To worry or not to worry by Angela Caldin

Case numbers of Covid-19 are rising again in the UK, but many people are going about their daily lives as though this was not a cause for concern. There’s a recent photo of the Conservative benches in the UK House of Commons in which the MPs sit squashed together shoulder to shoulder while their leader speaks at the despatch box. They look rather bored by whatever it is he is saying and you can see this from their facial expressions which are visible because the great majority are not wearing a mask…. Read More

Power and corruption by Angela Caldin

‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Famous words from 19th Century historian and politician Lord Acton to Bishop Creighton. He also said, ‘I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as power increases.’ I was thinking about these wise words in the wake of the revelations this week in the Pandora Papers which show how the love… Read More

Dangling modifiers by Angela Caldin

Most people know a modifier when they see one. A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that clarifies or describes another word, phrase, or clause. But do they know a dangling modifier when they see one? I like the term dangling modifier because it is so evocative and so unlike any other grammatical term. I imagine someone hanging off a cliff or escaping by clinging on to a window sill. With a dangling modifier, the thing it is meant to modify isn’t even in the sentence, so it seems to modify… Read More

The abstruse apostrophe by Angela Caldin

I’ve been pondering this week on apostrophes. What a sad life she must lead, I hear you sigh. But actually this particular case is quite interesting. It concerns the question of whether there should be an apostrophe after a plural adjectival or attributive noun. Specifically, I was writing up the notes of our recent residents meeting and wondering if there should be an apostrophe after residents or not. I looked it up and it seems that in this case, either would be acceptable: Residents’ meeting – the word residents’ is a possessor. The phrase could be rewritten… Read More

Common expressions often misspelt by Angela Caldin

It’s not baited breath; it’s bated breath. It’s not that your breath has some kind of bait attached to it; the idea is that your breath is held or restrained. Bated is a shortened version of abated which means to lessen. It’s not free reign; it’s free rein. This is a straightforward misinterpretation and an understandable mistake. We have a notion of reigning kings and queens doing as they please, that is, having free reign. But the rein in this expression is the strap used by a rider to control a horse…. Read More