Tuesday, 1 November 2011

An almost entirely unrelated post

A laugh out loud sentence from an article on the BBC News website about 'mini-figures' which are apparently the new childhood craze. The writer comments:
The grammatically abhorrent question mark in Playmobil's Fi?ures set is the clue that these toys are sold in blind packs.
'Grammatically abhorrent' eh? Appropriate for the morning after Halloween: beware of those horrifying question marks. The world seems to be dividing into those who stress about grammar ('the Grammar Snob') and those who don't know and don't care ('everyone else'). I was particularly amused to get an email this week from someone who had ranted to me on a number of occasions about the use of apostrophes by others, and referred to "Julian Barne's new book". Oops. Let he who is without sin, etc.

I'm spending a wee bit of time at the moment teaching grammar to trainee English teachers. Some of them have never really learned the difference between the colon and the semi-colon before, and so now's the time to find out. This shocks some people, that I have to teach them grammar. But actually language is one of the most frightening aspects of English (and English teaching to a lot of literature grads). And better that they should learn now, because of an accepting attitude, than try to hide it because we're judging them for not knowing what a split infinitive is.

I've written before about the intrinsic split personality of the language teacher re descriptive/prescriptive grammar. But I remained a grammar snob for a long time. I do think it's important. I still correct people, and I still teach the right answer. But I've given up on the judging. Grammar shouldn't be the enemy.

Appalling neologisms from marketing executives, however? They might just be the enemy.

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