Thursday, September 27, 2007

English Grammar Are Important

English are my first language.
I are speaking English since I were two years of age.
I are also able to spoke Irish and a little bit of French.
Language are important. It are important for communication. It are important to distinguish us from other species.
And so, it is important for we to preserve language.
It are important for the media to do so also.
Which is why it baffled me when I see newspapers such as the Irish Times and the London Times and broadcasters such as RTE in Ireland and the once venerable BBC, abandoned all pretence at the correct use of English.
Grammar are a thing of the past.
Oh, I can’t keep this up.
I find it a great deal easier to be correct than to be incorrect.

Why do the four institutions named above, seem to believe that the world government is plural?
Why do they think the word couple is plural?
And the words team, family, company, club, organisation, committee and syndicate?
Why is it always: “The government are...” and “the team are...” and “the couple are...”?
The BBC occasionally refers to itself in the plural: “The BBC are....”
And it’s not just grammar.
Listening to radio and television news, we are often informed that, for example, “a man was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for assaulting a man in the district court today.” To which I say that the district court is a pretty daft place in which to assault somebody.
What we should have been told, is that “a man was sentenced to six months imprisonment in the district court today, for assaulting another man.
Another example: “The Minister said he would tackle the difficulties in the economy when he arrived in Paris today.” To which I say, I wish he would tackle the difficulties in the economy before he goes to Paris at all.
What we should have been told was that “the Minister said, on his arrival in Paris, that he would tackle the difficulties in the economy.
And here’s another: “Gardai today named the man who died in a road accident yesterday.”
To which I say: That’s nice of them. What did they call him?
What we should have been told is that “gardai have released the name of the man...” and so on.
We are told that “over a million pounds has been stolen” when what is meant is “more than a million pounds has been stolen.”
The English language is constantly being eroded by laziness, bad teaching and bad example.
There is barely a politician in the English speaking world who has any grasp of grammar or syntax.
Indeed, George W Bush is marginally ahead of our own Bertie Ahern when it comes to the garbled use of English.
You may think none of this matters once we can understand each other.
Oh, but it does.
Man started off communicating by making basic sounds. “Ugh” “Oogh” “Aagh.”
The way we’re going, that’s the way we will be communicating in the not too distant future.
If you don’t believe me, ask a question of a moody teenager.
(PS You don’t need to tell me that I too make mistakes. I don’t claim to be perfect!)


Anonymous said...

“Why do the four institutions named above, seem to believe that the world government is plural?”

Hmmm.. I can almost forgive that ‘world’ instead of ‘word’ (there but for the grace of God go I, etc), but what the hell is that comma doing after ‘above’? Misplaced commas are one of the worst symptoms of the disease you correctly diagnose.

I do have one caveat: the language is constantly changing and one of the changes taking place at the moment relates to compound nouns. Because the situation is in flux, people are making up the rules as they go along. Take bands, for example. Which sounds right: Oasis are crap or Oasis is crap? I’d argue common usage would indicate the former. What about: Man Utd are rubbish vs Man Utd is rubbish?

But you’ll hear no argument from me on the rest of what you’re saying. The sad fact is that a bunch of beardy idiots decided at some point in the 1960s that self-expression and creativity were more important than understanding the building blocks of the language. So grammar and syntax were junked from the school syllabus, and we’re all living with the consequences.

Paddy's World said...

I wish I could say my errors were deliberate. They were not. The literal doesn't bother me but the comma does! At least it wasn't an apostrophe. Con Houlihan said: "A man who can misplace an apostrophe is capable of anything." I think i might do a whole blog on apostrophes. As opposed to apostrophe's

Anonymous said...

Now this is confusing. My name is Anonymous...but then so is that of the other person to post a comment. So how will your readers who has said what? Anyway, dear reader, I am not Anonymous above. I am not, at the time of writing, anonymous below. But if I were to add another comment then I might be Anonymous below. But how will you know?

Anyway, my point is this: It is a convention that when referring to nouns that relate to people such as Oasis* and Manchester United, we use the plural. But if referring to an entity such as the Irish government, Marks & Spencer, or even Manchester United plc, we use the singular. In the last sentence we were referring to Manchester United in its corporate sense.

Teams and pop groups can be singular. Corporates and companies are plural. (Corporates and companies is also probably tautology - but that that's another story.)

* Why would you want to refer to Oasis. Take the Beatles now that was a group!

Anonymous said...

Hello Anonymous here again. Just to say that in the previous comment I referred to Anonymous below...well, that's me. In this blog when if I was to mention Anonymous above that would be me too.

Sorry, carry on.