Friday, January 18, 2013
I checked out some of the blogroll at Throw Grammar From the Train today, and was most entertained and beguiled by The Subversive Copy Editor. One of her posts linked to the video above, for which I'm grateful. Like me, Stephen Fry is clearly a recovering punctuation/spelling/grammar neurotic, but in this talk he goes beyond my critique of grammar bigotry to point out and extol the playful element of language use. I hope my own playfulness is apparent in what I write here, as well as elsewhere -- I think that a lot of my Facebook friends don't recognize its presence in many of my comments there -- but if it isn't, let me stress it here. What I enjoy in good writing isn't the absence of technical errors, but a playfulness and musicality and rhythm that can't be summed up by Fowler's Usage or Strunk and White's Elements of Style. (In fact, those authorities often get it wrong.)
Fry's talk came in handy because my Right-Wing Acquaintance Number 2 complained on Facebook today about people shortening words. "It's medicine, not meds," he grumped. It's both, actually. I pointed out that standard modern English incorporates many shortenings: most obviously contractions ("haven't") and silent e in the past tense. (It used to be standard to pronounce the e in, say, informed -- Jonathan Swift ranted against the tendency to lose the extra syllable, but in vain.) As a recovering PSG neurotic, I admit that some shortenings sound affected and annoy me -- bro, for example -- but I don't see why med should have touched off RWA2's complaint. Oh well, it is a neurosis or something of the kind; it certainly isn't rational, so it's not surprising that people gripe over things of no importance. Fry's remarks are refreshing, and I'll be glad to have the above video handy when I have an attack of grammar grumpiness.