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Tuesday 1 March 2011

Pedants R Us.

Ok, so the title of this blog post is a little misleading. Because i'm not really that much of a pedant, honest.

In fact, i sometimes get a little annoyed with "The grammar police" who seem to patrol the Internet in search of misplaced punctuation marks, apostrophes in the wrong place, or bad grammar.
As long as the meaning of what the person is saying isn't lost, does it really matter that much and is it worth getting all worked up over? Well, obviously it is for some people, but you know what i mean.

Yes, badly used grammar and punctuation can have an effect.
A great example of this is provided on the cover, which is as far as i've ever got, of "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" by Lynne Truss. A book all about grammar and bad punctuation.

Here it is, in case you've never seen, or heard it before:
"A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.
'Why?' asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
'Well, I'm a panda,' he says, at the door. 'Look it up.'
The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. 'Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves".

But, i've never, yet, seen a panda with a gun and until i do i'll try not to lose any sleep over what i'm sure in all cases are honest mistakes.
As i heard somebody, quite rightly, point out the other day. Language is evolving all the time and has always done so. That's the main reason many people find the works of Shakespeare and Dickens etc so hard to get on with.

Thankfully, we don't still speak the English language in the same way that Shakespeare did. Although some foreigners probably think we do! Proof, if it were needed, that language alters over time.

New words are added to the Oxford English Dictionary every year.
Just think how language has changed over your own lifetime, especially in the past twenty years. Text speak and the language of the Internet have altered things forever, whether we like it, or not.

Maybe, that's the problem? People are always harking back to those bygone days when everybody spoke the "Queens English", spoke in an upper class accent and wore a tie and a hat.

But, the English language is a mish mash of words borrowed, or corrupted from foreign languages. You only have to see the amount of supposedly English words which are actually of Indian origin to realise that.

In fact, if you go back far enough, it is thought that English is actually Germanic in origin. A remnant of the time of the Anglo Saxons.
The Norman invasion of 1066 obviously changed things once again, adding a French dimension to "English".

I've even seen a suggestion that at one time punctuation didn't exist.
After all, there is no real punctuation in speech and the written word, especially for the ordinary citizen, didn't really arrive until the invention of the printing press.
Back then people were more worried about having enough to eat, than bothering about anything else

And, maybe, therein lies the problem? People have more time to worry about, what are essentially, trivial matters in the modern, western world..
But, as is always the case, what is trivial for one, will be earth shattering to somebody else.

I certainly know which side of the argument i'm on.

(By the way, this blog post is nothing like the post that i actually intended to write. Things quite often happen like that around here!)

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