Grammar, Grandma

I have often noted that poor grammar acts as a comprehension speed-bump — when one is reading something, a mistake makes one stop and say, “Whut?”  Here’s an example.  In an otherwise-fine examination of a politician’s fuckup, Driscoll made me say “Whut?”  (twice), viz.:

The past tense of “slay” is “slew”.  As in:  ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ “Lil’ David slew Golia’ an’ shouted for joy”.  ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪

Maybe Not

I followed a link from Insty to Amazon (“Top Books In Military History”) and found this:

Priceless.

That said, given the Smithsonian’s increasing descent into woke-based illiteracy, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the cover was printed incorrectly, the book is about WWI, and nobody in the layers and layers of fact-checkers picked it up.

Or else it’s the Ockham principle, which would simply say that Amazon done fucked up.

Language Beef

One of my major beefs with European languages is that stupid custom of giving everything a gender — in Latin, a table  is feminine but a house  is masculine (sometimes, depending on the sense of the sentence);  in French a car  is feminine but a horse  is masculine;  and in German, a train  is masculine but a railway  is feminine, and so on.

No wonder they’ve had to declare war on each other every decade or so.

Basically, it’s Latin’s fault.  That Roman nonsense gave every word a gender (with the wonderful addition of a neuter gender which wasn’t very common).  Additionally, Latin has no articles (the, a, an etc.) — which I think is why words had  to have a gender, so that the listener could determine to which word an adjective was being applied to.  Here’s a little summary:

There is a stark difference between English and Latin’s treatment of gender. Only words in English that indicate a biological sex have a masculine or feminine gender. All others are considered neuter. Latin, however, applies gender to many words even when biological sex is not intimated.

No wonder the bloody thing died off.

But that’s not the end of the story, oh no.

As European languages modernized, they added articles — except that with gendered nouns, the articles had to change to continue the form.  Hence la roche  (rock), le matin  (morning) and so on.  German went the same way:  der Zug (train), die Eisenbahn (railway), etc.

All that, so that this little meme would make sense to everybody who’s not a language dork like I am:

Of course, as can be seen in the above, the Germans took the thing to its logical conclusion and over-complicated their language almost to the point of impossibility, making the article also reflect the nouns’s declension case  as well as its gender.  Don’t get me started.

At least the Germans are usually too polite to correct you when you screw up, and will sometimes even switch to English if they can.  The French, however, have no such scruples and will correct your grammar, loudly and often with a smirk — which makes my already-fragile temper turn homicidal in a millisecond.

Thank goodness English is gradually taking over as the international language of business, and is the backbone of this here Intarwebz thingy.

I still read Le Parisien  once a week, though.

Irritant

As the late Denis Farina said so memorably in the movie Snatch, “You Brits invented English;  why don’t you fucking speak it?”

“I am stood watching as a man uses a metal lever to break into a wooden door.”

I am stood?  Really?  As opposed to “I’m standing watching as a man…” (and standing is also superfluous unless it’s relevant to the story — “I’m watching as a man…” would have worked just as well, if not better).

Don’t even get me started on “I was sat looking at the painting…”

In grammatical terms, it’s incorrectly using the past perfect tense (stood, as in “He stood on the roof”) instead of a participle (e.g. he was standing on the roof).

I suppose it’s all part of the general societal slide down to illiteracy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get angry about it.

Quite Rightly So

Perry De Havilland has a few choice words to say about this little situation:

Japan aims to change the way Japanese names are written in English by putting the family name first, the same way they are written in Japanese, in a triumph for conservatives keen to preserve traditional ways in a fast-changing world. Education Minister Masahiko Shibayama proposed the change to Cabinet ministers on Friday and the government will now study how to implement it, the top government spokesman said […] Foreign Minister Taro Kono raised the suggestion in May saying foreign media should write the prime minister’s name in the traditional way – Abe Shinzo.

And Perry’s response:

Shinzo Abe can fuck right off, because that is not correct when using English. Follow your own heathen customs when using Japanese, old chap, but no government gets to decide how English is used, that sort of bullshit only happens in France and Japan.

Perry and I have had our issues in the past because I’m conservative and he’s a librarian, but on this topic we are 100% in accord.

It Started With “Gay”

…or maybe it was “grass”, but either way, the result was the same:  a perfectly good word was hijacked by bastards in order to make something socially unsavory become more acceptable.   Hence “gay” for homosexual — deeply ironic considering that homosexuals in general are the gloomiest and most unhappy people on the planet.

Now, of course, we have a similar situation, only now it’s words hijacked by Big Tech:

According to a study by the University of Leeds, which looked at datasets of informal conversations, all mentions of the word ‘tweet’ in the Nineties referred to birdsong, while one in 100 do now.
We need not despair that, in future, our children will think of a remote data-storage system when they hear the word ‘cloud’. But we should offset it by teaching them the names of clouds.
We need not despair that, in future, our children will think of a remote data-storage system when they hear the word ‘cloud’.  But we should offset it by teaching them the names of clouds.
Seven in ten uses of ‘web’ in the same period referred to spiders: this has become one in ten.
‘Field’, ‘fibre’, ‘cloud’, ‘branch’ and ‘net’ have all changed meanings, too, co-opted for commercial or technological ends.
This is the living mutability of language, the way it shifts to keep tight its embrace with the world. But there is an edge of loss to this change.
Now, the speaker is not contemplating a sky or the running twists of water, the slender might of a spider’s web, or pasture, trees or the music of birds. He or she refers to a ‘virtual’ world, conjured in pixels.
What the tech firms call ‘disruption’, when they destroy old trading networks, is one of the forces of our time. Populist politicians disrupt electoral tribes*; the Leeds study shows that technology [is] disrupting language itself.

I have a very dear lady friend with the ancient and lovely name of “Alexa”.  She’s considering renaming herself as “Lexie” (a nickname), simply because Amazon’s electronic Stasi toy has become ubiquitous in ordinary conversation — and that’s not to mention all the jokes made when people get introduced to her.   (As she puts it, you can only hear “Alexa?  Turn on the coffeemaker” so many times before it starts getting really  old.)

And it’s all quite unnecessary.  Tech firms should actually create names for their products instead of lazily co-opting existing words or names.

We can talk about homosexuals and hippies some other time.


*Actually, no.  All  politicians create electoral tribes;  “populist politicians” (e.g. Nigel Farage and Donald Trump) simply create new electoral tribes out of elements of those electoral tribes made by establishment politicians.