Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: News from home ...

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  • Ron Davis, in reply to NSA,

    "Prescriptivists...Give us another grammar lesson."

    Beware what you wish for. Those righteous grammar police with 6th form English under their belts do indeed tend to the prescriptive. But, English speakers, lacking a recognized language authority to officially prescribe usage for them (unlike the French), should recognize that what they call "rules" of grammar are not rules in the sense that laws of state are.

    "Rules" of English grammar, were they derived from the language as it is used today, would often appear to differ markedly from the "rules" formulated in late 19th century Britain which dominate the thinking of today's language moralists. Back then you did not end a sentence with a preposition, now it's acceptable. Back then you did not split the infinitive, now you do. An example of that sits several lines back which I guarantee nobody so much as turned a hair (hare?) at. <Oops, and there's a pesky concluding preposition.

    The sentence "s/he's a man I could have a beer with" also ends with a preposition, but didn't excite much debate on that count. The sentence made sense in every respect of the language because "context" is the final arbiter of meaning in any language - both for words as well as clauses.

    So, the sentence was not, practically speaking, so much a grammar teaser as a poser for analytical philosophy. You done good, NSA. You don't need no grammar lessons.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2014 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Ron Davis, in reply to NSA,

    Oh, and by the way. Anyone want to see great holes blown in the battlements of the self aggrandising grammar police? And a good chuckle as well? Borrow a copy of Fowler's "A Dictionary of Modern English Usage".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2014 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • NSA, in reply to Ron Davis,

    You don’t need no grammar lessons.

    Well I don't know if I'd go that far, but y'know =). Modal verb usage enjoys a degree of deviation. In my work I'm often torn between my descriptivist upbringing and the pressure to ignore issues with/relay/affirm unkempt neologisms from around the world. If a student were to come out with something like "I could go a curry right about now" I'd be impressed, in no doubt as to the intended meaning and quite possibly salivating at the evocation. With 1.5 billion English speakers worldwide, adult native speakers who are compelled to correct one another for shit written on the internet are a delight. In a world where people are 'my badding' or claiming they 'could tap that' pedantry issues of the type Ian has exhibited quite often seem to go deeper than mere language usage. This may quite possibly be a reaction and a resistance to the state of flux, as you quite appropriately touched upon here:

    More likely his critics are altering their views by the minute

    In the case of Ian's correction, what struck me is that he imposed an agenda by posing a slightly different question. Taking for example:

    "If you were fighting on the front lines would you kill someone?"

    Compared to:

    "If you were fighting on the front lines could you kill someone?"

    For me the distinction is important enough, the first emphasising a sense of volition (would you be prepared to...), the second confers a greater reluctance, someone more resigned to the necessity (could you bring yourself to...). In both cases there is possibility, in both cases there is a choice to be made. When posing such a question with regards to our current PM, on a left leaning site like this, I'd presume in many instances that the action would be carried out with a degree of grudge, if someone could even go there.

    But this thing, this focus on superfluities at the expense of bigger concerns, it's almost a defining feature of our age, there's been a fair few wallops of the technicality ass on this thread. A few pages back I had to rope in the help to physically restrain me from posing something similarly inane with regards to Andrew Geddis linking to his superlative piece 'Worst Result Ever'. For reasons I won't go into this piqued my curiosity to know what Mr Geddis' 'second worst result ever' would be. Then Russell replied to Andrew with

    'I agree with everything you've written.'

    Which sparked in me the same burning question for Russell (again restrained), if for no other reason than to ascertain if and where the consensus of opinion diverges. Fortunately I didn't. This kind of nit picking approach starkly contrasts with the kind of no bullshit attitude Andrew Little brings to the table (as Leopold was insinuating), and that's an approach we can hopefully acclimatise ourselves to in good time.

    Thanks for that recommendation Ron, I'll put it on my list.

    Fort Meade, MD • Since Sep 2014 • 34 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to NSA,

    How'd we get onto grammar? There's an old thread around here somewhere, or alternatively you guys could go get a room :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to NSA,

    This kind of nit picking approach starkly contrasts with the kind of no bullshit attitude Andrew Little brings to the table (as Leopold was insinuating), and that’s an approach we can hopefully acclimatise ourselves to in good time.

    A joy to read, NSA, but the above line really, really made me smile - acclimatise, such an appropriate word.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    acclimatise, such an appropriate word

    indeed, it's time for
    the vine of Labour
    to harden off...
    and grow straight!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7866 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Ron Davis,

    Fowler’s “A Dictionary of Modern English Usage”.

    FTFY - I brungdit inna twennyfizz sentry 'puter rage:
    'Foulers: the 'airy diction area of modem English abusage'

    ;- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7866 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I’m of the view that this result borders on tragedy for Labour.

    Yeah, actually, reconsidering, I think you’re absolutely correct. Whatever Key’s got appears to be contagious when all we need is someone who has been vaccinated.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

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