Thursday, 1 May 2008

Oh the excitement....

Soon, very soon, I will be living in a registered heritage asset. Aren't I lucky? I used to live in a building, a listed building, but soon it will be a registered heritage asset.

Margaret Hodge, the blessed Margaret, inspired mangler of the English language (or at least nodder through of an underling's work) was taxed about this a couple of weeks ago on Radio 4. She laughed. "Oh, we'll soon get used to it," she said. Why should we? Why should we have to put up with this pompous waste of words? For a start, it's lazy. Australia already uses the term heritage asset, so instead of trying to think of something less clunky, our civil servants simply lifted the term, and then debased it still further by strapping "registered" onto it.

It is not just ugliness that riles me. My children are used to me leaping up and down when I find mistakes in writing (I have the excuse that one of my other businesses is proof-reading). The thing that drives me to apoplexy quicker than virtually anything else is when the apostrophe is not used correctly. Its and it's is one that particularly bugs me. I taught my daughter the difference, but then found looking through her books one Parent's Evening that she was getting it wrong. I mentioned this, in a steely manner, to her teacher, who said she would mention it to the teacher concerned, but that they thought the content of her writing was the important thing. When I got home, I asked my daughter what the difference between the two forms was, and she told me: 100% correct. So why don't you do it right at school? I asked. Because they don't bother what I put, she said.

It does matter, though. It matters that you get it right. If your spelling is right, and your punctuation correct then people can concentrate on what you say, rather than being distracted by your mistakes.

I found, thanks to Juliet, this site. Hurrah!

The English language can be confusing: I have a whole shelf of reference books and don't always get it right myself. But I do try, and there are always things I can learn.

7 comments:

Susan in Boston said...

I had an English Composition teacher in college who docked 2 points for EACH AND EVERY punctuation error. An A paper could slide a C awfully quickly, if you were careless enough! (And when you're in college, it's well to remember that you'll be paying off that education for a very long time to come...best to make the most of it!)

My pet peeve of late is rein/reign/rain....I'm astounded how often I see the misuse of the words in PUBLISHED works (both newspapers and books).

winnie said...

I do love that site with the signs on it. I'd like to add one, I often follow it home from work, seething. I get stuck behind a school bus, only I call it the illiterate bus, because of the sign in the back window which says: 'Emergency exit - brake glass'. Well! I should think one would want an emergency exit if the brakes are made of glass...

That's nothing to what I found in a BOOK the other day, in fact two books from the same series, where they had obviously used the spellchecker rather than an intelligent proofreader. They had used wrong words - pouring instead of poring, etc. I did write to the publishers but have yet to receive a reply. Maybe I shouldn't have put in that bit about their proofreaders needing to invest in a dictionary...and a guide to punctuation.

I blame that Lynne Truss - I've not been the same since I read her book.

Jane said...

Yes, it's when it's PUBLISHED it's so awful: in advertisements, or newspapers. It makes me cringe, and yes Winnie, like you, I write in. I haven't spotted rein/reign/rain yet, but I'm sure it won't be long.

I can't blame Lynn Truss completely. In the dim and distant past I sat one of my secretaries down and taught her how to use the apostrophe. It wasn't her fault - poor girl had never been taught.

When your publisher replies (if they do) do let us know what they say!

Another thing that winds me up is when someone takes an innocent word and mangles its meaning: "This exit is alarmed" is one which always makes me picture a poor, defenceless door cringing behind its skirts.

Gillian said...

I loath 'burglerized' - just use 'burgled', damnit.

And get irritated forms asking for the expiration date of my debit card, instead of the expiry date

Jane said...

Gillian - there are so many of those words... innocent nouns doing a perfectly good job until someone seized them and decided to make a verb out of them.

winnie said...

I got a reply from the publishers yesterday. They were 'aghast' (such a marvellous word) to see that the mistakes had made it into print.
And they sent me two free books!

Jane said...

Well done Winnie! And free books too....