‘Excuse me, your skirt is tucked into your knickers’

If you are going to correct someone, or give them a notification they may find embarrassing but would rather than than not, the above statement is a good example. But ‘Excuse me, I noticed you just said disinterested when I think you mean uninterested, you do realise they are not the same thing?’ is only going to lose friends and annoy people. Friends don’t correct friends’ grammar. I work with a woman who has some very creative ideas about how to use apostrophes, but do I say anything? Do I draw attention to the red squiggly lines all over the page of text she is about to print or email? No, because will hate me, and my grammar is far from perfect and I’d like to keep the walls of my glass house intact.

However, Alphabet Juice was written for me, as someone with a little knowledge that has become an annoying thing. Not only is odd and incorrect usage highlighted, along with origins of words (what I bought it for) but the author catches phrases and combinations in common use just a stoned person does, and looks at them in a new light. Why do we say ‘of course’ and ‘understand’? Is ‘simply perfect’ more perfect than ‘perfect’? No! I often think about these things, and I have a small rant I’ll wheel out at parties (especially if I’ve had enough and want to go home) about Tine Turner’s ‘Simply the Best.’ We are taught to eschew adverbs, to look for the right word rather than modify another, as really and very are really very bad and we shouldn’t use them. The lyric in the said awful song is ‘You’re simply the best, better than all the rest’. The simply adds no extra meaning, the ‘best’ is a superlative, so Tina, ‘You’re the best’ was all you needed to say. The next line ‘Better than all rest’ well, yes, as made clear by the previous line, that is what the best is. If Tina’s English teacher had been through that song with a red pen it would have had a lot less ( a lot less? How strange is that term?) words.

I know what you’re thinking, that Jeez, I sound like an annoying person and you wouldn’t want to meet me in real life, but I promise I really do keep a very tight lid on this stuff, and I am super-fun and generally have sweets in my handbag.

But back to the book, it’s fascinating. It’s great for dipping in and out of, light-hearted and made me think. I have read so many interesting nuggets of etymology and said ‘Well, fancy that’ out loud a few times, but after this post, I know I must tell people that in Norway the sound of a pig is a far piggier-sounding høff høff  to our strange oink oink. This isn’t a typical dictionary of etymology giving the roots of thousands of words, but it is in an A-Z format with nice wandering sections.

In Latin subject means ‘to throw under’ whereas object means ‘to throw against’ and I totally understand if you object me at a wheelie bin for subjecting you to this. Now, let’s never speak of grammar again, as although every time someone uses there for they’re, your for you’re (or even *shudder* ur) on Facebook (a.k.a. the ninth circle of grammar hell) a fairy dies a violent death, unfortunately every time we point it out a rift in human relations opens so deep it can never be bridged. The same goes for unleashing any of the fun facts in this book on colleagues or people at bus stops, as people have no patience to listening to things you’re just read, a prime example of this was when my brother was given a book called 1001 and 1 Jokes For Kids before a 15 hour drive to Cornwall. I have told my daughter and cat some fascinating things, as they are forced to like me and can’t tell me to shut up, but otherwise, I’ll be holding all of this inside me until maybe in my senile years it will force its way out, and I’ll randomly shout ‘Groin is from the Old English grynde meaning abyss or hollow!’ across the nursing home lounge.

Behold, grammar memes-


But what annoys me is this myth that cats would naturally be rubbish at grammar. We all know if they could talk cats are more likely to be the creatures doing the correcting, and if they didn’t it would only be because they enjoy watching you get things wrong.