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Pedantry

I have been accused of grammar and spelling pedantry in the past, an accusation that I don't think is entirely fair. I'm not a true, kill-them-if-they-split-an-infinitive, American-spelling-is-JUST-PLAIN-WRONG-even-if-you're-an-American blowhard, though it does irritate me when the media misuse language because it's their job, dammit. What occasioned this though was an email I received today. Now, our clients at work are librarians, which might predispose one to expect a fairly high standard of literacy. Nope. I know email is an essentially informal communication medium, but you'd think they could at least run a bloody spell-checker over their messages, wouldn't you? Still, as I was saying above, I try not to be too judgmental. After all, some of these people might be non-native English speakers for example, more deserving of admiration than nit-picking.

And then you get an email exchange like this:

'4086':It dusnot let us use the noloans, we have also tyed "no loans", "no loan", "loans" and "loan". but non of them work.
Me:I'm afraid that the nature of your support contract is such that we can only respond to support requests from your support group leader. According to our records, this is Ms. X of Y. We apologise for the inconvenience.
Regards.
'4086':You are not going to to tell me what the ansere is because you dont know the ansere! I have spoke to 5 difront people and non of them know!


What, I ask myself, the fuck?

Now, occasionally, to leaven the boredom of picking the phone at work, I will answer in a Scottish accent. This has a slight but enlivening element of danger, as a number of our customers are actually Scottish and as such, could easily come to the conclusion that I'm taking the piss. Which in a way, I suppose I am. I had never considered taking this to the extreme of '4086': actually answering email in an Irvine Welsh-esque faux dialect.

Maybe next week.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
truecatachresis
Jun. 14th, 2002 09:50 am (UTC)
As if you didn't expect it to happen...
I'm not a true, kill-them-if-they-split-an-infinitive, American-spelling-is-JUST-PLAIN-WRONG-even-if-you're-an-American blowhard


And, indeed, neither am I, despite your implication. The split infinitive is a grammatical form which has its place in language use. The Victorian-created objection to its use has its basis in Latin etymology, and does have a valid point, as separation of parts of the verb should probably be avoided if there is no good reason to maintain clarity. However, it is rare that this actually causes a problem, and the case of split infinitives should be decided generally on a more stylistic point of view. If the stylistic interpretation of two forms is undecuded between the split and unsplit infinitives, then I would recommend use of the non-split infinitive. However, it is a tawdry issue to complain about in English, especially considering the cases in the language where the infinitive can not be split in the first case. Only some uses of the infinitive involve the use of the word "to".

On the issue of American spelling, obviously Americans writing for Americans should be using American spelling, even where it is wrong. The problem is the fact that American spelling is wrong in the first place, not that Americans use that wrong spelling.

However, to cloud the issue is the fact that not all American spellings are wrong. In the conflict between English English and American English, in a number of cases, American English is actually correct and English English is incorrect. For example, a tap is more properly a faucet, and the addition of the letter "u" in such words as "colour" is a false reverse engineering to French ancestry which never truly existed. In the example case, "color" truly is more objectively "correct".

The problem with incorrect language usage is not primarily in the distinctions drawn between American and English, but in the abuse of either by pathetic individuals who do not have the self respect to spell correctly or use proper grammar. What they fail to realise is that spelling and grammar are a tool to communication; proper usage of them allow us to understand what another is trying to communicate. Poor usage (as in the case of '4086') at best makes the reader think more poorly of the user (and in said case assume that the request for help is likely a result of the idiocy of the user) and at worse actually disguises the message such that the reader does not understand the communication.

In the case of non-native speakers, in many cases they can be easier to understand because they will tend to use simple constuctions if they do not have a good grasp on the language, because that is all they have the ability to use themselves. Should they have a more reasonable grasp, they will tend to be better at communicating than those native speakers without one, even if their message does not sound "natural" as it were, tending towards a style more akin to their native language. One advantage in the written medium is the lack of strange and disturbing accents, which in the spoken tongue can cause severe problems in communication.

Of course, I realise that the inclusion of hyperlinks in your text was clearly an incitement to rant, so I have obliged. There are no calls to the Helpdesk at the moment, so I don't have anything better to do. Congratulations to whoever spots the grammatical error in this entry; the use of a conjunction to begin a sentence does not count.
(Deleted comment)
truecatachresis
Jun. 14th, 2002 11:00 am (UTC)
Re: As if you didn't expect it to happen...
Actually, your written English is generally extremely good. I was making generalised points in my commentary.

Only in your spoken English does the strange and disturbing accent show through. The construction of your speech is excellent, but I do at times find it hard to understand your accent, and weird, French witch ways. It is the mindset that confuses me as much as the accent, but not the actual English itself.

What, however, is this punishment of which you speak? What were you doing in Sheffield?

(PS My name is spelt in the bastardised English form, Ian, as opposed to the original and proper Scottish Iain.)
(Anonymous)
Jun. 27th, 2002 02:31 am (UTC)
Thoughtfulness
There are jobs, and then there is work, and then there's a Vocation. Clearly your correspondents have jobs of the come-day-go-day-God-send-Sun-day-I-wanna-die variety.

Alex, read yer goblin e-mail and call me at ATG!

Katherine
Formerly known as a Blackwell's employee
ex_decora454
Jun. 27th, 2002 07:48 am (UTC)
Re: Thoughtfulness
what a nerd
raveninverse
Sep. 13th, 2002 03:29 pm (UTC)
Hey... Okay, this has nothing to do with your post -- sorry -- but you're the only person who is interested in both China Miéville and Michael Marshall Smith, so I thought I'd post a comment and say congratulations on your good taste. ;) *Runs away!*
applez
Oct. 10th, 2002 03:10 pm (UTC)
Hiya!
Alx and Ian, everyone else ...

The thread seems quite far along, so there's not much I can add at this stage except to slide into the role of American blowhard if so requested. :0)

Zac :)

P.S. When are you back in Oxford dammit - I'll be wanting to ring up the old Rod o' Iron and Gravity Ant Girl!

P.P.S. In the interim, my new LJ covers briefly what I've been up to the past two years.
applez
Oct. 10th, 2002 03:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Hiya! (Yay Pedantry!)
OK, come to think of it, there is something I can add.

This has less to do with English English v American English as it has to do with good and poor English. It seems speakers on both sides the Atlantic have a tendency to use 'got' a great deal. Maybe it's just a pet peeve, but I find 'got' a very weak word.

"We just have got to do this" ... entirely extraneous

or

"You just got those boxes out?" ... surely 'sent' would be better.

---

Still, a new-ish and popular (in California at least) word is 'hella' as in 'that was hellafunny' seems to be conquering linguistic territory with a viral pace.

Help!

:-)
applez
Oct. 11th, 2002 02:37 pm (UTC)
Unrelated
Neat Brunching Shuttlecocks website Alx ...

According to the cyborger, I'm:

Zealous
Assassination
Construct

Beware!

Zac :)
paris_of_priam
Oct. 29th, 2002 12:28 pm (UTC)
Hahah! "Oxford slacker?" I'm confused. Is that an oxymoron or a truism? ;)
oxfordhacker
Dec. 17th, 2002 07:35 am (UTC)
No.
jinty
Nov. 20th, 2002 05:23 am (UTC)
Just following up last night's conversation -- retcon is not in the OED but is in various online dictionaries (which seem to have copied it from each other) and at least one unrelated e-article. How about it!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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