Joho the Blog » Everyone’s position on linguistic correctness

Everyone’s position on linguistic correctness

AKMA points to two snippets from Stephen Fry on grammatical purity. The second snippet is classic Laurie and Fry.

AKMA expresses his usual admirable inclusiveness: He thinks grammatical correctness is worth striving for, but also acknowledges that language can usefully overflow its bounds. I’m with him. I was disappointed to hear Obama use the phrase “between her and meI,” and at his recent press conference to use “between” instead of “among” when referring to relationships of three or more. But I’m not a stickler. Why, I’ve recently become willing to blatantly split an infinitive or two.

When it comes to the sanctity of the rules of language, doesn’t everyone have the same position? While we think people ought to follow the grammatical rules that matter, we graciously condescend to permit others to make fools of themselves in public, unless they break rules the violation of which force a “Tut tut” from our lips. The difference is only over which particular rules we think are worth following, ignoring, or tut-tutting.

Or, to complete Henry Higgins’ thought: “Oh, why cahn’t the English … learn … to … speak … like me.” Pardon me: “…as I do.”

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8 Responses to “Everyone’s position on linguistic correctness”

  1. I deduce you’ve misspelt cahn’t as phonetic emphasis of Higgins’ British dialect?

    If so, am I right to infer you’d be inclined to pronounce it ‘caynt’ or ‘cant’?

    Tut tut.

    :-}

  2. Sorry, Crosbie, but “can’t” is not in my vocabulary. Ah’m a Can Do sort of guy.

  3. I walked right into that one didn’t I?

    Dare I enquire as to whether you are also a ‘Do Do’ sort of guy?

    I certainly won’t touch your Ah’m.

    Oh oh! Don’t tell me, you’re a “Will Do” sort of guy too…

    I ain’t too bothered meself. I do or I do not, with perhap a doing, but ne’er a try.

  4. You write,

    Wasn’t Obama grammatically correct in this instance? The objective case of each pronoun is called for after the preposition “between,” isn’t it? “Her and me” is the compound object of “between.”

  5. You write,

    < was disappointed to hear Obama use the phrase “between her and me”

    Wasn’t Obama grammatically correct in this instance? The objective case of each pronoun is called for after the preposition “between,” isn’t it? “Her and me” is the compound object of “between.”

  6. Mickey, of course. I made a stupid but pleasingly ironic mistake. I’ve fixed it (and put the wrong mistake in strikethrough font). Thanks.

  7. Why do you think “between her and I” is wrong? Shakespeare used “between him and I” in the Merchant of Venice. Schoolboy notions of “objective case” fall short of accurately model English as any linguist will tell you. See http://jtauber.com/blog/2008/04/30/grammar_rules/ for numerous examples.

  8. Of course, saying “model” instead of “modeling” actually was a grammatical mistake on my part :-)

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