Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Article What I Writed

The article I sent to the newspaper this week was partly inspired by/shamelessly ‘borrowed’ from Lesley and a piece she wrote here a while back. Coincidentally, when I was searching for it on Sunday, I stumbled across the fact that today is her birthday. So many happy returns, thanks for the idea and please don’t sue me.

Like many people who work in offices, large proportions of my day can be spent in front of a computer screen, working productively and definitely NOT ‘spanking my penguin’ or testing the limits of the company’s policy on accessing inappropriate websites. Occasionally, if the work goes through a mundane or repetitive spell, I’ll look for ways to inject a bit of light-hearted banter into proceedings to cheer up my esteemed co-workers. (Unfortunately I’ve had to cease the practice of signing off emails with the hilarious “may the force be with you” after my boss was detained for a speeding violation and had trouble seeing the funny side.)

Last week, I was looking to spice up the ending of a report with an inspirational quotation or two and felt quite pleased with myself as I plumped for Captain Kirk’s finest hour by typing “to boldly go where no company has gone before”.

Now, I realise that many of you have just gasped in horror, clutched your cheeks and screamed, “Sweet Jesus Neil! Surely you know that splitting the infinitive “to go” with the cumbersome adverb “boldly” is a heinous crime against the English language, punishable by detention, 500 lines and a damn good thrashing?” Reading over the sentence I’d typed, my initial reaction was similar, brought on, no doubt, by the graphic memory of a belt-wielding English teacher with a passion for conjugation. Of verbs.

But I liked the way the phrase sounded so I decided to undertake some research to establish the extent of my grammatical crime. A fascinating website called askoxford.com confirmed that not only was my sentence acceptable in the eyes of grammar gurus everywhere, the English language itself is a hilarious minefield designed by some joker with the express intent of tripping us up at every turn.

For example, who among us hasn’t been embroiled in intense dinner party conversations and agonised over whether to say “the person was laid on the table” or “the person was lain on the table”. Similarly, all manner of social embarrassment might ensue after the meal when one is debating whether to ask, “would you like to go to a hotel” or “would you like to go to an hotel”. And if you overheard your partner describing your hotel ‘performance’ to her best friend on the phone, which of these two linguistic offerings would make you cringe more – “the whole thing took less than five minutes” or “the whole thing took fewer than five minutes”.

My research instilled a new found respect for those who learn English as a second language especially when it comes to irregular verbs. Who decided, for example, that the rule for ‘ring – rang’ and ‘sing – sang’ should not be extended to the word ‘bring’. How much richer would our language be, I wonder, if we allowed kids to make proud statements such as, “I brang my potty through to the living room to let granny see what I done.”

Of course many of the changes in our use of English have come (camed?) about because of our American cousins and their quaint invent-our-own-language custom. One of my favourites is the word “winningest” which is widely used in sports reporting in the States. Thankfully, I think it’ll be a while yet before we hear Chick Young say something like “Alex McLeish is the winningest Scottish football manager in Champions League history”, not least because winning only one game in eight hardly constitutes success.

I could go on and on about comedy adjectives but if you’re still not convinced that the English language was created by someone with a wicked sense of humour, ask yourself this. Who decided it would be a good idea to put an ‘s’ in the world ‘lisp’?


At 14/3/06 9:58 am, Blogger Lesley said...

Me a muse? Who'd have thunk it?.
(and so young too, thanks for birthday wishes)

At 14/3/06 3:54 pm, Blogger The Other Half said...

that's because...like my shirt says...we make our own rules

At 16/3/06 7:37 am, Blogger Lesley said...

And another thing....... This other americanism — "truthiness"? What can it possibly mean?

At 16/3/06 9:47 pm, Blogger Neil said...

I have to admit I've never come across that one. Although I can well imagine it being used a lot in the White House.

"Honest Mr President, this report on WOMD has more than a ring of truthiness about it."

"That's good enough for me. Bomb the bastards."

At 20/3/06 7:27 pm, Blogger DC said...


Who cares about all this stuff - apart from you obviously.

If I learned anything from our English teacher ,Pervy Myles - " Surely you can't miss the sexual references in this one Neil - stay behind for extra lessons" -it's that language is constantly total evolving & stuff, If you don't accecpt this, you're total wide or hot & will get dingyed .



At 20/3/06 7:31 pm, Blogger DC said...

....... and another thing, did you really wroted your article, methinks you maybe typed it.

At 20/3/06 9:03 pm, Blogger Neil said...

"Methinks"??? Is that you're example of language constantly evolving grandad???


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