This is a forum to discuss the gray areas of the English language for which you would not find answers easily in dictionaries or other reference books. You can browse through the latest questions and comments below. If you have a question of your own, please submit it here.
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Why do some people, especially pseudo eloquent corporate types, insist on substituting “I” for “me” under the misplaced guise of speaking formal English: “Between you and I, the meeting was substandard”, “Thanks for taking Julie and I for dinner”. I know there’s not much to discuss here. It’s simply wrong but it represents a deeper misunderstanding of the use of nouns/pronouns. Personally I tolerate the incorrect use of “me” as the subject to a much greater extent (“me and Geoff went to the beach”) because although grammatically incorrect, it is acceptable to many in colloquial English. The use of “I” as the object is neither grammatically correct nor colloquial or formal. It is in a sense a clumsy grammatical over compensation. Besides people who make this error usually (but not always) over rate their own eloquence.
Many years ago using the prefix co- and co meant two different things. Now they are used interchangeably, but is this correct? I was taught if you used co- you were a subordinate and if you used co you were equals. An example. A co-pilot is subordinate to a pilot, however coauthors means both writers were equal in the endeavor. Once upon a time, a co-chairwas subordinate to the chair. Now co-chair and cochair are used flagrantly to mean the same thing, they are equally sharing the duties of chairperson. What are your thoughts on this?
All of a sudden spectators are not “looking on” but “watching on”. Does that make them onwatchers?
They no longer say “welcome to” but “welcome along to”.
“Early on” has become “early doors”.
Players now “contest for” the ball.
They now “update you” with the latest scores.
To me all of that is rather more idiotic than idiomatic. :-))
I’m sure there are many more examples that I have (thankfully) missed.
The media in English speaking countries seems to be developing a tendency toward using a country’s name as an adjective.
Syria crisis instead of Syrian crisis
France fullback instead of French fullback
Another is the anglicising of some country names and nationalities:-
Argentina becomes Argentine and Argentinians becomes Argentines.
In Britain the the winners of the Bad Grammar Awards have just been announced, and the prize has gone to Tesco, partly for a label on its toilet paper which said ‘More luxury, less lorries’, so I thought this might be a good time to reflect on the ‘fewer / less’ question.
According to the OED, people have been using less for countable nouns since the dawn of English, and it only seems to have become a golden rule after certain grammarians latched onto the observation of one Robert Baker, who in 1770 remarked that ‘No fewer than a hundred seems to me not only more elegant than No less than a hundred, but more strictly proper.’, while admitting that less ‘is most commonly used when speaking of a number’.
And it was used like this in at least two influential nineteenth century grammars - ‘less hopes’, ‘less parts or portions’ - Lindley Murray’s English Grammar, Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners, and ‘No less than five verbs’ - William Cobbett’s A Grammar of the English Language.
It obviously annoys a lot of people. One woman wrote on Tesco’s Facebook page that she ‘was unable to purchase’.
But I can’t help wondering why. There is absolutely no danger of ambiguity, and many of us use ‘less’ with countables informally. (And for many of us ‘Ten items or less’ sounds much more idiomatic than ‘Ten items or fewer’). Does this rule really have any functional basis, (we don’t need any distinctions for ‘more’ - more luxury, more lorries) or is it simply a rule for the sake of having a rule and just another excuse for finding fault with others?
More and more lately I’ve been hearing and seeing a change in the prepositions used in common phrases.
I’ve already commented on PITE about the use of “deal to” instead of “deal with” in NZ, and of course we have the age old debate about “different from/to”.
Recently I noticed some others creeping in:-
“what do you make to....” instead of “what do you make make of .....”
“I have no intention on.......” instead of “I have no intention of......”.
I’m sure there are others.
While there may be nothing grammatically wrong in this, it does sound a little strange and raises the question of why and how such usage arises.
Does it stem from a desire to be different just for the sake of being different?
Is it down to some kind of narcissism?
. when saying “what reading
In his entry on ‘try and do’, Fowler calls it “an idiom that should not be discountenanced, but used when it comes natural”.
What interested me was his use of ‘natural’ as an adverb. Oxford Online gives the example ‘keep walking—just act natural’, which sounds OK to me, if idiomatic.
There are examples from Dickens and Walter Scott of ‘comes natural’ in dialogues, where ‘natural’ is being used as an adverb, but Fowler’s use here sounds strange to me. Any thoughts?
When I was brought up in England we used to say things like “it’s the put-er-on-er-er” for the brush used to put the polish on, and the “taker-off-er-er”. Or later, the “mover-out-er-er” for the spouse who must move out.
Is this “real” English? Why don’t we use it in writing? Why are there two “er” at the end? Is there any description of this in any grammar? How widespread is this construction?