I’ve always loved words and writing but it wasn’t until I came to work at Lancaster University’s Linguistics Department that I really became hooked on grammar. Yes, the secondary school I went to was what classified as a “Grammar School” though I can’t remember any particular empahasis on grammar in the curriculum.
Does grammar matter? Many people will castigate you as “illiterate” if you misspell something or use “we was” instead of “we were”. Since “illiterate” means unable to read and write, this isn’t correct. If you are writing, even if you are writing incorrect grammar you can’t be illiterate,
Some claim that usage is all. If enough people start to use “he should of gone” instead of “he should have gone” the first example becomes acceptable. (This is known as a descriptive rather than prescriptive approach and it me it is a load of baloney.)
From Robert Browning’s The Grammarian’s Funeral
So, with the throttling hands of death at strife,
Ground he at grammar;
Still, thro’ the rattle, parts of speech were rife:
While he could stammer
He settled Hoti’s business–let it be!–
Properly based Oun–
Gave us the doctrine of the enclitic De,
Dead from the waist down.
It’s good poem – if rather lengthy. But I can’t imagine anyone I know, even among the linguistics crowd behaving like this!
I am an ardent fan of Lynne Truss and the Apostrophe Protection Society. The rules for using the apostrophe in English are simple and can be grasped by anyone of average intelligence in about 5 minutes. Punctuation MATTERS. It matters more than spelling. A mis-spelt word just looks a bit odd, wrong punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence. Examples often quoted are:”Let’s eat, Grandma.” vs “Let’s eat Grandma.” – the second example shows an unfortunate tendency to canibalism!
Another example: Jane said,”The tennis coach is very sexy.” vs “Jane,” said the tennis coach, “is very sexy.”
Now for one of my poems:
All the world’s a page
And all the people in it, merely words.
They have their conjugations and their tenses
(Not to mention declensions and grammatical gender.)
If we were both words what sort would I be?
If you were a word would you fit next to me
To make sense, make a sentence?
“Adjectives,” said Humpty Dumpty, “Are easiest.
You can do anything with them,
Not like verbs.”
Myself I see as an adjective
Weak, compliant, easily swayed
You, on the other hand, are clearly a verb
Verbal, verbose, even, but active not passive
Concerned with action, movement, making things happen.