“I never made a mistake in grammar but one in my life and as soon as I done it I seen it.”
– Carl Sandburg
“There is a satisfactory boniness about grammar which the flesh of sheer vocabulary requires before it can become a vertebrate and walk the earth.”
– Anthony Burgess
“Grammar, which knows how to lord it over kings, and with high hand makes them obey its laws.”
It may be an age thing, or just a reflection of my alleged pedantic nature, but one thing that really gets my goat is bad grammar. I will say at the outset that I am far from being an expert by any measure when it comes to correct grammar use and the more learned, or pedantic, will likely find many grammatical faux pas in this piece!
What I find irritates me most is the way grammar and its tenets have been thrown out with the proliferation of email, Twitter and their ilk taking over as the primary means of written communication.
I learned grammar by osmosis rather than pedagogy as my formative schooling took place at the outset of the great liberalisation and comprehensivisation of teaching in the late 60s and early 70s. It seems I just know if something is grammatically correct or not, but please don’t ask me to explain my dangling participles, or ask me to parse a sentence and I’ll pass, thanks very much!
Which brings me to the meat of this piece. All around me, I see outbreakes of cummings and the strange transformation of language into codes that baffle and confuse: CUL8R my daughter says in a text message; what? Have you got a car? Oh, yes, I get it now! Why not just tell me you’ll see me later? In the time it took me to unravel that message, I could have written half of this post you’re reading!
And email; that is another area where proper grammar seems to have taken a holiday. I appreciate that an email is and always will be less formal than a hand-written letter but there’s still no excuse for some of the liberties taken with the rules of writing; say hello to the full-stop occasionally, give the comma a friendly wave once in a while. You know what I mean?
I see it everywhere, these strange transformations of language into almost alien and, often to my mind, sloppy use of grammar. I remember recently a campaign by a well-known technology company describing their new hand-held device as the funnest ever. What?
Now, before I dig myself (any deeper) into a hole here, I acknowledge that language is fluid and always changing. If it wasn’t you’d be reading this written like this: “Hwæt! wē Gār-Dena in ġeār-dagum…” or this: “Full wrothe and angry was the Devell, whan that oure Lorde hadde ben in helle …”
I should move with the times I realise, but something just rankles me when I come across the grammatical travesties that bombard me from every direction and, for my part, I will attempt to stem the tide: it might take me 10 minutes to write a text message on my phone but I have the satisfaction of knowing it is properly punctuated, capitalised and spelt. This is my stand which, like Cnut’s brave and historic stand before me is, and was from the outset, a lost cause!