Friday, 6 September 2013

Grammar With Mother.

The English language is evolving. Words come and go and pronunciation changes. This isn’t just the newer American pronunciations that have crept into English, it has been evident since there were records of our language. The Great Vowel Shift was probably the first major change in pronunciation to be studied and analysed.

A word of warning, should you ever write about this yourself, make sure you avoid typos. A fellow student on my Literature degree course handed in a beautiful essay entitled 'Causes of The Great Bowel Shit.'  He didn't even mention  Phaal as a likely candidate so was marked down.

Back to the point, grammar, too, is changing. Purists criticize what they perceive as incorrect grammar (and there is plenty of it about) but others claim that correct usage is current usage. But current usage by whom? Who or whom?

The teaching of grammar in schools seems to have disappeared years ago, but authors had a handle on it. Or perhaps it was the editors who had a handle on it. In recent years I have noticed numerous grammar and spelling errors in books. Is this because authors now have less ability in spelling and grammar or because fewer manuscripts are rigorously edited? Or perhaps modern editors haven’t learned grammar?

Six books I've read in the past couple of months, all by respected authors and published by well known publishers, have thrown up these little gems. (These have all been narrated in standard English rather than dialect.)

1. She didn't know how this would effect her.

2. He was bored of playing on the computer.

3. The class were put into teams…

4. He was laying on the unmade bed…

5. Compared to Jane’s results, she had done well.

6. He handed the letter to Peter and I.

7. None of them were going to say anything...

Readers may consider some of these acceptable but my mother, taught grammar in school 80 years ago, would have a fit. Her lessons have stayed with me far more successfully than anything I learned during my own school days where grammar was theoretical rather than practical.

Many claim the creativity of writing is more important than spelling and grammar. I recently saw a piece of flash fiction published online which conjured up a lovely picture but, for me, was spoiled by the author using 'lay' instead of 'lie.' I didn’t comment as the author's note said he hadn't written for a long time because of a crippling fear of grammar and punctuation. I have no wish to put someone off writing for life and if he wishes to pursue writing, the basic rules of grammar can be learned without, I hope, too much difficulty.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and comments.

PS. I use the Oxford spellings. The suffix -ize  was used in Britain before the English language hit America so it's not, as many believe, an Americanism

PPS. Regarding pronunciation you might like Shakespeare's pronunciation..


Wendy's Writing said...

I've always had a problem with laying and lying and I was an English teacher! In the last school I taught in, there was a great emphasis on grammar. It was a small independent school - I wonder if that was why. My big bugbear is 'me' and 'I'

Patsy said...

I see what's wrong with them all but 2,3 and 5 wouldn't bother me too much if I came across them. I hate 'ize' though!

Guess we're all intolerant to a degree?

Helen Barbour said...

I'm inclined to think 'current usage' is just an excuse for laziness and/or lack of knowledge and/or poor teaching. Will we all end up writing in text speak, because that's current usage? Keep fighting the good fight!

Maggie May said...

A very interesting subject. I am always very aware of grammar when writing, and I wish I had a better grasp of the subject. My pet hates are 'different to' and 'he was sat'. I see that last error so often, I wonder sometimes if it has become acceptable?

Scarlett said...

I get very confused now, as I gather children are being taught differently now. I was taught to say "My sister and I went to the cinema" and now I am told that it is incorrect and it should be "my sister and me". That sounds awful! I can't believe it is right?

Lindsay said...

Good to see other people's views. I quite agree, Scarlett, that 'My sister and me went.. etc' is awful and, in my opinion, wrong. We would say 'I went to' not 'me went' so we treat the plural in the same way. Only when they become the object should it be 'me' as in 'He went to the cinema with my sister and me.'

If teachers are getting this wrong, there seems to be little hope for maintaining standards!

Maggie, I agree about the 'different to' and 'was sat' - I have seen those a lot.

Yes, Helen - I will keep fighting the grammar fight and sorting out those commas!