Thursday, 28 June 2012

Humbled of Erith

I'm following another excellent tweeter @LoisMcEwan. She points out that "humbled" is now consistently used to mean its opposite, "proud", as in "I feel humbled to be nominated for this prize" etc. This is despite Rupert Murdoch's use of "humble" at the Leveson enquiry with more of the usual (?) dictionary meaning, though nearer to the related "humiliating". Lois also mentions the new cable car between Royal Docks and Greenwich but quite reasonably suggests that other areas of London need a crossing more. How about a Barking-Erith crossing, she asks. I'm reminded of Erithian comedian Linda Smith and her wonderful joke that Erith hasn't got a twin town "but just has a suicide pact with Dagenham." I'm allowed to say that as I was brought up there too. well

A tweeter I follow @editunited (see, I could be young, Twitter Generation, for all you know, not the old pedant you thought) tells us of "America's Next Top Redundancy". I've asked her if she's noticed a few examples common here. I once heard a terrifying Oz fast bowler say "Yes, he also does that too as well." A record at the time, I thought, but common now. Oh dear, hope Jeff doesn't read this.

Split Infinitive Correction Syndrome

One danger of going on about things like "double is" is that people who don't really follow closely might over-react and start correcting perfectly grammatical (dare I say? Why not, it's my blog) examples like "What it is [,] is a matter of grammar", or similar. On the net and in the press you can read lots of complaints by self-appointed prescriptivists about split infinitives. As you will agree, dear reader, this is a foolish cause as English infinitives have been split by many of the best writers: sometimes it's more elegant not to split, sometimes better to boldly go for it. Not only this but sometimes these deluded souls mistake phrasal verbs for infinitives and berate even distinguished linguists for splitting them up (splitting up them?). It's a dangerous thing to write about language at all. Think I'll go and lie down again.

Isis review

Writing about the rise of "double is", I invented a spoof journal and called it "International Isis Review"' editor Dr Nawat Amin. Trouble was / is that it was / is in danger of being taken seriously. In fact it is quite possibly already in preparation, under different editorship.

Friday, 22 June 2012


Seen any good notices and signs? Here's a genuine one:

 Please wash own cups and stand upside down in sink.

Without pitching on the pitch

I've read that cricket was the main summer sport in the US until the Civil War, unsurprising when you consider where many of the immigrants came from. Lacrosse could stake a claim, of course, and probably could be said to be the more indigenous game - any Canadians / Native Americans out there?

 Of course, the soldiers suffered from a lack of cricket pitches (ok not their main cause of suffering) and used their bats (wider cricket-style ones by then, not curved ones) to play the more two-dimensional English game known as rounders. [Joke alert / Irony Warning Scheme has proved ineffective] Now in Jane Austen's baseball and indeed in modern rounders, baseball, softball etc the ball doesn't need a pitch to pitch on and so in the 1860s soldiers could pitch up and play on any rough piece of ground. Are you with me?

Comments welcomed: there are similarities - innings (singular and plural) but also inning (singular) in AmE; 22 yards / 66 feet pitch but only 20 yards / 60 feet approximately from batter to pitcher / bowler; cricket / baseball caps / helmets; hard ball (roughly same size & weight); umpires (?); the Art of Fielding (not the novelist) etc. Special language of both sports?

Alfred E. Newman regrets ...

Did you spot the deliberate mistake of the month - well, and yes, I have been away, on holiday, since you are kind enough to ask. But just checking if anyone is reading this stuff! I hope I've corrected it now before anyone has seen it (I'm pretty confident about that) but will the first version be there for years?
Of course, I meant to write that 'worry' has for many years, perhaps two hundred, generally been said (by RP speakers, I should say) with an uh sound as in BrE 'cut' ie wurry. Now there seems to be a lot of spelling pronunciation about, so with an o sound, as in BrE 'not'. Any comments? Americans don't do either, anyway, I understand, but use a schwa sound.

What, me wurry?

Anyone remember MAD magazine in the 60s - oops, showing my age?! But on "worry", is the BrE (British English) pronunciation with an uh sound (as in 'cut') moving towards an o sound (as in BrE 'hot') ie towards spelling pronunciation? It seems to be, judging from politicians (new Labour leader, note lower case there) and TV/radio reporters. I'm not bovvered, of course, just noticing a possible change and commenting. Is it the influence of international media, perhaps? The perceived need to be clear on satellite phone reports? But doesn't it introduce a new ambiguity with warrior / worrier? US correspondents on Twitter suggest AmE pronunciation is with a schwa sound (like unstressed first sound of 'about') and it is given as such in dictionaries.