Archive for August, 2016

grammarNOW! Language Humor: Language Pedants Have No Fun

I hope I am not a pedant, but even those who are must enjoy this artful commentary:

Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography – Language – YouTube

Language should be enjoyable. There are circumstances that call for correctness and others that call for pleasure. Being grammatically wrong can be fun if it is intentional. So what’s “wrong”? There are basic grammatical rules for communication that should be adhered to in order to be understood and that keep one from being thought of as illiterate or unintelligent. Then there are more specific rules that keep writing or speaking from being unclear or unpleasant as a result of confusion. These are the “rights” and “wrongs” of grammar.

It is important to know the difference between grammar and style, but that’s another post. Stay tuned, and meanwhile, enjoy your language.

 


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grammarNOW! Language Commentary of the Week: So . . .

Interviewer: How did you come up with this amazing invention?

Inventor: So I put two paperclips together and . . . .

How many sentences do you hear beginning with the conjunction “so”? Far too many. As Geoff Nunberg of NPR writes, this little word usually ” introduces some background qualification that the question calls out for . . . ,” the backstory the speaker or writer feels compelled to give in order to answer the question. Another post on NPR in reply to a reader question speculates “that the word ‘so’ generally functions as a better verbal pause than ‘um’ while an interviewee may be considering how to phrase their response to a question.”

While I do not think that “um” is an effective (not to say useful) verbal pause, I disagree that “so” functions better. In what way? How is “so” better? It has no more meaning than “um.” Nevertheless, it does have some usefulness: “So is not being used just to fill a pause, it seems, but as a tool for conversation management” (Dictionary.com). I will concede that it is useful for bringing the conversation back to a previous direction. Otherwise, it is an irritating verbal tic picked up from all the usages one hears without discerning whether to perpetuate them.

“So” can be properly used as a conjunction within a sentence to connect thoughts that need connecting, but I highly dislike its use as a sentence starter, and I sincerely hope this trend doesn’t stick.

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