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Joined: September 4, 2011  (email not validated)
Comments posted: 308
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He was sat

February 8, 2012

Recent Comments

When I wrote "German or Russian without it," I meant without reference to grammar, not Latin. Of course you don't need Latin to learn German, but you certainly need grammar.

retired teacher June 2, 2014, 4:47am

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Agree with everything you say about using another language as, in part, a device with which to understand your own, and grammar is, surely, the tool to use. I think that Latin is the one to teach for this purpose, and its rigours are surely leavened if Roman culture and history are part of the course. I recommend the Oxford Latin Course by Balme and Norwood for this purpose; the first edition is much more thorough and enjoyable, the second being shortened to accommodate the need for it all to be stuffed into the fewer hours allowed these days. I do not know, nor begin to imagine, how you can learn German or Russian without it, but I have seen for myself how they try now to teach French without reference to your first language, leaving out the grammar too. Enough said about that.

retired teacher June 2, 2014, 4:45am

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I enjoyed that debate too. It occurred to me from the start that the point of debating is that you could do the debate all over again the next night (it's always a night, not a day, isn't it?) and argue the other side's case. In other words, you present an argument, but you do not need to believe it, indeed it is probably much better that you do not. You do a better job if you are looking at it objectively. That is the job of an advocate, who as long as he does not know his client is guilty may argue the case for his innocence without having any knowledge, or indeed any reason for belief, that his client is indeed not guilty. Next week he might be the prosecutor, arguing the other side on the same terms. In a civil matter he takes on either side of the argument, according to who is employing him.

The debaters in this case put forward their arguments very entertainingly, and I agreed with all of them! Each left out the arguments against his or her case, and left that job to the other side, of course, as that is the name of the game: a debate.

retired teacher June 1, 2014, 7:37pm

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To avoid such an interpretation the way to put it is "had a meeting with", perhaps?

retired teacher May 30, 2014, 4:35am

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Until his recent lamented demise, the sports commentator Coleman was the butt of a column in the UK entitled Colemanballs, which if googled will provide much occasion for mirth. It does not mean in any way that his marvellous and original contributions to the way we put things are now official English, of course, for if they were they would not be Colemanballs, now, would they? Just Colemanisms.

retired teacher May 29, 2014, 8:58pm

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As Americans like to leave out prepositions in terms like "up top", and "out front" where Britons like to say "up on top" and "out in front", it is interesting that Americans like to say "meet with someone" while Britons like to say "meet someone", in this case putting in a preposition, which is the opposite practice. American: 'President Eisenhower met with Prime Minister Macmillan in Nassau today'. British: Mr Macmillan met President Eisenhower in Nassau today'. (American usage also likes to bandy titles, Soviet Union-style, tellingly, in this way. Britons dislike this practice, and avoid its use.)

retired teacher May 29, 2014, 8:53pm

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Love twif twaf. Must use the term when the chance comes up.

As a teacher, it was common to see it in the work of children aged about ten, but a couple of minutes' explanation sorted it out. Now, how come it is encountered in adults' written work? If the adult in question was educated in the medium of English, did he or she have a teacher, and if so, how could this dreadful boob have been allowed to continue? Was the teacher literate, at all? If English is a second language, then treating 'of' as a verb suggests a poor grasp of elementary grammar, but recognising that it is not correct is one thing, to say it is 'accepted' or 'it's okay, whatever, yah' would suggest the wrong attitude, really, now, would it not!?

" I of got a terrible headache after reading all this stuff tonight." (Spot the error!)

retired teacher May 29, 2014, 8:38pm

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"I sincerely hope one day that I will be less phased by this phrase", you say. I believe you mean 'fazed' when you say 'phased' - please correct me if I am wrong, for I am not certain I am right about this. Surely 'phased' means divided into phases, whereas 'fazed' means something along the lines of 'cast into confusion', a much less organised state.

Why do people who do not care about the language, and think terms like "between you and I" are just fine ... why on earth do they engage with this Pain the English forum? It is like writing an article in a medical journal to advise 'just take whatever pills you like, it makes no difference in the end, or whatever!'.
"Accepted usage?" I read above!! How could it be thought that "a very personal decision for Michelle and I" is literate English language? Would the man have said "a very personal decision for I to take"? Would he? Would he? Of course not!

Of course people make errors in spoken language and in written language too, but to accept that this is 'now accepted usage' is not a step in the right direction, exactly, now, is it? I am slightly horrified by reading some of the stuff above about how getting grumpy, as I do, about the acceptance of deteriorating standards of language is 'fascist', or 'smug' or 'pompous'. Love the daft term 'faux-pomposity' spotted above, and wonder how Excel would cope if it were numbers, not words.

retired teacher May 29, 2014, 8:26pm

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WWill - the pronunciation had nothing to do with the tale at all, as it is a written tale. I just put it in because it reminded me of the old ducks in the eastern parts of South Africa who talk that way, when choosing to use English. They say 'aunt' as in 'authentic' but also say 'aren't' the same way. "We aunt goin' to taahn todayee" means 'We aren't going to town today', for example ('aunt' pronounced as in authentic).
Now, is there another possible answer to the vicar's question? I believe it came up in the British parliament (in London) not long ago, when someone cocked up while calling for Mr Jeremy Hunt to say something about something. Ribaldry and laughter all round. Not a dry seat in the House.Indeed, how the barriers have fallen!

retired teacher May 28, 2014, 6:58pm

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WWill, It’s a very old story, the vicar and the crossword. You are correct, it’s a strange way to say aunt, but in Britain lots of people say things in strange ways. The Telegraph the other day had correspondence about it, involving how to contract long meaningless clichés like “know what I mean?” and "I've got to be honest" into one word, and then perhaps one syllable. I do know a few old ladies who say ‘aunt’ as in ‘authentic’ but they say lots of other things in a drawly way, too, especially after a few gins. Come to think of it, they are always South Africans from the eastern side of that lovely country. And they say "aren't" exactly the same way as "aunt" and although they never say "authentic" they would say that in the same way too. Like 'awnt', 'awthentuk' .

How do Americans say "arctic" and "antarctic"? Do the inhabitants of those inhospitable places cringe and raise their eyebrows when they hear these terms enunciated this way? Okay, me too ...

Back to 'aunt' ...

retired teacher May 28, 2014, 11:36am

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Come to think of it, "aren't" in England is how we pronounce the female appendage to the family, like father's or mother's sister, aunt, while Americans who say "ain't" for 'aren't' also call their aunts 'ain'ts'. Think of the elocution teacher scenes in "Singing in the Rain". Does it follow then that if your aunt is an 'ant' then you must say 'aren't' as in "Sorry, we ant coming out tonight"?

retired teacher May 27, 2014, 7:25pm

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There was a vicar (predikant, minister, padre, priest, parson, or whatever you call it in your parts) on a train doing a newspaper crossword, and looking very surprised and bewildered and confused. He said to the professor sitting opposite "it's the last clue, I have the last three letters and it's a four-letter answer, _unt, and the clue is 'female appendage'. The professor says "well, it's 'aunt', surely?". The vicar says "Of course it is! Do you have an rubber (eraser)?"

And they both pronounce it with a long 'au' as in 'authentic' with a hint of "aren't" to mellow it a bit, because they are posh folk. And the crossword is the Times, and the train is British Railways. And they are going first class.

retired teacher May 27, 2014, 7:18pm

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Is 'it' your imaginary friend?

retired teacher May 25, 2014, 5:54am

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retired teacher May 24, 2014, 6:26pm

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I have no grice with those points. Or is it singular, as there is none? So I have no grouse with those points. There we go then ...

retired teacher May 16, 2014, 6:54pm

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David the Relief

welcome, we are all some good people here.

retired teacher May 16, 2014, 6:16pm

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If you call them mouses, do you pronounce with the z sound as in houses, or the s sound as in scouses? Both versions sound potty, as it cries out to be mice. I like mice. They have tried to eradicate them, and get us to trail our fingers over the screen to get it to do things, and tap, and stuff, but all along mice do the tricks with a few clicks - much better.

retired teacher May 13, 2014, 6:52pm

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Warsaw Will, you mention the ratio of present perfect in BrE in relation to AmE as 4:3 and 1.7:1.. My calculations suggest that the difference is not huge: it is the same as 4:3 and 5.1:3, or 40:30 against 51:30, so about 21%, which in linguistics is a bit of a sideways dive but not hugely significant except for curiosity value. Now wait till the Scots vote for independence in September: judging by the quality of English already employed in the debating chamber of the Scots Assembly there will be linguistic mayhem when we northerners go free! The expression "all over the place" will be rendered an understatement.

I, for myself, avoid the present perfect construction in relating my own stories, but I notice that in Scotland it is very common now for folk to tell theirs in the present tense. For example "Well, I'm sitting in the train when I notice that my child isn't with me, and I'm sure I've brought him with me that day. Then I see him ... "

All part of the delightful argot which keeps the wheels going round.

retired teacher April 30, 2014, 7:51pm

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It is an example of a copulative disjunctive, which sounds really kinky. It means the same grammatical structure as 'C'est moi!' in French: subject - 'being/becoming' verb - complement. Such verbs don't have an object, they should have a nominative complement. When this is in the form of a pronoun, as is very usual in using the first person of the verb, the disjunctive (me/us) is preferred: 'It is I' or (impersonal) 'it was we who ...' sound a bit implausible, no? Especially "It is I" when answering the phone, for example. But there are times when "It is I" is okay, as in "It is I who have to shoulder the burden".

Second person: you can't tell, as all forms go "you".

Third person: 'That's him/her/them', because 'that' is impersonal, and wants a disjunctive complement, which in English looks like the accusative/object form. In French it would be 'lui/elle/eux'. "C'est lui qui doit ..." and such is the French attention to their grammar, so sadly badly taught in England, or not at all, that I would put "Ce sont eux qui doivent ...".

Back to the point: when people ask for me on the phone I say (if indeed it is me) "that's me", and if they grumble about my grammar I say I am using the disjunctive pronoun "me" because it is appropriate in a short statement, not followed by a relative clause, and if they don't like it they must put up with it.
That usually puts their gas on a peep, as we say in Scotland, and has them flocking to bookshops seeking works on English grammar for their edification.

retired teacher April 30, 2014, 7:17pm

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It's mice for those with a sense of humour. Mouses is absurd, and what is wrong with 'mice' anyway?
'Nuff said.

retired teacher April 14, 2014, 6:36pm

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