Learning The Lingo
I hope he was happy with the drawn part of the tattoo, at least.
I know I’m going to turn into one of those old geezers who complain about language. I believe language should live, breathe and change, but this one’s really bugging me.
‘According to investigators, the mother purposefully drove her car off a dock’ – this from a highly respected US newspaper. Perhaps it’s not technically wrong – after all, she was probably full of purpose, but it seems unnecessary.
I’ve certainly been responsible for more than my fair share of split infinitives and dangling participles, but here are my five Top Pet Hate Grammar Tics.
1. ‘Bored of’ – wasn’t it always ‘bored with’?
2. ‘Train station’ – what was wrong with ‘railway station’?
3. ‘Gotten’ – perfectly acceptable if you’re American, or quoting from a period phrase (‘ill-gotten gains’), but the UK use is ‘got’.
4. ‘The set of principles are laid down’ – set is singular here – this one crops up in papers almost every day.
5. ‘And that was it’s purpose’ -apostrophe only when it’s an abbreviation – easy.
And as for ‘Quadrilogy’ – just don’t wind me up, okay? The word is ‘Quartet’. I can hear some advertising creep saying ‘but it sounds like classical music – we need something cooler.’
The good news is that the recent success of grammar books suggests a fresh interest in language. I do get irritated by the fact that all Macs divert automatically to US spelling, which needs to be turned off and replaced with a UK dictionary. This isn’t jingoistic, merely my need to deliver in UK English for editing purposes.
The complexity and subtlety of English will fascinate me to the grave. I just wish I had the same subtlety in French. Once I had to retitled a Chabrol film for UK release. The film was called ‘Poulet Au Vinaigre’, which was a threefold pun. First, it’s a dish. Second, in this case a ‘poulet’ implies a young person, an innocent, and third, the ‘vinaigre’ hints at a poisoned atmosphere. The film was about a young cop in a mean-spirited milieu.
My title – the closest I could get – was ‘Cop Au Vin’.