Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Fit of Grammar Pique.

I am sick of the invasion of body-snatching homophones. I'm also disgusted with the abuse of "lay" and "lie," which are transitive and intransitive respectively and NOT the other way round. Listen while I shout this from the rooftops:

You pore over a book, NOT pour. (What are you pouring?! It's a crime, whatever it is.)

Chock full, NOT chalk full.

Moot point, NOT mute point. (This was the one that set me writing. I had never seen it before today.)

There are a few others which I have forgotten in my wrath. If my readers have some favorites of their own, I would love to see them.

Audible corruptions of words are an entirely different matter! "Sparrow grass" for "asparagus" is darling and I am sorry to see it looking so wilted. Such words are called "folk etymologies" and occur less often than they should nowadays. Simply warping a word to sound like dialect is also fine. There was a little lake near my mother's hometown called (on the map) Punto de Agua, but in Texan it came out something like Poondy Awa. This is also darling. The best place to observe this phenomenon is England, though.

18 comments:

Santiago said...

This is kind of a lame complaint. There was no grammar before the printing press, according to McLuhan. Grammar should be as mutable as possible. Just like the liturgy.


Yeah Im feeling provocative today

Meredith said...

Well actually I was thinking that just as I was writing, Santiago, so thanks for for saying it. But I think you mean spelling, not grammar (so did I). Correct spelling is kind of overrated. But the confusion of "poring" with "pouring" and errors of this ilk suggest an inattention to words rather than spellings which irks me.

As for the liturgy... no it should not be as mutable as possible! Silly Santiago!

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Random thoughts:

1) No grammar before the printing press? Yeah, and there was no architecture before the Gothic cathedral. Tell another one, Santiago.

2) About ten years ago, there was a soda commericial on Philippine TV in which a guy and a girl get trapped in an elevator. The guy wants to strike up a conversation (because the girl is really pretty, you know) and thinks he'll impress her by speaking in English. What he wants to say is "Are you hot in here?" (so that he can offer a sip of his soda). What he says is, "Are you in heat?" Predictably, she slaps his face. Grammar was very important there, aye?

3) Every time someone talks about how the laws of grammar should be "mutable" (or whatever), I think about my first weeks of learning Latin and how I felt like I was studying a course in "Language Architecture." I'd think twice about entering a building designed by someone who thinks the basic principles of architecture are mutable.

Santiago said...

Pardon the pedantry but...

McLuhan in "The Gutenberg Galaxy" argues that "Print altered not only the spelling and grammar but the accentuation and inflection of languages, and made bad grammar possible."

Ms Wise might also be interested in the section which argues that "Print had the effect of purifying Latin out of existence." "The humanists were shocked to discover how far they were in their oral Latin modes from all classical precedent..."

I don't know enough to know whether McLuhan was full of bs, but, as I said, I was being provocative. ;)

Santiago said...

Also, your Fillipino example is easily refuted by all the times I delivered pick up lines with perfect grammar and still got slapped.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Just being provocative? So your namedropping of McLuhan (who really can't be too bad if he liked Chesterton) was the comments box equivalent of a pick-up line?

As for the commercial: the point was not that he got slapped, but that the line was hilarious when he finally "translated" it.

PS--It's either "Philippine" or "Filipino." The L is always single.

Meredith said...

Also, your Fillipino example is easily refuted by all the times I delivered pick up lines with perfect grammar and still got slapped.

Santiago, after five years of reading your comments on my blogs, I can say with confidence that the problem is with your delivery rather than your grammar. I still remember your very first words to me, which were "Quit this nostalgic squealing." Perfect grammar. Less than perfectly smooth. Do you *always* salute young ladies with such charming gentilesse? If so, do you really expect a slap to be answered with anything but a slap.

Mehercle. Frustra laboro. Quid prodest mihi insipientes monere de amandi arte?

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

He's been commenting for FIVE years on your blogs, Meredith? =O And you're STILL civil to him???

Oh, I get it now . . . =)

I have a guy friend like Santiago who often says things on my other 'blog like, "Women should be beaten with sticks at least once a day." He's just joking and is a really nice guy outside of his comments box persona, but it's hard for my girl friends to warm up to him the way I have.

Bob the Ape said...

To go about being provoking
Is like wandering through a wood, poking
With a stick here and there,
Till you tickle a bear
Who (alas!) will not see that you're joking...

Santiago said...

oh my, I actually remember typing "squealing." Has it really been five years?! ... man...

You don't even know me but you know about the delivery issue. This is too strange.

Apropos:

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D91IGVO01.htm

PS McLuhan was a Catholic.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

PPS--So is Warren Cuccurullo. What's your point? =S

Santiago said...

So... that's why he was into Chesterton. Actually, the affection for Chesterton came first,then the conversion.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Ah! =) Thank you, Santiago.

By the way, Meredith, I have something else to add to your Grammar Pique List. I'll have to look up the actual quote, but I read a novel just this month in which two of the characters felt the passion flair between them.

I couldn't get over it for days. It's one thing to read it in a student's essay; quite another to read it in a mass market paperback from a respected publishing house.

Santiago said...

What about when they write "Open Mike" instead of "Open Mic"? Or is that accepted now? That one gets me.

mDesiree13 said...

re Enbrethiliel:

"Talks about how" is one of my least favorite phrases. It should be "says that" otherwise you are declaring that someone is literally talking about a method of doing something, not that they said it.

gah! so bothersome.

Anonymous said...

McLuhan's comments on grammar and the printing press are based on his study of societies with no written language, which have no grammar texts or dictionaries. The European societies prior to the printing press and mass production of books were not primarily oral societies, of course, but illiteracy was common, and educated people who wrote, usually clerics or people with the means to obtain an education, did so without recourse to grammar texts or dictionaries, mainly because no demand existed for them, and society had been getting along without such texts for some time. The uniformity and mass production of texts introduced by printing press technology soon got people thinking of compiling lists of words (dictionaries), standardized spelling, and eventually, introducing the rules of proper speech--grammar. To say McLuhan is "full of bs" betrays both a person's hostility to learning and his or her devotion to ignorance, things that unfortunately are all too common today. Thank you very much.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

It must be very difficult to be so perfect in an imperfect world, mDesiree13.

(I'm kidding! I'm kidding!)

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