I just can’t get on with this idea that “rules” are faultless and that we should all be endlessly flaggellating ourselves over them. They should aid us, not seem designed to trip us up. My point about it’s/its is that it is not a particularly helpful rule in terms of aiding meaning. I mean there are plenty of examples of words in English spelt the same and we just look at the context and go – oh yes, I know which one that is. Like “bear” for example…

  12. Trilby
    November 13, 2008

    Have to say, I’m inclined to agree with Kelly on this one!

    The its/it’s distinction is so very easy to get right. A typo is one thing, but I really do think that many people actually believe the apostrophe in the possessive is correct. Perhaps re-education camps are the answer?

    I was seven when I was taught when to use commas vs. when to use semicolons, and I don’t recall it causing any undue mental strain. If a seven year-old can master rudimentary punctuation (as well they should: don’t get me started on American “creative grammar”, which was all the rage in public schools a few years ago), then surely the rest of us should be able to hack it?

    Rosy, would it be wrong to say that your real bugbear is with circuitous internet forum debates and up-themselves quiz shows? Now there I think you do have a point! Happily, the solution to both is easy: locate the power switch, and select “off” 🙂

  13. rosyb
    November 13, 2008

    “but I really do think that many people actually believe the apostrophe in the possessive is correct”

    And is that so very stupid of them, Trilby? Considering that you would say “the rabbit’s hutch” or “the child’s toy” or whatever? Nope, I’m not budging on the its issue.

    Semi-colons, they say, are on the way out. I don’t think commas versus semi-colons are that straightforward. Sometimes. Not always.

    And if I pressed the “off” button – what would I have to shout and scream about?

    No fun! No fun!

  14. kirstyjane
    November 13, 2008

    This is a soapbox, ranting is de rigueur! And if Lynne Truss can rant, why shouldn’t our Rosy?

    (Mwahahahahaha, I used a comma splice! Take that, grammar freaks!)

  15. Lesley
    November 13, 2008

    I find the it’s its distinction very annoying, and horribly arbitrary. Sure, its may not be a contraction, but it is often a possessive and possessives should have bloody apostrophes.

    Also, never fear: the semi-colons are thriving–indeed, breeding–in my thesis. I worry that they’re having an adverse affect on all the other punctuation populations.

  16. Jackie
    November 13, 2008

    This was a hilarious post, Rosy, I laughed all the way through it. I liked all the animal references(“commas roam free”) and the sudden sound effects. This was a Soapbox above the ordinary,which is saying something!

  17. Teresa
    November 13, 2008

    Well, I make my living correcting other people’s grammar, spelling, and such for publication, so it’ll suit me just fine if people keep confusing its and it’s—that’s what I call job security. 🙂

    If I were standing on my own grammar soapbox my position would be similar to Kelly’s and to Gaskella’s. Some errors (your/you’re) do set my teeth on edge, but I also know that typos are typos, grammar and spelling isn’t everyone’s first priority, and sometimes context can make up for our goofs. And, again, job security. Writers, keep making those goofs! I need to get paid!

    We grammar freaks should always remember that language changes. Our job may be to slow it down to a reasonable pace, but holding on to silly distinctions that no one else cares about makes us look silly. (I sometimes have to enforce the because/since and the although/while distinctions in my work when it’s totally clear in context what is meant. I feel silly every time I “fix” it.) But I’m still going on hold the line on its/it’s—at least until the style guides tell me to stop!

  18. rosyb
    November 14, 2008

    Kirsty – moix!

    Lesley:”the semi-colons are thriving–indeed, breeding–in my thesis. I worry that they’re having an adverse affect on all the other punctuation populations.”

    hee hee. I have my semi-colon moments… I suspect that no matter what Paxman says the apostrophe is pretty safe for a while too. Although I do see that from the signmakers’ point of view that it must be very annoying having to make a sign with a metal apostrophe in it or something.

    Aw thanks Jacks! I really can’t take the credit for the animal imagery – it was the genius of A Customer who got me started on all that. (I wish I’d thought of that hundred mating pairs of apostrophes line. Whoever A Customer is – I take my hat off.)

    Teresa, thanks so much for commenting. I suppose it’s all a balance really, isn’t it? Not that this post is remotely balanced whatsoever. 😉 And it’s not as though I want the world stuffed with typos and not give a damn. I think people making their livings fixing other people’s grammar is a wonderful wonderful thing. Editors and proofreaders rock! I just wish I had one for my outpourings on Vulpes to catch those pesky its’s (Oh heck. Now how do you punctuate that?)

  19. Moira
    November 14, 2008

    I’m a proofreader myself … but I’m a pretty laid-back sort of proofreader. I learned my trade from a man who said something to me that I’ve never forgotten (although I paraphrase a little):

    “Pay no heed”, he said “to anyone who thinks that the rules of English language, grammar and punctuation were set in aspic at some point (usually when they left school). They weren’t. They move and mutate. It’s one of the reasons that English has become the world’s lingua franca. Its great strength is that it shape-shifts. Shift with it. The purpose of language is to communicate clearly. If you have to bat a few grammatical rules out of the window to achieve that, then so be it. Know them, but be prepared to ditch them.”

    It IS a matter balance … something that the shiny-eyed ones often don’t seem to grasp. I have a sneaking suspicion that those who are so rigid and (usually) humourless about grammar, punctuation and syntax are those who aren’t much good at anything else. It’s their specialty and they cling to it like a life raft.

  20. Jodie
    November 14, 2008

    On the One Show (silly but sweet BBC half hour chat show) they had a young girl who was about 11 go around a town correcting all the signs with incorrect grammar. I sort of cringe to think of the grammar nitpick she may become. However if a young person passionately cares about language I suppose that’s a great thing.

  21. Gaskella
    November 15, 2008

    Sorry for managing to post the same comment twice but slightly differently. I got an error the first time and thought it hadn’t gone, so edited, but it had.

    I do think it’s helpful to learn the rules, so you can then decide which to ignore though – like Jose Saramago – I’m reading ‘Blindness’ and he doesn’t bother with speech marks, paragraphs etc – by the way, it’s brilliant.

    Annabel

  22. Lisa
    November 15, 2008

    I loved this piece, Rosy! Nice to hear a rant from the other side…

    And, er, you might want a peek at this blog:

    http://quotation-marks.blogspot.com/

  23. RosyB
    November 15, 2008

    Lisa! I love that site. I actually link to it at the bottom of the piece (I’ve been thinking for a while that the links never show up too well in the posts. Heigh ho.) It’s hilarious. You see, if everyone had correct grammar – wouldn’t the world be a boring place?

    Annabel – I’ll go and delete one of them for you if you like. WordPress can be very erratic so don’t worry about it. You know, I do agree actually about learning and discarding. Now that I’ve got my big rant off my chest I would even admit that I wish I’d been taught grammar properly (I was one of those who didn’t get any grammar teaching in school) apart from anything because my Spanish friend (who learnt grammar properly) says it is so much easier to learn other languages. And I would dearly love to speak other languages. It is my one big regret.

    But I suppose what I do dislike is this idea of fetishising any rule. It is like on all these writing forums they fetishise rules that, in and of themselves, are pretty interesting but obviously not watertight or applicable to every circumstance. So, it’s the attitude to the rules, rather than the rules, that I really have a beef with.

    But I also do believe things change and language is creative and responsive. People go on about Shakespeare as the ultimate in great literature, but forget that it is stuff to be performed – that it was written down from actual performances, and that none of the texts are even solid and most have many versions…Aural or performed literature is as great as any other and grammar and punctuation responds to how we are talking. So this idea that culture is degenerating because of TV or internet or people talking rather than reading – I just think it’s a nonsense and a certain kind of snobbery really.

    Umm. Rambling again. Sorry!

  24. Christine
    November 15, 2008

    Wow. I am late to the party on this one. I love the rants on almost any subject on this site. They are always entertaining, whether I agree with them or not. Some of you should seriously consider stand up as a second career. . . I am not a proof reader although my most obvious mistakes tend to be of the spelling variety. And some of them are howlers. On the other hand, I value grammar. Like reasonable regulation of any kind, it allows for a common understanding; (to employ a semi-colon where perhaps I should use a colon) it sets the ground rules all the players are supposed to follow. But the word “reasonable” is important. Rules are meant to be interpreted and should be employed in a manner that makes sense. Invoking rules slavishly when the meaning is perfectly clear is usually designed to embarrass the person being informed of the error of her ways. The exceptions, of course, are corrections by editors who usually do it out of public view. The author may feel like she’s been slapped but their isn’t a whole web community watching it happen.

    If you would like to check out a rather entertaining take on the importance of grammar to clear communication, see Dick Cavett’s rant in the New York Times today: http://cavett.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/14/the-wild-wordsmith-of-wasilla/

    Do you need a period when you use a web link to end a sentence?

  25. Moira
    November 15, 2008

    The number of times I’ve anguished over the ‘do you put a full stop/period at the end of a weblink when it’s closing out a sentence?’ question …

    I have no idea, Christine. Oddly enough, Fowler’s English Usage doesn’t seem to cover it. :mrgreen:

  26. Moira
    November 15, 2008

    (I should add that I’ve never anguished over it very long, but I HAVE anguished …).

  27. Moira
    November 18, 2008

    I was in the kitchen at work this lunchtime, with the radio on, and they were discussing how useful or otherwise university qualifications were in the real world.

    One perfectly nice sounding lady phoned in and twittered for a bit before saying …

    “My teachers taught me to critically analyse my job prospects ….”

    As one, my boss and I chorused: “They didn’t teach you not to split your infinitives though, did they?”

    Oh dear.

    Do we get banished to the ninth circle of hell?

  28. RosyB
    November 18, 2008

    Yes. Away with you!

  29. Mantelli
    November 18, 2008

    I do want to point out, in defense of grammar and punctuation, that their utter lack can make online communication utterly incomprehensible. Correct spelling also seems to be irrelevant, despite the fact that Firefox, at least, provides a built-in spelling checker. How on earth are we to respond to posts which pretty much resemble either word salad or printer’s pie? Why should readers all have to be either cryptoanalysts in order to understand what other people have written?

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  31. Rachel Fox
    November 24, 2008

    Good to read something from the other side for a change!

    I write and have an 8 year old. I do my best to teach her right from wrong in everything (including the spelling and grammar of the crazy English language) … I even read the Panda book but I do get weary when people get things out of proportion and almost let the rules of grammar rule their lives! It is important but there are other more important things too. And just knowing how to spell doesn’t necessarily make you a superior human being…sometimes the smugness can cancel out the spelling ability quite considerably.

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  33. Nikki
    May 31, 2011

    SO glad you directed me here, rosyb! That t-shirt pic made me laugh – there are so many variations on that. I’ve always looked at them and thought, if I saw that person would I really want to talk to them because they’re clearly into language, or would I run as fast as I could in the other direction because they’re clearly a bore?

    The which/that is something I often puzzle over. I tend to go with what sounds best when read out loud. Mainly because I have no idea which one is “correct”.

    You’ve made me laugh even more than Lynne Truss did! 😉

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This entry was posted on November 13, 2008 by in Entries by Rosy, Thursday Soapbox and tagged , , , .

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The views expressed in the articles and reviews on Vulpes Libris are those of the authors, and not of Vulpes Libris itself.

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Acknowledgment

  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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