Category Archives: Rants and pontifications

English grammar: an introduction

Over the summer I attended a New Testament Greek class. It’s been great fun to be geeky about Greeky grammar with like-minded individuals. Of the eight of us, there were quite a few languages represented. My chum has a Polish background, there was someone who had studied Hebrew, another had some Latin and someone else had dabbled in a little Arabic. In the last lesson yesterday, our tutor, an enterprising Oxford Theology undergraduate, let us loose on translating verses from the Bible. In pairs, we puzzled out all the elements of grammar she had taught us; tenses, genders, cases, exceptions to the rules and so we creaked our way through the actual text rather than the practice sentences that had been used to demonstrate the point we had been learning.

Grammar provides the scaffolding for building sentences. English grammar has its pitfalls – and because I hear so many mistakes made in the British media these days – I am going to write a series of short posts on correct usage. Shockingly, basic mistakes are not only made in speech when one might be forgiven for speaking quickly or forgetting what one has said at the beginning of a long sentence, I see these mistakes in print, too.

The first post to be published shortly will be on when to use ‘I’ and ‘me’.

I know, I know. It seems elementary, dear Watson, but clearly not so simple because so many people get it so wrong. So frequently, in fact, that I cannot stay silent on the subject any longer.

Just answer the question!

Gentle readers, this post is officially the first in my new category of Rants and Pontifications.  You have over the years been mistreated and exposed to some of my outbursts of exasperation. Those were unofficial. Kind of. In honour of having recently been subject to some rather irritating situations about which I have not had time to blog I now feel it is the time to formalise these situations by awarding them a section all of their very own.

Rants are likely to feature wailing and gnashing of teeth about irritating people and/or situations whereas Pontifications may be more soap-box in style where I disclose How Things Should be Done – and Would Be Done If I Ruled the World.

So. Fasten your seat belts for a Rant.

Some time ago, an acquaintance and I fell into conversation and found we had a mutual area of interest. He was keen to pursue our interest by forming a club. I took soundings and duly advertised the launch of proposed club in the village. A few people came on the date suggested and a club was shakily launched. One person, who would be a key asset to the club, expressed an interest but said she could not manage to meet on the evening arranged.

I sent an email to the other members saying, “Tell me all the evenings of the week you are free and I will sort out the one which is the best for the majority.” I even bossily emboldened the word “free“. Of those who have deigned to reply by the deadline (which was given because we need to advertise any change of date in the next village newspaper that is issued only 3 times a year), most have said “Oh yes, Thursdays are fine for me.” One has even said “I’ve told a lot of friends that we meet on Thursdays and they may be coming along, too.”

Gah. I know Thursdays are fine for you; you came to the last meeting on a Thursday; I want to know which other nights of the week are also good. Believe me, dear club members, if we can meet on an evening that is not Thursday, we will all benefit hugely from our potential Key Asset member. I am not asking you to change your evening for some perverse reason of my own… it is done entirely with your interests in mind.

I had been trying to sort this thing out efficiently – but now I’m going to have to send another email (I shall have to try not to be too bossy or patronising – but really, how difficult is the question?) and cross my fingers that they get the message this time.

Another most irritating thing about this is that My Acquaintance whose enthusiasm for the idea sparked the whole venture in the first place did not come to the first meeting and has not even replied to the most recent email.