My co-blogger, Emily, has alerted me to the following story: An English lecturer wrote the words: A woman without her man is nothing on the whiteboard and asked her students to punctuate it correctly. All the males in the class wrote: A woman, without her man, is nothing. All the females in the class wrote: A woman: without her, man is nothing. The choice between a comma and a colon makes a huge difference in meaning. Punctuation is powerful.
As you get older, you tend to reflect on the people who influenced your early life. Looking back, I can honestly say that Jumbo Mercer made a major impact in my formative years, but then if Stephen King had attended the same school he’d have had an impact on him too. Despite the nickname, Jumbo wasn’t fat; he was stocky, confident and showy, whilst I was skinny, nervous and introverted. Bullying in English single sex schools at that time was as much a part of the curriculum as the ‘three Rs’: they… Read More
My schooldays are long past, but I still expect there to be some sort of censure when people make poor use of the English language. Sadly this deterioration is happening at such a rate these days that an army of pedants couldn’t correct or punish the culprits. Newly minted words, phrases and abbreviations are inflicted on us, totally unchallenged, by the Education System or the Media. Like most kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds in the 1940s, elocution wasn’t high on my education list, but that didn’t stop the English teachers of the… Read More
It was William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, who took as his motto “Manners makyth Man” as long ago as the fourteenth century. His chosen maxim was fairly revolutionary at the time as it implied that good manners, including adherence to norms of politeness and good conduct are what distinguish someone and make them a rounded, attractive and successful individual. The words meant that an individual is defined, not by birth, money, or property, but by how he or she behaves towards other people. The maxim seems to have worked for William,… Read More