Category Archives: Grammar Gripery

What’s Ruining the English Language Now?

destroyedWordOr rather, what used to be?  There’s a nice compilation by Lauren Davis at I09 about various things that have been blamed by descriptivists past for messing up English.  Now, I think we can all agree the the English tung
shoulde be written unmixt, cleane and pure, and that Shakespeare ruined everything by using metaphors even if English makes no sense whatsoever without them.  But some of these complaints seem a bit overblown, if familiar.

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Well, I Can’t Complain About This

Heaven knows I am pretty hard on mis-used cliches, but this here?  This is awesome.water-barometer-transparent

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The Oxford Comma: Clear, Useful, and Validated has done a survey about the Oxford comma, and come up with some interesting results.  Americans only prefer it by a small margin, which seems strange at first, given how useful it is.  Why wouldn’t it be overwhelmingly favord, you are no doubt wondering.  Well, it sort of becomes more clear if you dig into the statistics, as these things often do.  A careful read shows that people who don’t like the Oxford comma tend to be the sort of people who don’t know what it is.  As such, they may be simply reacting to the word “Oxford”.  Sad, but can you really blame them?


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The Startling Language of Driver Safety Courses

badDrivingI recently took one of those defensive driving courses online, in order to get a discount on my car insurance rates.  This is not my first time taking the course, so I knew what to expect – one hour of material stretched to 6 hours through statistics rendered meaningless through lack of context (118,000 drivers are over 65 years old , and 124,000 are under 20!), potentially useful information with shaky relevance to driving (alcohol can cause peptic ulcers!), and startling contentions with no citations (20% or drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel!).

But we can all learn something from the prose stylings of whoever wrote up the bullet points for that course.  For one thing, they really know how excite the reader’s interest with sentences like “School buses carry our most precious cargo (children)”.  I mean, who ever would have guessed what they meant by “precious cargo” without that parenthetical?  School buses, after all, carry many other things, like, um, old gum, and the occasional forgotten pencil.

But my favorite is this bit of prose magic: “You might think that is true, but it is contrary to actuality”.  What kind of lame-o says “that is incorrect”, amirite?  “Contrary to actuality” is way classier, and I, for one, intend to use it from now on.


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submarineYa’ll have likely heard by now about the Subway employee in Worchester, in the UK, causing a bit of a kerfluffle by using the bread oven where she worked to dry her wet socks (and gloves, but really, it is the socks that have caught everyone’s attention).  One can understand, of course – the weather there has been terrible and floody lately, so there is no doubt an epidemic of wet socks everywhere (and it’s not like the odd pair of drying socks will make Subway bread cooking smell any weirder).  Given the fact that Subway has glass-front ovens that they just stick out in front of God and everybody, it seems like it would be wise to set aside special sock ovens, at least in flood-prone areas.  Or the employee in question could have used the cheese-melting oven, which is not only lacks the glass front, but is designed to cook, and dry socks, very quickly indeed – she would have had a good chance to get the socks out before anyone noticed.  Except never mind – she was “caught” because she took a picture of the socks and posted it to Instagram – very little can be done to shield such a person from the consequences of her actions.

Anyway, I’m not here to post about floods, or socks, or social media.  My focus is language.  Specifically, what’s up with Subway restaurants in the UK?  Shouldn’t they be called “Tubes”?  Actually, it’s odd enough to have a Subway in Worchester, MA, much less the original Worchester, because they call subs “grinders” in Massachusetts.  Of course, that brings  up the fact that “sub”, as in sandwiches, reference submarines, not subways, which are totally different types of transportation.

We’re through the looking glass here, people – none of this makes any sense.


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