Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pot Calling the Kettle Fat?

Sorry, can't resist. I realise grammatical pedantry these days is about as fashionable as a petticoat, but if the Australian wants to position itself as judge, jury and executioner, it might want to go in a little better prepared next time.

Today's editorial is the usual neo-conservative garbage - state education system is filled with Marxists, postmodernism is destroying the capacity of children to learn the fundamentals, blah blah - but it's the heading to which I want to draw attention:

Kids must learn spelling, grammar and punctuation

That is, so you can write all good and proper-like, like the Oz editorialists:

It is the pedagogical equivalent of the Australian Institute of Sport abandoning their world's-best practices for training elite athletes to tell runners that their times don't matter and swimmers that "wetness" is just a Western cultural construction.

The heading, which perhaps could be written on the blackboard a hundred times, should be changed to:

The Australian must learn how to use singular possessive pronouns correctly

That is, the Australian Institute of Sport, being a singular institution, might abandon ITS (hopefully not IT'S, which would be another likely Oz fluff-up) world's best practices for...etc., NOT their world's best practices...etc.

But hey, what would I know. I'm an evil postmodern by-product of Marxist indoctrination.

If you're finding this all painfully boring, never fear - there are pictures of pretty men below.

20 Comments:

At 23/3/06 2:29 pm, Blogger M-H said...

And why do baby goats need to learn any of this anyway? Pedantry roolz!

 
At 23/3/06 6:02 pm, Anonymous Bazza (Jamie Cullen then the crows...WOW!) said...

How about going back to "Phonics"! What ever that was.

 
At 23/3/06 7:36 pm, Blogger ninglun said...

Thanks for giving me a topic! http://newfloating.blogspot.com/2006/03/adventures-of-queerpenguin-march-23.html

 
At 24/3/06 10:01 am, Blogger Splatterbottom said...

Postmodernism is a self-refuting theory.

If you swear that there's no truth, who cares? How come you say it like you're right? - Conor Oberst

 
At 24/3/06 10:19 am, Blogger Sam said...

That doesn't make the Oz any less incorrect however, SB.

 
At 24/3/06 10:37 am, Blogger Splatterbottom said...

That doesn't make the Oz any less incorrect however, SB.

It's a newspaper - you were expecting something sensible????

The journalists are obviously suffering from the effects of their miserably poor education.

 
At 24/3/06 11:45 am, Blogger Sam said...

I expect a basic standard of correct grammar, syntax and punctuation, particularly in an editorial piece devoted to criticising these standards in the education system.

 
At 24/3/06 9:11 pm, Anonymous cameron said...

Thank you. It's good to see someone else picks up things like this. I had an amusing experience at work the other week where I'd circulated one of my brochures for comment and it had been returned with apostrophes inserted into half my third person possessive pronouns.

I was very proud of the fact that instead of screaming and hurling said draft across the office at the person responsible I merely put sugar in her petrol tank and carried out a bit of creative photoshopping on her staff page profile.

That should encourage her to learn the difference between it's and its.

Long live grammar fascism!

 
At 25/3/06 3:13 pm, Blogger HDZ said...

"By rights [they] should be taken out and hung, for the cold blooded murder of the English tongue." :)

Incidentally, the use of "kid" to mean "child" goes back a very long way. I did look it up once - it is either Middle English or Elizabethan, but I can't remember which at the moment.

 
At 26/3/06 12:22 pm, Blogger Bruce said...

Splatterbottom,

Postmodernism is a broad range of philosophy. The most central tennet is that "truth" is elusive, not that it doesn't exist (although some caps beleive it doesn't.) There are several epistemologies within POMO and you have just made a straw man out of many of them...

Anyway... What I was going to say is that I find it amusing that the right likes to lump Marxists and postmodernists together given how anti-POMO the Marxist camp is.

 
At 26/3/06 12:23 pm, Blogger Bruce said...

BTW. Are you a Linux user Sam?

 
At 26/3/06 7:07 pm, Blogger Tim said...

using possive pronouns in this fashion is a growing trend and has been embraced by many as a useful way of getting around the lexical dilemmas of inclusive language among other things. For example it is much more inclusive and less cumbersome to say "A cat should sit on their mat" rather than "A cat should sit on his or her mat" or even worse "A cat should sit on his mat".

While strictly speaking a singular possessive pronoun would be the traditional word of choice our language is changing and we can't bury our heads in the cloud by insisting that our choice of pronoun is and always will be correct.

It reminds me of a picture I once saw of an anti gay marriage demonstration in America where queer hecklers were running around, taunting their opponents with placards saying "The earth is flat!"

 
At 26/3/06 7:26 pm, Blogger Sam said...

Tim: Avoiding gender-exclusive pronouns as you are suggesting may be an issue in this case were the English language to have gender specificity for inanimate nouns and objects, as other languages do, but the fact is we don't.

The issue you raise may be relevant to cats or dogs but it's hardly relevant to a gender non-specific institution.

Having an appreciation of the basics of the English language is hardly burying one's head in the sand.

 
At 26/3/06 10:32 pm, Blogger Tim said...

Sam: Whether you use the construction in a gender or non gender specific circumstance the end result is the same: that the plural pronoun is used to refer to a singular noun.

 
At 27/3/06 3:18 pm, Blogger ninglun said...

The entry I did in response to this makes the point that this problem arises with collective nouns or noun phrases denoting a team or institution: is "Parliament" singular or plural when we come to select a matching verb? It is actually quite a ticklish issue where correctness and idiom can part company.

Good to see English language stimulating so much discussion!

 
At 27/3/06 6:36 pm, Blogger Splatterbottom said...

Hi Bruce

The most central tennet is that "truth" is elusive, not that it doesn't exist.

What on earth does this mean? That the truth is only available to those with special powers? The high priests of postmodernism, perhaps? Maybe it is available to those who can decode the music of the spheres. There are certainly a lot of cults that would agree with you.

The truth certainly appears to have eluded the left for a very long time now.


Anyway... What I was going to say is that I find it amusing that the right likes to lump Marxists and postmodernists together given how anti-POMO the Marxist camp is.

I am glad you are so easily amused, but maybe there is something that, notwithstanding their differences, Marxists and postmodernists have in common, like that the truth constantly eludes them.

 
At 27/3/06 7:24 pm, Blogger Sam said...

"Whether you use the construction in a gender or non gender specific circumstance the end result is the same: that the plural pronoun is used to refer to a singular noun."

Which would be an issue if we're referring to a noun that has a possible gender element.

Clearly, the Australian Institute of Sport does not.

 
At 30/3/06 1:02 pm, Blogger Arthur_Vandelay said...

What on earth does this mean? That the truth is only available to those with special powers? The high priests of postmodernism, perhaps? Maybe it is available to those who can decode the music of the spheres. There are certainly a lot of cults that would agree with you.

Splatterbottom, you're hilarious. Bruce suggests that the image of postmodernism you're attempting to convey is simply a strawman, and how do you respond? With more strawmen!

The truth certainly appears to have eluded the left for a very long time now.

So . . . what is the truth, Yoda?

 
At 30/3/06 3:34 pm, Blogger Splatterbottom said...

Arthur, the point I made was that if someone tells you that the truth is elusive, but they have the means to get at it, you are probably talking to a snake oil merchant. I think that is fair enough in the circumstances.

When it comes to these matters, I fancy David Stove.

 
At 31/3/06 3:44 pm, Blogger Arthur_Vandelay said...

Arthur, the point I made was that if someone tells you that the truth is elusive, but they have the means to get at it, you are probably talking to a snake oil merchant.

Well, who was telling us that? Certainly not Bruce.

 

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