and another thing

Tue, Dec 19, 2006

I stumbled across Miles Metcalfe’s blog post about grammar and I started following links around the ‘net looking for confirmation that you can indeed now start a sentence with a conjunction. But I hear you scream. That’s crap English. Of course it is. But, well, yer but no but yer but… You can’t end a sentence with a conjunction yet, but.

Back in school I was taught to make use of joined up script and to think likewise. Not in starts and stops. I gave up reading National Geographic as it was too disjointed. The pictures were stunning but try reading the text. No thanks. I’m not a goldfish you know, you can hold my attention for more than one paragraph. I like sentences that flow into each other using elegant language constructs that an educated person can follow, allowing them to build up a mental picture of the writer of such prose. I can’t stand the crap you get in National Geographic.

Conjunction commencement is just a sympton of a lazy fat chav-o-verse that’s growing, literally, in front of the nation’s tv sets. Staccato conversation between bursts of gratuitous screen violence. Syllabically challenged gruntings between goals. Can’t miss the action on the box. Conversation becomes protocol noises on the wire. Just enough information conveyed to procure another lager tinny.

Then there’s the Americanisation of English. I always make a point of asking vendors of ez software, “My good fellow, what does the Z stand for?”. I always pronounce it as it’s meant to be pronounced by any civilised individual, “ee-zed”. They always think I’m a crank, which I probably am but a grammatically correct crank, thank you very much.

Truncation and numerical substition I can just about understand. You know, you’re on the train from Mallaig to Glasgow and you’re about to go into the 50,000th tunnel and you’ve got to text ahead for a taxi. “u got 1”. Phew, made it before the tunnel. Of course, an educated person would have a coverage map of the route and would prepare a grammatically correct text, ready for sending at the next available reasonable signal strength.

But back to conjunctions. But I’ve just done it again but like. Oh dear. I had a great respect for the late Donald Dewar. He was a well read and educated person but he couldn’t speak on the telly. There was a comedy show on the box a long time ago that did a hilarious sketch where the newsnight chap was interviewing our Donald over a video link and the they were lampooning his speech impediment. He used to make excessive use of “ah” and “um” when on the telly and they portrayed this ad nauseam in the sketch. In the end, the interviewer got up and started banging on the top of the telly, thinking the picture was stuck, while Donald kept going “um ah um um um ah”. But Donald never ever wrote “ah and “um” in his speeches or his books.

Conjunctions are the cogs and wheels of our brain. They are the temporary scaffolding upon which we build conversation but now more and more of the populace are not bothering to put the finishing touches on the ediface of erudite speech and are instead just knocking up those kit built sentences and sending them out rough and ready.

How long before we read in the New Chav edition of Gone With the Wind:

“but frankly my dear, um, I don’t give a damn”

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