July 16, 2006

Pedant's Revolt

Aside from stealing the odd photo of mine, Never Mind the Full Stops often annoys me with some of its comments on spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Here are some examples from the two most recent episodes:

Julian Fellowes

He's the presenter. His attitude is just a little grating at times; things like him trying to be hip, and being stuck in the past for one sentence then talking about "moving on" in the next.
Plus he insists on pronouncing "dialects" as "Daleks"; every time they get to the round where they showcase (some may say "mock") two regional dialects I always think he's talking about Doctor Who…


Sometimes the question setters demonstrate that they're idiots. Thankfully Julian Fellowes and the 4 panelists all agreed that the answer provided was wrong, so it's not all bad.
In the section where they have to spot the deliberate mistakes in a short passage the singular "manservant" had been used when the plural was needed. The given answer said it should be "menservant" (possibly with an "s" too, but that's not really important for my point) which is quite clearly bollocks. Fortunately the 5 of them all agreed this was wrong and that it should be "manservants". What was also slightly annoying, though, was that the explanation of why the given answer was wrong wasn't very good. I can't remember what they said, but if you look at the word it's quite clearly a word for "the servant of a man" – "man servant". Therefore it's blindingly obvious that "many servants of a man" is "manservants". I'd be quite happy with the neologism "menservants" used in the context of "one servant serving many men", but that wasn't the case here.
I know that's not quite right, but it's an intuitive way of thinking of it…
UPDATE: Just rewriting this paragraph, because a dictionary–consult showed I'd fallen into the same trap as the 5 people on the show. I just want to apologise to the question setters: you're not idiots, you got it right.
Sorry, I was wrong, it shouldn't be "manservants", it should be "menservants". The people on the show were wrong when they criticised the answer. So, it's the panelists and Julian Fellowes that are the fools and not the question–setters (well, I say "now"; it's always been that way, I just didn't realise because I'd fallen into the same trap, as it were…).

Oxford Comma

I love the Oxford Comma. I think it's useful, worthwhile, and really helps with the understanding of written lists. If you don't know what it is, it's the comma before the "and" in my previous sentence. I don't believe there are any grammatical rules covering it, but I feel its effect justifies its use.
The 5 people on the show, however, said it was pointless and useless (well, words to the effect).
They cannot in all seriousness possibly tell me that "I have eaten fish and chips and bangers and mash" is preferable to "I have eaten fish and chips, and bangers and mash"...

Orange, Purple, Silver, and Month

The question was "what's special about these words?" the answer, to which they all agreed, was "they have no English rhymes" which is just not true.
I can't disagree with orange and month, but "silver" and "purple" do have rhymes.
Purple: Admitedly "hirple" and "curple" are technically Scottish words – the first meaning "to walk lamely", and the second being, apparently, a strap near the back–end on a horse's saddle – and the question said "English", but this is a rhyme that comes from within Great Britain, so I say my point still stands…
Silver: A "chilver" is an Old English noun meaning a "ewe lamb" that is still in use in some southern dialects (I actually saw it on signs and possibly a hotel thing – I can't really remember what it was – in Bolsover as I was on my way down to Warwick for Graduation.)

I'm glad I got that off my chest…

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  1. "some of it's comments on spelling, punctiation, and grammer" should be "some of its comments on spelling, punctuation, and grammar".
    "He's the presentor." should be "He's the presenter".
    "I feel it's effect justifies its use" should be "I feel its effect justifies its use".
    "They cannot in all seriousnes" should be "They cannot in all seriousness".
    "still in use in some souther dialects" should be "still in use in some southern dialects".

    Rule 1. When commenting on spelling, punctuation and grammar, first ensure your own is correct.
    Rule 2. If deliberately flaunting rule 1 for comic effect, ensure this is made obvious to make sure you don't look like an eejit :P

    16 Jul 2006, 17:17

  2. It's no excuse for not proof–reading, but I think my "n" key is a bit dodgy; I think there's dirt in there.
    Your rules are true, and I feel the same way, but in my defense I do know what I put was wrong and why, I just mis–typed and didn't notice.
    But thanks; as you say, for SPAG entries it's very important that they're correct…

    16 Jul 2006, 17:52

  3. Although I must admit I can never remember if it's "grammer" or "grammar"; my grammar is better than my "spiling"...

    16 Jul 2006, 17:54

  4. I love the Oxford comma (although I didn't know it was called that). It's reasonably standard though isn't it?

    16 Jul 2006, 21:49

  5. Actually I think the comma is usually left off the "and".

    16 Jul 2006, 23:18

  6. Interesting. I sent a paper to a journal (which is going to be published in the next month or so woohoo) without the comma in one of the sentences, and they added it. I guess it's just a stylistic thing.

    17 Jul 2006, 08:41

  7. I love the Oxford comma. I am frequently told off for using it so much – normally by people who I don't respect when it comes to SPAG, which pisses me off even more…

    I do use commas too much though, generally. I also use elipses (can never spell that) too much…



    17 Jul 2006, 09:21

  8. I think there are two L's…

    I tend to find I use a lot of commas, too. I can't think of any examples, but I tend to use commas as a way of breaking up a sentence with short pauses, in the same way that I would do it with a short pause if I were speaking it…

    I'm also passionate about the apostrophe; I hate it when "its" misused. Especially the "Grocers' Apostrophe"; using an apostrophe for "plural's" such as "potato's" (it's bloody "potatoes" you baka!). The exception is, of course, letters; I believe it's proper to use apostrophes to pluralise letters (see above) otherwise it just looks silly and you'd read it incorrectly…
    It always annoys me that there's not a single pub sign anywhere in the country that has an apostrophe "The Queens Head", "The Kings Arms", ARGH!

    I've often thought about starting a pub just so I could put an apostrophe in its name…

    Although, I must add, despite knowing most of the rules governing the apostrophe, I can't deny that I do sometimes mistype… *cough*

    17 Jul 2006, 12:05

  9. Interesting entry. "showcaseing" isn't a word, but I'm sure you knew that.

    Now, see there I didn't begin the sentence with a capital letter because I was quoting, lower case and all but I have no idea if that is the correct thing to do. Anyone?

    17 Jul 2006, 12:37

  10. You could always avoid the whole issue and put, 'Interesting entry; "showcaseing" isn't a word, but I'm sure you knew that.'

    And I've changed it…

    17 Jul 2006, 12:43

  11. I'd have gone with a capital 's', but put it in square brackets if it was for anything technical. Or come up with a hideously tortured sentence to avoid putting the quote at the start (though not with a semicolon because I have a deep rooted moral objection to the things).

    I'm not sure I agree with your argument for the Oxford Comma. I usually use it myself, but in your example, I'd find "fish & chips and bangers & mash" preferable.

    Oh, and perhaps the BBC only used photos of your photos.

    17 Jul 2006, 13:56

  12. I think the ; would have suggested that the entry was interesting at least partly because of that mistake, which is possibly not what was intended.

    17 Jul 2006, 16:11

  13. I've written poetry for seventeen years,
    On the first twenty days of each month;
    But I always run out of ideas
    When it comes to the twenty–oneth.

    18 Jul 2006, 23:31

  14. indeed… the second 2 lines relating to the first 2. However twenty–oneth is pushing it :–)

    21 Jul 2006, 20:20

  15. Who gives a fuck about an oxford comma?
    I’ve seen those english dramas too-HOO
    They’re crue-HOOL
    So if there’s any other way
    To spell the word
    It’s fine with me-HEE, with me-HEE


    21 Mar 2008, 23:43

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