The Continuing Insult To The English Language

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
844
Likes
320
Points
69
No, 'shall' and 'shan't' are alternatives to 'will' and 'won't' and such opinion-formers as the BBC have been announcing their disappearance from the language for years as they seem to hate them for some reason. However they seem to be making a comeback (I like to think I've done my bit, forsooth).
Can't resist the following: I tried it recently on a (largely US) message board, on which the envisaged extinction of "shall" was being discussed
(I was -- perhaps deservedly -- ignored).

Shall and should, are a load of crud;
I take a pill, and only will.

[After Aldous Huxley]
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
24,275
Likes
22,274
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
Can't resist the following: I tried it recently on a (largely US) message board, on which the envisaged extinction of "shall" was being discussed
(I was -- perhaps deservedly -- ignored).

Shall and should, are a load of crud;
I take a pill, and only will.

[After Aldous Huxley]
I've been on a private crusade against "I would like the mushroom soup (or whatever)", on the grounds that 'I would like' (as opposed to 'I should like') properly means (if anything) I would like to like.

Just use the contraction (I'd like) and I can pretend you know what you're saying and we can still be friends. ;)
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
24,275
Likes
22,274
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
If the speaker is treating the collective (singular; overall; whole) as the focal object of reference, the singular form is both preferred and serves as a cue to the referential level being addressed. Informally, it's generally assumed that invocation of any proper group / organization name or title is taking this 'as a whole' approach.

If, on the other hand, the speaker is alluding to the collective as a group of individuals, the plural form is appropriate for cueing finer-grained reference to the multiple members of the set rather than the set overall.

Of course, leaving such subtleties to individual discretion results in many individuals misusing or mis-applying them.
Fowler is flexible on treating collective nouns as either singular or plural (and, indeed, either things or people) but rigid in his ruling that they must not be mixed:

Though nouns of multitude may be freely used with either a singular or a plural verb, or be referred to by pronouns of singular or plural meaning, they should not have both (except for special reasons and upon deliberation) in the same sentence; and words that will rank in one context as nouns of multitude may be very awkward if so used in another.
The public is naturally much impressed by this evidence, and in considering it do not make the necessary allowances.—Times.
The Times Brussels correspondent ... tells us that the committee adds these words to their report.—Westminster Gazette.
The Grand Opera Syndicate has also made an important addition to theirGerman tenors.—Westminster Gazette.
The only political party who could take office was that which ... had consistently opposed the American war.—Bagehot.​
As the race of man, after centuries of civilization, still keeps some traits of their barbarian fathers.—Stevenson.​
The battleship Kniaz Potemkin, of which the crew is said to have mutinied and murdered their officers.—Times.
Source:​
 

SkepticalX

Devoted Cultist
Joined
Nov 19, 2009
Messages
178
Likes
319
Points
69
Location
Cincinnati, Ohio
The only one to which I might take exception is the reference to a political party as a "who." Otherwise, I agree there are a number of collective nouns (team, for example) that seem more comfortably associated with plural possessive pronouns like "their'.
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
844
Likes
320
Points
69
I've been on a private crusade against "I would like the mushroom soup (or whatever)", on the grounds that 'I would like' (as opposed to 'I should like') properly means (if anything) I would like to like.

Just use the contraction (I'd like) and I can pretend you know what you're saying and we can still be friends. ;)
Just occasionally, one wonders whether conventions of polite speech are more trouble than they're worth; or at least, whether it might be better if they were less complicated. Is there a case for suggesting that life would be easier if it were generally accepted that the height of politeness re the above, were for the diner concerned, to say: "I WANT THE MUSHROOM SOUP ! NOW ! "
 

Rahere

Junior Acolyte
Joined
Mar 12, 2019
Messages
79
Likes
69
Points
18
'dyn siarad gmraig
Llolwch , os gwelwch yn dda.

To which the informed will dutifully reply, there's no such thing as a correct written form of a Celtic tongue: it was forced on them by a Sais (which is a swear word) needing to pin them down. Now me, a Sais who won their way in by out-dancing a Welsh clog-dancer (I'm a quarter Belgian and wear peasant clogs, without heels, so if you give me wooden-soled shoes, I'm streets ahead...), my problem is that I don't think the way speech forces me to think, "A-B-C", I think "A-B-C" on one track, but at the same time counterharmonies are flying around, "But B means l-m-n" where n and C have difficulties getting on.
 
Joined
Dec 12, 2014
Messages
3,428
Likes
3,683
Points
154
Location
Larch Forest
Gaelic languages have more redundant letters than Old French, and I consider Old French to have vandalised Old Anglo-Saxon.



Prithee, thy point be taken. Perchance methinks I expressed that whole business poorly? I know that "Shall we be off to the pub then?" is a very English turn of phrase that you wouldn't hear in the USA. The US equivalent, is more "Time to hit the bar?".


UR dead to me (jk).


My understanding is that a lot of US English has its origins in western county accents. The hard rhotic "R" of the US is from Cornwall. The determination to pronounce every letter in a word was learned thru substandard teaching practices at Martha's Vineyard. I have moderated by rhotic R a bit and can turn it on and off now. I can also roll my R like a slav, which I learned to do over homebrewed vodka in tumblers.
I admire you sticking to your guns re. 'gotten'!

Interesting theory about teaching methods - I can see how that would have an effect on those learning the language. I know many people view American English as 'sloppy' but I've noticed how precisely news presenters and the like speak in the TV network 'General American' style as you point out. For example, whereas I (fairly well-spoken er, I think) would say 'fawteen' for the number 14, the standard US version is (to my ears) more like 'fourt-teen' - almost as if an almost-silent extra 'T' is added. I've tried to replicate this but just can't do it.

Wasn't there a bit in the X-Files where Mulder or Scully talks about something having happened 'fourteen' times, leading to speculation that this was a deliberate pun on 'Fortean Times' just for those in the know?
 
Last edited:

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
10,625
Likes
10,929
Points
294
Location
Out of Bounds
... Wasn't there a bit in the X-Files where Mulder or Scully talks about something having happened 'fourteen' times, leading to speculation that this was a deliberate pun on 'Fortean Times' just for those in the know?
Are you perhaps referring to this January 2003 post concerning Steven Spielberg and Taken?

I think I spotted a tribute to the FT. In one scene, with a man taking his sons hiking, one of the boys says "Dad, we've done this hill Fortean Times. Well obviously it was meant to be "fourteen times", but it sounded startlingly like Fortean Times. I wonder if Spielberg reads it?
https://forums.forteana.org/index.php?threads/spielbergs-taken.6917/post-157157
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
24,275
Likes
22,274
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
The only one to which I might take exception is the reference to a political party as a "who." Otherwise, I agree there are a number of collective nouns (team, for example) that seem more comfortably associated with plural possessive pronouns like "their'.
The point in all those examples is that the writer changes what the noun is: first he treats it as a singular (the public is) and then a plural (the public do--not does) in the same sentence. In others the collective noun is first a thing (the crew = it) and then changes to a person (the crew = they "murdered 'their' officers").

You need to pick one and stick to it.

The public is naturally much impressed by this evidence, and in considering it do not make the necessary allowances.—Times.
The Times Brussels correspondent ... tells us that the committee adds these words to their report.—Westminster Gazette.
The Grand Opera Syndicate has also made an important addition to theirGerman tenors.—Westminster Gazette.
The only political party who could take office was that which ... had consistently opposed the American war.—Bagehot.​
As the race of man, after centuries of civilization, still keeps some traits of their barbarian fathers.—Stevenson.​
The battleship Kniaz Potemkin, of which the crew is said to have mutinied and murdered their officers.—Times.

Source:​
 
Last edited:

Ermintruder

Existential pixelfixer
Joined
Jul 13, 2013
Messages
5,075
Likes
6,285
Points
284
"Spits & Spots" (of rain, by tv/radio weather people). This empty metaphor is uttered FAR TOO MANY bloody times on UK media channels.

It is a crass sibilant gap-filling folksy piece of infective nonsense. And it needs to be eradicated now.

(I'm not sure if it is actually related to the Mary Poppins invocative buck-up 'spit spot'... but users of the damn-fool phrase should be executed or banished to Mars immediately following the third proven instance)
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
24,275
Likes
22,274
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
"like" ..

.. how many can you stand? ..

I experienced this last week.

I interviewed a lad who had gone to stay in the U.S. (California, I think) to attend a U.S. school for a year and improve his English. He had picked up a good amount of vocabulary, but had also acquired this nervous tick of adding 'like' to almost every single sentence.

I'm not a nazi. If you aren't sure about what you're saying or you want to pull back slightly from strongly asserting something, go ahead, but when you're telling me basic biographical details it's absurd.

I, like, live near the hospital.
 
Last edited:

Ermintruder

Existential pixelfixer
Joined
Jul 13, 2013
Messages
5,075
Likes
6,285
Points
284
And extremely annoying. I wouldn't describe it as being a nervous tick as such....but I don't know quite what it is.

Yes, it is associated with 'Valley Girl' upspeak, a apparently-constant seeking of agreement / affirmation / understanding in tonal teen speech patterns, but it seems to be transparent to its perpetrators and conspiring recipients.

I'm amazed that all participants in this mind-breaking trend don't realise how...utterly phony, it makes them sound. It is not noticable as a junior school pattern of speech- it seems to be associated more with middle-school early teens & up, especially, but now not exclusively, used by girls (I suspect it has jumped all gender / age / geographic boundaries, and will be the neutral register soon).

And the UK tv/radio universal use of that Carribean "lyyyyyke" is driving me totally crazy!!!

I have a similar limited threshold-of-tolerance for the widespread infestation across Scotland of a Canadian-style "eh?" attached to the end of every sentence. <does a Sideshow Bob shiver>

It started in Wester Strathwegia, swept through The Toon into the middle shires of Clacks and Frew, and is now snapping at the heels o'Fifers, eh?

But not yet broken the habits of the east Burghers, who still favour their 'but' (as a plosive punctuation period, that often gets glottalled into a "buhh"). I don't mean in the Old or New Towns....I mean in the higher EH postcodes, 'natch (Miss Brodie still grips in the shadow of the Calton).

It's curious to observe that if Valley Girl institial ectopic 'likes' are transposed to the end of sentences, spoken speech immediately starts to sound Liverpudlian or West Country, like.

I'm no proponent for neutral monotonous speech patterns in English. But certain constantly-repeated fashionable inflections just grate so badly....it hurts.

It would almost, like, drive me to drink, eh? But it, lyyke, won't, but.
(nb for maximum parody effect, read "won't" as 'woan'....everyone was now born in the southern states of the US)
 
Last edited:

catseye

For the greater good
Joined
Feb 1, 2010
Messages
927
Likes
2,383
Points
139
Location
York
I've just been doing a bit of a trawl through the boards - I was getting behind.

And if I see ONE MORE 'I was sat'...well, it will go ill with you, that's all I'm saying.

"I was sitting" or "I sat" for the love of any deity of your choice!
 

Ermintruder

Existential pixelfixer
Joined
Jul 13, 2013
Messages
5,075
Likes
6,285
Points
284
And if I see ONE MORE 'I was sat'
This is purely a Northern/Midlands England verbal form, I believe. Doesn't exist in Scottish English: at all. Or in Amercan/ Commonwealth English.

Similar curiously-displaced subject: object reference system (and possibly the same UK geographic areas of use) as in "that fence wants painting" or "that man wants shooting".

It's all comprehensible, but to non-initiates it sounds so strange.
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
24,275
Likes
22,274
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
This is purely a Northern/Midlands England verbal form, I believe. Doesn't exist in Scottish English: at all. Or in Amercan/ Commonwealth English.

Similar curiously-displaced subject: object reference system (and possibly the same UK geographic areas of use) as in "that fence wants painting" or "that man wants shooting".

It's all comprehensible, but to non-initiates it sounds so strange.
I've heard 'I was sat' used not to mean 'I was sitting', but rather but 'I was seated', i.e. obliged to sit in that place.

He was sat right next to the vicar and had no choice but to behave himself.

As a non-standard variation it doesn't upset my equilibrium as much as a huge number of other usages.
 

escargot

Beloved of Ra
Joined
Aug 24, 2001
Messages
24,143
Likes
17,490
Points
309
And if I see ONE MORE 'I was sat'...well, it will go ill with you, that's all I'm saying.
There was a Northern comedienne who'd start her routine with something like 'Well there I was, sat sitting on my... own, when who should come along?'
 

escargot

Beloved of Ra
Joined
Aug 24, 2001
Messages
24,143
Likes
17,490
Points
309
This is purely a Northern/Midlands England verbal form, I believe. Doesn't exist in Scottish English: at all. Or in Amercan/ Commonwealth English.

Similar curiously-displaced subject: object reference system (and possibly the same UK geographic areas of use) as in "that fence wants painting" or "that man wants shooting".

It's all comprehensible, but to non-initiates it sounds so strange.
We've had this discussion before, i.e. the use of the word 'want' to mean 'need', or an enforced 'lack'. It's not slang, it's good English.
 

Ermintruder

Existential pixelfixer
Joined
Jul 13, 2013
Messages
5,075
Likes
6,285
Points
284
I had forgotten that conversation.

Ok- it's fair enough to say that 'want' is an archaic English (and indeed Scots) variation upon 'need', but when it becomes "wants" it sounds far too much like an elective possessive, as if it were an inanimate desire rather than a passive requirement (which is what it really means).

If it were included in peace treaty between the Duke of Grand New Fenwick and the Tsar of all the Russias, it could've resulted in some interesting confusions, I bet.

ps
"Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want* it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be Thankit
"

(The Selkirk Grace is valid Scots example of 'want' meaning "requires but does not have"....but, for whatever reason I know not, there would never be a present-tense usage of "wants")
 
Last edited:

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
24,275
Likes
22,274
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
The management's plans were carefully scrutinised by the committee and found wanting.

He is an exceedingly wealthy man who wants for nothing.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
 
Last edited:

Krepostnoi

Crabbier than usual, Buster
Joined
Jul 9, 2012
Messages
2,485
Likes
4,174
Points
159
The subjunctive is more generally used to cue any counterfactual state or situation - e.g., following 'if' rather than 'if only'.
I have it as an article of faith that there is no subjunctive in the English language, and it is - or, more probably, was - only those scholars of yore who saw Latin as the ne plus ultra of languages, and so sought to raise plebeian English to more rarified levels by looking for a structure - any structure - and calling it subjunctive (and, inter alia, prescribing that we ought to never split our infinitives, 'cos you can't do that in Latin, what with their infinitives all being one word with no equivalent to the English infinitive marker "to").

See also "I had the butler polish the silverware." There are those who will have you believe that that "polish" is in a subjunctive mood, while others will call the whole caboodle "causative". But I can call my Lada a Mercedes, and it won't alter the vehicle's essential Lada-ness. A similar reality applies to those Latin fanbois. Anyway, were I right in my earlier post on the subject, then actually this is yet another example of the remote form of the verb.

Irrealis.

If I was a cad, I apologise;
If I were a cad, I wouldn't.
That is an elegant example, I must admit. But it ain't subjunctive.
 
Last edited:

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
24,275
Likes
22,274
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
That is an elegant example, I must admit. But it ain't subjunctive.
Caveat: I'm not a linguist or a grammarian and my Latin grammar was decidedly dodgy.

Nevertheless, the second phrase:

I am not a cad, but in an imaginary scenario in which I am a cad, I will not, of course, apologise.

I have Fowler's Practical English Usage open here and it divides (then) contemporary uses of the subjunctive into four categories: for the first it gives (see the note in parentheses on "if... were..". clauses)

Screen Shot 2019-03-26 at 22.36.43.png

He continues & clarifies (note the example that distinguishes two uses of 'If he heard...').

Screen Shot 2019-03-26 at 22.41.33.png
Screen Shot 2019-03-26 at 22.42.36.png
 
Last edited:

Cochise

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Jun 17, 2011
Messages
4,762
Likes
4,063
Points
159
'Can I get'. I' picked that one up in the States and it annoys my best mate intensely. It is ridiculous, I admit. The correct answer, of course, is 'yes you can'.
 

Krepostnoi

Crabbier than usual, Buster
Joined
Jul 9, 2012
Messages
2,485
Likes
4,174
Points
159
Caveat: I'm not a linguist or a grammarian and my Latin grammar was decidedly dodgy.

Nevertheless, the second phrase:

I am not a cad, but in an imaginary scenario in which I am a cad, I will not, of course, apologise.

I have Fowler's Practical English Usage open here and it divides (then) contemporary uses of the subjunctive into four categories: for the first it gives (see the note in parentheses on "if... were..". clauses)

View attachment 15779

He continues & clarifies (note the example that distinguishes two uses of 'If he heard...').

View attachment 15780
View attachment 15781
Interesting. I'm particularly struck by his apparent claim that imperatives are a form of subjunctive. Does he provide a definition of what he means by the term in the pages prior to the ones you posted?
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
24,275
Likes
22,274
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
Interesting. I'm particularly struck by his apparent claim that imperatives are a form of subjunctive. Does he provide a definition of what he means by the term in the pages prior to the ones you posted?
Give me a while, I'm pretending to work.

My guess is that he classes them as similar to:

I demand that he come here and explain his action.
I requested that the judge allow the evidence to be brought before the court.
He ordered that the general be arrested.
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
24,275
Likes
22,274
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
Interesting. I'm particularly struck by his apparent claim that imperatives are a form of subjunctive. Does he provide a definition of what he means by the term in the pages prior to the ones you posted?
Frustratingly, he does not.

I have a paper copy of The King's English, but i'll have to dig it out.
 

Mythopoeika

I am a meat popsicle
Joined
Sep 18, 2001
Messages
33,941
Likes
18,925
Points
309
Location
Inside a starship, watching puny humans from afar
We've had this discussion before, i.e. the use of the word 'want' to mean 'need', or an enforced 'lack'. It's not slang, it's good English.
Reminds me of when I was a young kid.
I'd ask for something when we were in a shop. The grownups would say you don't need that, you just want it. You've got to need something before we'll buy it for you.
So I'd start saying 'I need that'.
Then the grownups would laugh and tell me the difference between needs and wants.
 
Top