Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Bring back the grammar police

What's with this modern habit of gluing words together for no valid reason? I have a suspicion that it's born out of a generation who had no training in formal grammar.

I just picked up a leaflet from my local Focus DIY store advertising a discount card for the over fifty-fives. Do they not realise that their target audience is the last bastion of formal grammar and a generation likely to contain more than its fair share of linguistic pedants?

The leaflet tells me that if I apply for a card I can enjoy "10% off with this card everyday" Er, no. "Everyday", when written as a single word, is an adjective meaning run-of-the-mill, commonplace. The word "everyday" carries connotations of being a bit dull or boring. I don't think that's what they meant. No, Focus, it should be "10% off with this card every day" - two words

The leaflet then goes on to encourage me to "apply instore today". By now, I am resisting the urge to scream. This has to be my biggest pet hate of them all. Who was it who decided it was OK to write "instore" as one word? The OED only admits to the existence of the hyphenated form "in-store". This can be used as an adjective or, according to OED, as an adverb. I suppose it parses as an adverb in the context used in the store leaflet but "instore" isn't even a word. At the very least it should be hyphenated but why even that? What's wrong with "apply in store today"?

I know language is constantly changing but there's usually a sort of logic to it, and it's normally driven by spoken usage. Writing "everyday" when you really mean "every day" is just a mistake, plain and simple. I am confident that if you asked the author of this leaflet to read it out there would be that almost imperceptible pause between "every" and "day" that implies it to be two separate words. As for "instore" why is it OK to join these two words but not others? Would it be OK for me to write that I am composing this blog entry athome?

Yes, language is changing, but is that an excuse to throw away all the rules and write things any way we please? Personally, I think there have to be some rules. Without them, I might have chosen to write "anyway we please" in the first sentence of this paragraph, and that would have meant something else entirely.

I think I'd like to start a subversive movement. I encourage you all to join. Whenever you see missing spaces on signs outside shops (can you see something that's missing? I guess so) correct them in felt tip pen. Cross out erroneous apostrophes and ink in the missing ones. There's a billboard in my home town advertising "tattoo's by Seth" that upsets me so much whenever I drive through that it distracts me from my driving. Perhaps I should make a stand and cross out the apostrophe. Even my local medical centre has one: "please respect other patient's privacy", begging the question which other patient?

Or am I the last of a dying breed and I should just let the younger generation get on with it, flouting the rules of grammar and punctuation without let or hindrance?


Keefieboy said...

Hear hear. Or here here. Or even hearhear.

Elaine said...

I always thought it was "here here" (but I guess that's just what you hear!!) I agree anyway :-)
The only other thought I can add is that sometimes a space might creep in that's in smaller font which makes it look like people don't know how to spell or compose words when really they just don't pay due attention to the final product before printing ;-)

Keith Sheppard said...

According to my "New Penguin English Dictionary", the expression of approval is spelt (or is that spelled? my dictionary allows either) hear hear. I wonder what the derivation might be. Perhaps short for "I hear you (and agree)".

Good point Elaine about narrow spaces. It's had me lining a ruler up with my Focus flier and I can confirm that, in this particular case, there isn't one iota of space between "every" and "day".

In the end, poor spelling and poor proof reading are both symptoms of a more general decay. People just don't care any more about these details that are so important to my generation.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you Keith . I recently was asked to proof read a draft for a booklet. I suggested 'different FROM'instead of 'different TO',and 'evidence WHICH' instead of 'evidence THAT'. I was informed by the author that her publisher wasn't bothered about phrases similar to these, as the publication was for "the American market" !!

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't it be 'in THE store'?

Keith Sheppard said...

On reflection, 'in the store' would be grammatically ccorrect but perhaps imply a specific store. Maybe 'in any Focus store' or (according to the OED) 'apply in-store today', the hyphen neatly turning the phrase into an adverb. However, since my original posting, Focus DIY stores no longer exist. I'd like to think their demise was a direct result of their poor written English but, alas, I somehow doubt that this is the case.