Monday, 30 April 2012


My sources in the business world tell me that it is now common to get a "pre-warning", for example of things on the agenda for an upcoming meeting. This rather reminds me of other redundancies or tautologies that are now appearing in more formal settings. It used to be that "return back" was the sort of thing said by foreigners. I might even have pointed out that "back" wasn't really needed as "re-" contained that idea. They probably nodded politely, even expressed some interest - and carried on. Now it's common enough with L1 speakers too. And why not? Redundancy, or overkill, you might call it, is common enough in language and there ain't nothing wrong with it.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Just Google Eltse ( if you think I'm silly)

Googling "eltse" reveals a lot of talk about it. Mostly in the US, and mostly saying it's wrong because there's no t in the spelling, which I would never do, of course. Spelling pronunciation is increasing but I can't see it going the whole way and I don't think we can insist on it. Interestingly, one of the first sites to mention it references Labov's research and "intrusive t". I've heard it for years out on the tough streets, of course.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Although / Think of That Too

I sometimes leave a deliberate mistake for my follower to pick up on. Sometimes I just make mistakes and sometimes the software, Spellcheck, and even hardware make them for me eg their /there or it's /its. But with Think of That, I meant, of course, that maybe the association of "though" with "although" may not be remembered in these cases. Or on the other hand, maybe it is remembered and contrasted in some way?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Withany Clan

Is it a myth that there are clans of people called, for example, Clarke-Withany, because they were asked on the phone "Is that Clarke with an e?" I ask because I just checked on Anne from strongest link post.

Stron(g)est Link?

Is it just Anne Robinson on "The Weakest Link" that says "the stron(g)est link? Or is it a trend / is it trending? Is it hyper-correction by northerners or a country-wide trend? When will we hear the first German style "fin(g)er"?

Think of That

I think there are more words with "th-" that begin with the sound of "think" ( unvoiced, lighter-sounding? ), rather than the sound of "that" ( voiced, heavier-sounding?). Is that right? I always stand to be corrected ( don't even think about that expression.) I've noticed several people pronouncing "though" with the lighter sound lately. Peter Gibbs, BBC weatherman) usually does, for example. Listen out, go on, or is it just me? Is it an unconscious idiosyncrasy or perhaps some lurking feeling about "although", maybe the dropping of the first syllable and the l sound? I know most people don't think that much about pronunciation but maybe you do if you are a weatherman - people are always criticising things they say, like "organised rain", or even "bits and pieces" of it.

Rhymes for Else - or Eltse!

Can anyone suggest any one-syllable rhymes for 'else'? Plenty for 'eltse'. See what I mean?

Or Eltse

Is there a movement in pronunciation away from 'else' towards 'eltse' with an extra 't'? Perhaps it is easier to grasp or there may be more models / rhymes for it? Melts, belts, welts, Celts, pelts, Feltz?

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


Is this being used more nowadays as a "posh" version of although, while at the same time losing the connection with the original phrase all be it? The pronunciation seems to be changing to a short a? Or I could just be thinking of Lawro again.

Windows Is

Clive James puts a lot of this stuff much better in a poem, "Windows Is Shutting Down". His website is highly recommended (by Jefferson, for what that's worth):

Monday, 16 April 2012

What it is is

Of course, "What it is, is (a question of ...)" etc is a perfectly grammatical ( dare I say? ) and well-established structure in standard BrE. It usually has a comma in writing, which reflects speech, giving a pause for summing up. The two is's(izzis?) are together but separated by a pause or comma. However,grammatically, the first "what it is" is a clause which is the subject of the second is and so doesn't really need separation by punctuation. English doesn't usually (except for some relative clauses and so on) use commas for grammatical purposes so much as to represent speech. Just clearing it up in my own mind. I'll go and have a lie down now. Good night to my follower.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Shops and Bars

Best shop and bar signs of the month (seen from London bus): SELLFRIDGES (specialist fridge shop). NILE BAR

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Sitting in the Hole (again)

What happened to the post answering this question? Anyway, although pundits and managers rarely explain what they mean, I think I've worked out that it is something about playing in the gap between striker(s) and midfIeld. Right, Lawro? Jamie?

Language Change I

"If the changes that we fear be thus irresistible, what remains but to acquiesce with silence as in the other insurmountable distresses in humanity?" There seems no answer to that, or is there? No prizes but I might buy a drink in my local for anyone who could quote the next bit before next week.

Friday, 13 April 2012

IWS Update - Retrospective Regrading

After a request from our follower, there has been a retrospective regrading of some posts. After consideration "Fortuitous" has been regraded MCI and "Incidences" IW. It is not as yet clear how much extra workload this will generate and the IWS will be evaluated in due course. We will try to keep our follower in touch with all developments.

Laters, Placky etc IWS now in place!

I really, really love some new usages, don't you? No, really. I suppose it's easier to love new vocabulary items rather than new grammar, yes, but I really, really do (ANIIAA)love things like "laters" for "see you later" (so concise). And things like "placky" for plastic bag. Really, really. IWS Note: following requests from readers for more clarity on the tone of these posts, it should be noted that a new Irony Warning System (IWS) has been put in place. This is being trialled with a five star rating system. Note: for technical reasons ?? have had to be used rather than stars. ? JW: joke warning, might not be as subtle as irony. ?? IW: irony warning, means the opposite of what it says. ??? MCI: may contain some irony. ???? NII: no irony intended. ????? ANIIAA: absolutely no irony intended at all (as in above item).

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Incidences - words, words, words eh?

We used to have "incidents" but "incidence" used to mean, I think, how often something happened. But now we have "incidences" for "incidents" (R4 News just now). "Incidences" used to be quite a technical word, used by sociologists and scientists. Now it has been democratised - how lovely - to be the plural of incident as well. See, I'm not just an old grouch.


I really like the way football ie soccer commentators say fortuitous instead of lucky. Much posher, isn't it?

Just Sit in the Hole

What would happen if an under-11 footballer - that may be soccer player / socceroo / soccerer to all our US followers, do you use the same phrase, I wonder - were told to "just sit in the hole"?

Shakespeare IV Grammarcheck

There was no prize for spotting April's deliberate mistake, just checking to see if everyone was paying attention. Of course, as several people have pointed out, if Shakespeare had used Grammarcheck programs - no apostrophe please! What was that, a pedantic greengrocers you know what because it's short for programmes? - "bones are coral made" would probably go unchecked as they would parse bones as the subject of are, whereas we know that Shakespeare was probably using coral as an unmarked plural. Or he just didn't care because it sounded better. Or some actor copied it down wrong or misremembered it.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Shakespeare III

My point about "are coral made" was partly about unintelligent grammar- and spellcheck program's. If he were to write "of his bones are coral made" now "are" would be changed to "is" before he knew it.

Got it or Don't Got It?

A: Have you got it? B: No, I don't. A: What? You don't got it, you say? B: No, I don't. I first heard this many years ago from a Northern Irish friend and he seemed to see nothing unusual in the construction. Time has proved him right and me wrong, again. Nowadays most US speakers and possibly most UK under 40s would agree with him. They say NI accents were a big influence in the New World and maybe that's where this grammatical construction and more common use of "don't have" rather than "haven't got" comes from? I still miss the distinction, as in the old joke about the American doctor working in Britain: Dr: Now Mrs Smith how many children do you have? Mrs S:( looking worried) Oh, dear, normally only one at a time, doctor!

Shakespeare II - are coral made?!

Dr Johnson criticised Shakespeare more for things like the dramatic unities (whatever they were) than for grammatical howlers, as he might have seen them. But he did find a lot of inelegancies and wished he'd blotted a thousand - a bit harsh? But what about something like the famous lines from the Tempest: "Full fathom five thy father lies, Of his bones are coral made."? Shurely shome mishtake, Ed? Actually spellcheck corrected that old Private Eye joke the first time - I had to retype the shurely bit. But Shakespeare anticipated Grammarcheck programs by hundreds of years. He could make his own mistakes and even, see previous blog, other people's too. Or are coral like sheep, the same singular and plural? Or is it for the melodious sound? What about "mistakes" with me and I and other pronouns (of the with my friends and I type)? Are they acceptable in Shakespeare because it is poetry, or characterisation?

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Shakespeare! What a character!

That Shakespeare, eh? Very elusive, or was he just an alias for secret agent Marlowe anyway? Dr Johnson criticised him for making thousands of errors but can we be sure these so-called errors were not made by someone else? Not by Bacon, perhaps, but by one of the characters in the play? He certainly produced things of the "between you and I" type, but was this an error or was this the sort of thing that character would say? Come on you Shakespeare corpus analysts, there must be thousands of you out there!

Is is

Is is is (the double copula, including was was, the thing being is etc) now more or less standard, or at least unremarked? John Humphrys on the Today programme on BBCR4 had a bit of a campaign against it a few years ago but now most people around him seem to use it unnoticed - and no, it is not just a hesitation-type reduplication as several linguist say, perhaps because they do not want to be thought prescriptive. Did it begin as an imitation of influential Americans like George W. Bush (but not, I guess, his father)and John McEnroe, two early users?

Is is is

The thing being is, is that that we do tend to copy these famous people.


It seems almost standard to say in the broadcast media things like 'He was a former Cabinet minister' or even 'You were a former TV producer' (Woman's Hour just now). Surely this is a kind of double past and it should be 'you are' (still are, you are still alive). Why does this kind of duplication (redundancy, I think is the term) happen? Is it related to what I call 'word inflation'? Extra syllables, extra words, extra tenses?

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Oo er ee!

Er/ ee! We used to have a distinction between doer and doee, eg employer / employee. Now everything seems to take -ee, surely formerly the French past participle? So we have attendees at conferences but why not attenders? Seems a bit silly to me but I'm sure I'll be told that it's been happening for centuries and reminded of exceptions. But evacuees, for example, we're people who had BEEN evacuated. Is it another useful or meaningful distinction that is being lost?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


It used to be that only giants(or Americans) could throw rocks but now we're doing it here too. Progress : we're getting bigger and boulder.

What comes next?

Firstly,secondly and thirdly seems to have given way to 'first of all, second of all [and on occasion]third of all', which smacks of word inflation. I wonder why people want to increase speech output - enough already. Do they think it sounds more important? Perhaps I'll ask the experts at Guardian style!