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Fix Your Grammar

Bridging the Unbridgeable

If you are in a grammar or usage dilemma and looking for a clarification, you can find a huge number of useful and informative websites on grammar and usage advice online. Sometimes you come across advice presented in a somewhat different manner. A perfect specimen of such usage advice is a video by Glove and Boots. In Fix Your Grammar, usage issues such as literally as an intensifier and the homophones there, their and they’re are tackled in a humorous way.

Click on the picture to view the video!

As mentioned in the video, the frequent occurrence of such “mistakes” is often attributed to people’s laziness when posting comments online. What do you think? Do you pay attention to correct spelling and grammar offline as well as online?

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Season’s Greetings and other seasonal pitfalls

Bridging the Unbridgeable

Christmas is getting closer and the preparations for the festive season are well under way. If you think that pedants and sticklers will grant you some sort of Christmas amnesty, you are most probably wrong. For  them the Christmas season is yet another occasion to spot their fellow citizens’ alleged abuses of the English language. In order to avoid any confrontation at the dinner table, here is some advice on how to write “pedantproof” Christmas cards.

Seasons Greetings?

The most common mistake on Christmas cards is the misplaced or, God forbid, forgotten apostrophe. In this article on SLATE, Kate Brannen provides a hilarious and personal insight into how Christmas cards can affect the Christmas cheer. Brannen illustrates the struggle and confusion caused by the pluralisation of the family name when writing Christmas cards. Is it the Johnsons? Or the Johnson’s?  Zimmermans? Or Zimmermen? If you are not sure how to make…

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Fresh from the English Today press: The dangling participle – a language myth?

Bridging the Unbridgeable

The December issue of  English Today contains the latest feature article from our project in which I am discussing the acceptability of the dangling participle. Here are some of the main points addressed in the article The dangling participle – a language myth?:

  • Are usage problems always straightforward and problematic?
  • Can  context compensate for the lack of a suitable subject in the participle clause?
  • Has the acceptability of the dangler compared to Mittins et al.’s study (1970) increased or declined?
  • And last, but not least, what do you think about the dangler and its acceptability?

Read the English Today feature to receive some answers to these questions and help us answer the last question by completing the Proper English Usage online survey.

Note: You can read the full article on the English Today page of this website, or if you have access, download the original pdf from the website

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A lost cause?

Concede defeat or concede victory?

Bridging the Unbridgeable

Alex Salmond at polling station

Yesterday Scotland has voted and decided to stay within the United Kingdom. Today newspapers are filled with punchy and informative headlines analysing the outcome of the Scottish referendum. When I was reading an article in The Independent, my eyes fell immediately on two little words: concede defeat.
You may ask yourself now what’s the big deal or what’s wrong with this expression. And you are rightly doing so. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with concede defeat. But a related expression, concede victory, is found troublesome by a few. In my research on the BBC I have come across the ‘usage problem’ of using concede victory instead of concede defeat. The BBC style guide declares the use of “concede defeat” as “wrong” and favours the use of concede victory. Intrigued by this issue, I have decided to see how concede is actually used in the…

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No hard language feelings?

Bridging the Unbridgeable

The use of English, or rather its misuse, has often caused the one or the other to throw up his or her (or their?) hands in horror. Last month I attended the English Grammar Day at the British Library in London and to my surprise even linguistics seem to have harboured strong feelings towards English usage. One question from the audience aimed at identifying the panel’s ‘most hated’ neologisms. Learnings, to uplevel and to gallery one’s ideas were mentioned.

panel english grammar day The English Grammar Day panel

As part of my survey, I have also been interviewing people, as I am currently doing in Cambridge. One of my questions deals with pet hates. It was no surprise for me to see that everyone had at least one word, usage or phrase they could not stand. The historic present, confusing I and me, like, literally are just a few to mention here. What was…

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Next generation of prescriptivists?

Bridging the Unbridgeable

“I am a pedant. There is no question about it. Everyone I know would agree, and I accept and embrace it. I have no problem with being called a nerd, or a geek, or any synonyms of these words.”

Albert Gifford

These are the words of Albert Gifford, a 15-year-old schoolboy from Shepton Mallet, Somerset. Despite his young age, Albert has the courage to take on big giants when it comes to grammar. Recently, he has managed to force the supermarket giant Tesco to change its Orange juice packaging over a grammar mistake. Apparently, Tesco’s orange juice is the “most tastiest”. Albert, however, won’t rest on his oars and has his eyes set on BMW. Read his comment in The Guardian to find out more about it.

Whether to correct or not to correct other people’s mistakes was discussed in a previous blog post by Robin Straaijer. Would you correct your…

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Excuse me, I am terribly sorry to bother you, but …

The data collection is soon coming to an end and it is time to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who has filled in the survey, shared it with friends and nagged their family about completing it. The feedback has been amazing! If you haven’t filled in the questionnaire yet, then do give it a go.

What I have learnt from my fieldwork trips so far is that administration can be an utterly annoying and terribly time-consuming necessary evil. In order to avoid the trouble, I would like to ask you (yes, you) for your help:

  • Do you live in the Greater London Area, Cambridge or Oxford?
  • Are you interested in an interview and perception tests dealing with English language usage?
  • Do you know of any websites, fora or the like through which I could find possible informants?

In case you answered one or preferably all three of the above answers with yes, then please leave a comment below or send me an email (c.ebner@hum.leidenuniv.nl).

I really appreciate your help!

British English Translation:

Excuse me, dearest blog reader. I am terribly sorry to bother you, but I wonder if you would mind helping me, as long as it’s no trouble of course. Thank you very much!

 

 

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Yagoda’s Language Madness

What is the biggest “sin against language”? Ben Yagoda has the answer…

Bridging the Unbridgeable

March Madness describes a very American phenomenon: the NCAA college basketball tournament. In this tournament college teams compete against each other and by winning move on to the next round. This process is often visualised in so-called brackets , which apparently has started a mocking trend. You might have asked yourself by now, why I am talking about sports on a language blog. Here is why.

Ben Yagoda

Ben Yagoda, a linguist from the US, transferred the concept of March Madness into linguistics. If you are puzzled by this, give me a chance to explain. On his blog he introduced daily polls including two pet peeves such as for example Wordiness and cliches in the first round of his Language Madness series. Yagoda’s aim was to determine the biggest “sin against language” – the wording should be taken with a pinch of salt of course. Intrigued by this idea, I started to do…

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general, News, usage features

Appropriate Usage – You decide!

The moment of truth has come. It is time to find out what YOU think about the English language and its usage? Is it fit as a fiddle? Or is it going down the drain? What do you consider acceptable and appropriate usage?

Let’s find out by filling in the online questionnaire!

Proper?

Proper?

In case you live in the UK and are interested in participating in the next steps of the survey, please contact me for more information. 

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