Tuesday 29 April 2014

Bad grammar. Haw-haw.

There's a nasty little 'Award' which points out and sneers at 'Bad Grammar'. (I'm not going to provide the link.) Judges are selected to pick out what they regard as the 'worst' examples of what they call 'bad' grammar. This enables the people who invented the award, the judges and those who tut along with them to feel rather good about themselves. After all, they've spotted the 'bad' grammar - achievement in itself, surely - and then they've displayed their superiority in public. 

What this leaves out is that we all make mistakes. In most circumstances, it's no big deal. We get what the person intended from the context. As evidence of this, Toby Young, who is one of the co-founders of the award, wrote in a Daily Telegraph blog the phrase 'soul purpose' - and it wasn't a gag. He meant 'sole purpose'. It's the kind of mistake that I could easily make. It's the kind of mistake that millions of us could make, because 'sole' and 'soul' are homonyms. In our heads we 'hear' the sound, see 'soul' before, or instead of 'sole' and write it - probably at speed. At one level it goes on making sense because it sounds right. We can even proof-read things like this and the slip stays in. 

So, in my own unpleasant way, I pointed out to Toby Young on twitter that he could have included his own mistake in the 'Bad Grammar' awards that he had helped invent. To be clear, this is not to put myself in some kind of superior position here. To repeat: I frequently make these kinds of mistakes myself. 

Anyway, back came Toby Young on twitter: that was a 'spelling mistake' not a 'grammar' mistake. Well, fair enough, we might say...though 'sole' is usually an adjective, and 'soul' is usually a noun...though if you were doing a pun-like gag these distinctions would get blurred (eg you might headline an article on Aretha Franklin with 'Soul Purpose').

Then, I looked back at the 'Bad Grammar' awards and one of the awards this year is for a mistake with "your" and "you're". Yes, a homonym slip - just like Toby Young's; another little easily made error that slipped through the proof-reading that the Bad Awards judges are haw-hawing about. 

Spelling? Grammar? 
Grammar? Spelling?

Needless to say, I pointed this out to Toby Young in my next tweet. 

He hasn't replied yet.