Friday, January 31, 2014

Whom watch #4 - On Messrs Gwynne, Lowth, Priestley and Shakespeare, with a few asides on the way

This is the fourth post in a series on the inappropriate teaching of the use of whom. In this post I look at:
  • a silly grammar quiz question
  • some early examples of who being used where the purists would demand whom
  • conflicting views from the writers of two early grammar books
  • how the whom camp triumphed for two centuries
  • examples of object who in Shakespeare
and also take a few somewhat meandering detours on the way. Clicking on the framed extracts will usually take you to Google Books.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A ten-minute walk, ten minutes' walk - expressions with two nouns

Expressions with two nouns to talk about time, distance and other forms of measurement

Two basic patterns

In this post we take a look at using expressions of time, distance, money etc when we use a number with a noun, before another noun, for example:
ten + minute + walk
There are two basic patterns we can use:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Different to revisited

The preposition that most commonly follows 'different', on both sides of the Atlantic, is 'from' - 'She's very different from her sister'. In North America, however, some people also say 'different than', and in Britain, some people also say 'different to'. A year or so ago I discovered that I seem to be one of the latter, on some occasions, at least.
About nine months ago I wrote a post on different to (link below), on how much it is used, and on how acceptable it is, in British English. In this post, I want to take a more historical view, with the aid of Google Books clippings facility, which I've only recently discovered. Click on any of the clippings to see the original at Google Books.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Random thoughts about "on tomorrow"

In January 2001, a correspondent from New Orleans, Louisiana, wrote to the grammar website's GrammarLogs, saying:
Recently, I have heard people at work using the phrases "on yesterday", "on tomorrow" or "on today" in their spoken language and written in memos. (i.e. I spoke to you about this on yesterday)
And the respondent from replied:
That's a new one on me! Is it a regional expression, do you think? Odd how these things crop up from time to time
Since then, there have been quite a few comments on language forums about the use by some people of "on tomorrow", "on today", "on yesterday". And most of the commenters aren't happy, saying things like: "an aurally odious phrase", "Grates on my grammar nerves", "It's nails on a chalkboard to me".
A lot of the comments suggest that those who use this expression, both in speaking and writing, are mainly Afro-American, and it seems most prevalent in the deep South, especially in Georgia and Louisiana. And it seems to be being used by educated people like teachers and junior managers, not necessarily people who use Afro-American dialect (often called AAVE - Afro-American Vernacular English), or at least, not at work. Hoewever, it should be pointed out that quite a few of the negative comments also come from Afro-Americans.
Not being American, I'm a neutral bystander on this one, but rather liking quirky expressions, I was interested to know where it had come from.
Apart from these forum comments, however, there seems to be very little about this expression on the Internet. There is a blanket dismissal at WSU Common Errors (admittedly aimed at college students), and a slightly more understanding discussion at Grammarphobia (see links below), but apart from that, very little.
But when I started poking about in Google Books, I got some rather surprising results.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Random thoughts on Mr Gwynne, sex and gender

Neville Gwynne is the author of a best-selling grammar book 'Gwynne’s Grammar', modestly entitled 'The Ultimate Introduction to Grammar and the Writing of Good English'. I confess to not having read Mr Gwynne's book, but I think we can get a fairly good idea as to the affable Mr Gwynne's attitude to English in various other ways: from an interview he gave on BBC Radio 5, from a grammar quiz he wrote for the Telegraph newspaper, from the Preface, first two chapters and recommended reading from the book itself, available to read at Amazon; and from various reviews, especially rather a long one in the Telegraph.
While I was reading the preface to his book at Amazon, I came across an apparent distinction between the words gender and sex I had only vaguely heard about before.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Brief History of Tense

The standard TEFL model - twelve tenses (or forms)

In EFL and ESL, we usually talk of twelve tenses or forms, each being a combination of a time and an aspect. Although few EFl / ESL writers would talk of a twelve tense system, that's what it really amounts to.
But writers on grammar haven't always seen it like that (and some don't today). As so many old grammar books are available on the web these days, whether at Project Gutenberg, Google Books or, I thought it might be interesting to have a look at how English tenses have been treated over the centuries, and have a look at some old grammar books at the same time. deserves a special mention. Their books are freely available in several formats; the online facsimile versions (which I link to in the text) are very easy to read through and find things in, but they also have other formats for downloading, for example for e-readers.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Having a think about 'another think coming'

If you thought that, you've got another think (or thing) coming

There are now two versions of this idiom in use, one ending in another think coming, and another in another thing coming. People of my generation are probably more familiar with the think version, but if you're under fifty, it's likely that it's the thing version you know.
Although I personally think the repetition of think is the whole point of this expression, it seems that the thing version is more prevalent nowadays. I don't really want to get into discussions about the correctness of one or the other in this post (there's plenty of that in the links), but rather to find early examples of the think version.