Saturday, June 18, 2005


Being an English teacher can get you into the odd fight here and there. You wouldn't think it, would you? But I can distinctly recall several educated grown-ups asking me what I thought of Lynne Truss's rampant, best-selling book on "good English", Eats, Shoots and Leaves. And when I told them I hated it, they beat me up, yelling "you call yourself an English teacher and you don't care about the corruption and defilement of the language?!"
"No, not really", I whimpered through the storm of blows, "language change is exciting".

So, three loud reverberating cheers this week for Kate Burridge, professor of Lingusitics at Monash University, and her new book which celebrates language change. Wahey, I got a professor on my side! (Or maybe I'm on hers...) Only she's way cooler, because I only got duffed over in the staffroom whereas she's had death threats from the apostrophe support group for suggesting we should bin that annoying little curly thing. Now those people really do need to get out more...

So, check the article out, and in the spirit of linguistic liberation, what "weed words" would you add to the list, and what "rules" would you bin?

Lover of English slang takes on Truss and tradition

And here's a more detailed take on the same story:

On your marks


At 12:58 am, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Great post! I read it soon after it was posted and then came back to it again today. Language change, "standard" dialects of English (a descriptive concept for me, not prescriptive), and what rules are still legitimate for good literary English are all topics of great interest to me. I've been blogging on all of them.

I'll a little tired right now from my work day, so my brain is slow, but I would dump into the trash bin the obvious rules that are often mentioned such as:

1. Do not end a sentence with a preposition.
2. Do not split an infinitive.

I, personally, would like to see English style manuals give more legitimacy to the use of the singular-they, as well as generic "he" (for those who still use it). Oh, I would trash all statements that proscribe use of the singular-they.

And (!) I would trash the rule some teach saying we should not begin a sentence with "and."

This is fun. I'll be back.

At 8:29 am, Blogger E-Julie said...

Glad you had fun here, Wayne! Count my vote in to the not ending sentences with a preposition campaign. The change that interests me most is the way that young people (amongst those I teach anyway) are using 'of' instead of 'have' in sentences such as 'I could have passed that exam if I'd tried'. This is based on phonological similarity in rapid connected speech. Maybe this is particularly true of Estuary English, but I shall be interested to see how this one evolves. And despite my best descriptive tendencies, I'm afraid I still wince at that one!


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