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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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