He said, she said or he admitted, she boasted?

Bridging the Unbridgeable

What is wrong with the word said? Personally, I do have nothing against this very useful verb. But as it turns out, some teachers in the US are actively encouraging their students to not make use of it.

sc-9780545083034_lGabriel Roth describes this trend in his Lexicon Valley blog post “Teachers! Please Do Not Make Your Students Use Synonyms for Said,” I Blurted and states examples of teachers including said on lists of banned words or providing pupils with lists of alternatives to use instead. One of the leading proponents of this trend is Leilen Shelton, middle school teacher and author of the book Banishing Boring Words which displays a school boy thinking of words to use instead of said on its cover.  According to Roth, the problem lies in the application of this banning-said approach. While finding useful synonyms and enriching the pupils’ vocabulary are sensible objectives, Roth cautions against…

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And then there were 4

Bridging the Unbridgeable

After Grammar Girl’s Top 10 Grammar Myths in 2010 and the Guardian’s 10 grammar rules you can forget three years later, linguist and author Arika Okrent joins the usage problem shortlisting club with her 4 Fake Grammar Rules You Don’t Need to Worry About.

Having read quite a substantial amount about usage problems and debunked grammar myths in the past three years, I have become somewhat used to seeing those so-called old-chestnuts pop up every now and again and being declared no longer problematic. Do not worry about the split infinitive! It’s okay to say to boldly go. This is the sort of English up with which you will not put. No wait. You will not put up with.

While the split infinitive rule and the rule against preposition stranding can be found on all three lists, Okrent debunks two further, so far excluded myths on her list which attracted my attention…

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Linguistic Girl Power

Bridging the Unbridgeable

We have dealt with numerous language issues such as the oddly misplaced apostrophe, the dangling participle and the new “like” on our blog, but what interests me in particular are the social factors that may or may not pull the strings behind the scene. Does education influence your attitudes towards the acceptability of the often preceived misuse of literally? Do younger people, described by Naomi S. Baron as the Whatever Generation, really accept anything when it comes to language usage? What role does gender play?

Gretchen McCulloch wrote an interesting piece on the role of the latter in language change arguing that young women “are the real language disruptors”. Sociolinguistics studies, such as the ones conducted by William Labov, have shown that women are the driving force behind linguistic innovation. Be it uptalk or the use of like. Women have often been blamed for these language disruptions; a term…

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Gove on grammar, again

Bridging the Unbridgeable

The former Education Secretary  Michael Gove, who has been appointed Lord Chancellor and Secretary of Justice, has been criticised for ‘patronising’ civil servants with his take on grammar. As an English graduate from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University, Gove is known not to play coy when voicing his opinion on correct usage. In 2013, he instructed civil servants in the Department for Education by providing his 10 golden rules. Now, he is back again with his grammatical ‘preferences’ which include avoiding impact as a verb and starting sentences with however, using contractions such as doesn’t or don’t as well as the word ensure. 

Intrigued by this, the Independent looked at some articles which Gove wrote for The Timesduring his time as a journalist and found that, despite his disapproval of starting sentences with however, Gove doesn’t strictly follow his own rule.(Or should I say does not?)

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What kind of grammar nerd are you?

Bridging the Unbridgeable

Today is National Grammar Day in the US and to celebrate this joyful occasion, Grammarly, a company providing a spell checker and grammar checker with the same title, has published a quiz: What kind of grammar nerd are you?

It contains questions on usage problems, such as preposition stranding and the split infinitive, as well as on your attitudes towards textspeak and other usage conventions. For those of you who always wanted to know whether you are a Pedant’s Grammarian or Enlightened Grammarian, simply take the quiz and find it out!

Happy Grammar Day!

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David vs Goliath: Oliver Kamm’s take on English usage

Bridging the Unbridgeable

I have to admit that reading usage guides can get somewhat boring. Their authors, most of them prescriptivists and literally old-school, frequently use a similar set of usage problems discussing them in a similar manner and expressing similar attitudes. If you read one prescriptive usage guide, your second will most probably not rock your world. On my visit to Oxford last week, I discovered however a rather peculiar usage guide, whose title immediately caught my attention: Accidents will happen: The non-pedantic guide to English usage.

Written by Oliver Kamm, leader writer and columnist for The Times, this usage guide was only recently published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and thus dethrones Steven Pinker’s Sense of Style as the most recent usage guide. What intrigued me was Kamm’s point of view on language, which definitely struck a chord with me. He emphasises how native speakers of English need to be…

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