Tag Archives: grammar

A unique volume? I beg your pardon?

A unique volume of fairytales handwritten and illustrated by JK Rowling fetched nearly £2 million at auction today, far surpassing Sotheby’s estimated selling price of a mere £50,000.

JK Rowling fairytale book sold for £2 million – Times Online

Shouldn’t that be ‘an’ unique? Isn’t this The Times? Don’t they stick to ludicrous, unnatural grammatical conceits any more? Is there no constancy in the world?

It’s not a fricking anniversary.

Quick early-morning rant. Why oh why do people keep on referring to events that happened a number of months or even days ago as an anniversary? Do they realise how bloody stupid they sound using a word that specifically denotes the passing of a whole year to congratulate themselves on their pathetic tally of days in a relationship? Well golly gee whizz, you managed a whole four months without cheating on each other, bully for you. Now piss off, come back in 8 months time and maybe I’ll let you use the word without smacking you in the face. Grudgingly, mind, as I am firmly of the opinion that anniversaries in relationship terms are from date of marriage. Anything else gets no kudos and more importantly, no presents.

Not only that but the Times today referred to a date as a 150 day anniversary. Uh? That’s so wrong it just doesn’t bear thinking about. Yak.

Sigh. Is it just because of my classical education that the word screams YEAR, I’M REFERRING TO A YEAR, LOOK AT ME, I WANT TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH PERIODS OF TIME MEASURED ONLY IN YEARS, NOTHING ELSE WILL DO MY LATIN AND SUBSEQUENTLY MIDDLE ENGLISH ROOTS JUSTICE? Or is it as screamingly obvious to everyone who isn’t a dumb fuck journalist or soppy teenager? 

The split passive infinitive question

I’ve been checking this out a little bit since my previous post on the subject. (For checking out please read looking at a couple of internet pages, nothing more in depth) and it seems that yes, ‘to be no longer considered’ is acceptable English, as ‘to be considered’ is a verb phrase and therefore not verboten to split.

I also discovered that split infinitives were frowned upon because Latin didn’t split them, and so why should English? Perfectly sound logic. Umm… I mean there was tmesis for prepositions in verbs (I can only picture that in Greek, but must have existed in Latin too), but it would be difficult to put an ambul in one part of the sentence and the are in another. Metella ambul in horto are amat. Umm… nope. LolLatin?

In the process, however, I found a lot of comments about how stupid people are for worrying about split infinitives in the first place. The best of these comes from Bill Bryson, “Mother Tongue” (quoted on this page):

I can think of two very good reasons for not splitting an infinitive.

  1. Because you feel that the rules of English ought to conform to the grammatical precepts of a language that died a thousand years ago.
  2. Because you wish to cling to a pointless affectation of usage that is without the support of any recognized authority of the last 200 years, even at the cost of composing sentences that are ambiguous, inelegant, and patently contorted.

Which is precisely why I shall continue to scorn them.

Incidentally I’ve just had one of those ‘ohhh, that’s where the word comes from’ moments for the word ‘amble’. See, kids, Latin can be fun. Err…

When is an infinitive not an infinitive?

In the shower just now I was thinking about splitting infinitives. Now we know the traditional ‘to boldly go’ type of split infinitive. But I was just wondering where you draw the line in verbs that have more than one word, like those in the passive voice.

So, ‘to be considered’ – can you split that? Do you just take the ‘to be’ as the verb or the whole shebang, as it is technically the whole verb, the ‘considered’ being the participle. So if you want to say that something can no longer be considered something else, would you say ‘no longer to be considered’ or ‘to be considered no longer’ or could you put ‘to be no longer considered’, which forces the ‘considered’ into more of an adjectival form.

Hmm. May have to find a grammar book. Do they exist any more?