Competition (UK): Win a copy of Ellen Jovin's Rebel with a Clause

For years, Ellen Jovin has carted a table, chair and reference books—first around New York City and later all across the United States—to volunteer herself as “The Grammar Table.” In doing so, she gives passers-by the opportunity to ask grammar questions, to vent about grammar (or other people’s grammar), and to learn more about English and other languages. She’s now written a book based on her Grammar Table adventures: Rebel with a Clause. I got to read it pre-publication, and this was my review:

Those who learn grammatical rules are doomed to repeat them. And, boy, do they repeat them—tirelessly, senselessly, bringing us to the point where much of the English-speaking world thinks grammar is boring or difficult or scary. Ellen Jovin is on a mission to rescue us from that joyless fate. Her generosity and curiosity about language is second only to her generosity and curiosity with the people who approach her for grammatical advice. We could all stand to be a bit more Ellen Jovin.

 

The publishers have kindly sent me an extra copy of the book to share with my readers—though I must say, it’s me who’s paying for the postage, so I’m going to concentrate my sharing efforts on my UK readers. The American readers at least have the excitement of knowing that they may run into Ellen’s Grammar Table in their public square or strip mall when she sets up her stall there.  (Rest-of-World readers: Sorry!)

 

To make giving away a book more interesting, I’m going to give it to someone who comments on this blog post with a question for Ellen, and (here’s the exciting part!) you are going to get the Grammar Table experience, because Ellen is going to respond to the questions that show up before the contest deadline.* 

 

So, to enter the competition:

  • Comment on the blog with a question for Ellen by [AmE format] October 2, 2022.
  • Sign your message with a name that will identify you (it need not be your full name) and let us know that you’re in the UK.  (You can comment without being in the UK, but you can’t have the copy of the book.) 
  • Click the ‘Notify Me’ box, so that you’ll see the response to your question AND learn whether you’ve won. If you don't see such a box, there are other ways to be notified...see the comments. 

 

After the [non-AmE format] 2 October deadline, I will put the names of the eligible commenters into a real or virtual hat and draw a winner, then announce that winner in a blog comment, with details on how to email me to claim the prize. I will send the book out to them soon after. 



(BrE) Ready, steady, ask some questions!

*Normal commenting etiquette applies. I reserve the right to delete any comments that I find rude or abusive. Any commenter will only be entered into the contest ONCE. 


AND THE WINNER IS....GRHM!!! 
I'm closing down the comments now to give Ellen a break. 

Thank you so much to Ellen for her generosity in answering the questions, and to everyone who asked a question! 


66 comments

  1. I can't win the prize then as I am in Australia. Mostly my grammar is that looks/sounds right and that looks/sounds wrong, but who and whom have never sunk into my brain. There is a rule, subject or object but I just do not understand. I'd be relieved if someone says using whom is archaic.

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    1. I'm not Ellen, but many people do say that 'whom' is archaic. I still sometimes use it myself. Simple enough - it was used for the object case - "A man whom I knew years ago".

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    2. Whom is stilted/archaic except immediately following a preposition, thus:

      I know who wants to go. [subject]
      I know who you are. [subject complement]
      I know whom he loved. [verb object, stilted]
      I know who he loved. [verb object]
      I know whom you have come from [preposition object, stilted]
      I know who you have come from [preposition object]
      I know from whom you have come [preposition object]

      In short: "I favor whom's doom (except after a preposition)." —William Safire

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    3. Hang on! Aren't we supposed to be letting Ellen answer the questions?

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    4. Haha! I do not feel proprietary about who answers. (Note: Not "whom answers." And the reason I picked "who" there isn't an aversion to "whom.")

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    5. The rule for who/whom is simple, really. Try the sentence with "him" if it sounds wrong, then the correct use is probably "who". If "him" sounds fine, then the correct use is probably "whom".

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    6. That "him" rule isn't always so easy to sort out in a sentence, though. Andrew, I don't have strong feelings about your dropping "whom," especially not in certain cases. The thing is, some whom-dropping goes over better than other whom-dropping, and I agree with the spirit of the examples John posted above. Sometimes "whom" is actually kind of weird-sounding, and sometimes it's not. By the way, here are two sentences for people who happen to enjoy "who"/"whom" challenges:
      1. To __________ (whoever, whomever) stole my computer, I have reported you to the campus police!
      2. Ramona, ________ (who, whom) I think is a pest, was just awarded a prize for good citizenship.

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  2. Alas, the "Notify me" button seems to be a thing of the past.

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    1. The 'notify me' button (or [BrE} tick box) is there as soon as I start typing a comment

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    2. No such button/box here. For a long time I've been using blogtrottr.com to send me notifications instead of wrestling with Google's nonsense. It's much simpler, much more reliable, and there's no need to register.

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    3. (Other, similar, services are available!)

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    4. Hi Grhm, I just made a Twitter poll about the punctuation of "similar" in such constructions. That's always an interesting one. Here it is in case you'd like to see it: https://twitter.com/GrammarTable/status/1574204296257671169

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    5. Ha!

      I don't do Twitface, on principle, so I can't respond there, but you asked:

      What is the best punctuation for this sentence?
      1. Other, similar, options are available.
      2. Other, similar options are available.
      3. Other similar options are available.

      My answer is that it depends what you are trying to say, because they have different meanings:

      (1) is saying that there are 2 or more other options available that are similar to the thing in question;

      (3) is saying that in addition to the (1 or more) similar options already mentioned, there are (2 or more) other options available that are also similar to the thing.

      I can't think of a context where (2) would be appropriate.

      However, I do agree with the twitterer who opined that it would have been better simply to have written "Similar options are available".

      (Blimey, you have to watch what you say round here!)

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    6. I hope you didn't feel picked on! I definitely didn't mean it like that. πŸ˜€ And thank you for typing "blimey" in your reply. I never, ever get to see that or hear that around here.

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    7. No, I was only joking!
      I actually remember that I typed "other similar services..." at first, then realised that wasn't what I meant and so went back and added the commas.
      I'm still pondering whether the single comma in sentence (2) makes sense, and if so how it affects the meaning.
      I'm curious to hear how you answer your own question!

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    8. I think the sentences should eliminate "other"; similar options are by definition other options. The bonus is that it removes the question of comma usage.

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  3. What is your favourite difference/confusion between AmE and BrE (mine is the terrifyingly confusing strand of garland/tinsel)? I'm LyzzyBee in Birmingham, UK.

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    1. Hi LyzzyBee! I absolutely love the difference in treatment of collective nouns. "The family is" versus "the family are," "Manchester is" versus "Manchester are," "Google has announced" versus "Google have announced," and so on. There's variety on both sides of the Atlantic, but you definitely see more plurals in the UK in such cases than you do in the US. I happen to be partial to UK conjugation habits. I enjoy using a nice plural verb with a collective noun from time to time. I sometimes joke that it's my British affectation.

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    2. Excellent, thank you! I do spend a lot of time changing "the staff is" to "the staff are" in my localisation work!

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    3. πŸ˜„ People in the US are often appalled by the sight of a plural verb with a collective noun. For example, if I quoted the beginning of the English-language Wikipedia entry on Led Zeppelin ("Led Zeppelin were an English rock band formed in London in 1968"), there would be, uh, comments.

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    4. The construction is flat/ly ungrammatical in AmE, and produces exactly the same feelings in us as "George Washington were the first U.S. President" would. There is a marginal exception for family: writing "My family live all over the state" works for me, because I'm really saying that the members of my family are scattered when I say the family is (there may be other nouns like this). But I'd still naturally say "My family lives all over the state."

      I have doubtless mentioned before that my father (a lawyer) used to say that one should say "The jury is agreed" but "The jury are disagreed", but I don't think he actually did this except as a joke.

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    5. But it seems to me that Americans don't hesitate to abandon that 'flatly grammatical' rule just as soon as it gets even slightly troublesome:
      This, from Discogs:
      "Codeine was a slowcore band from NYC. They formed in 1989 and broke up in 1994."
      I feel it should be
      "Codeine were a slowcore band from NYC. They formed in 1989 and broke up in 1994."
      ...but if this rule were actually followed, it would have to be
      "Codeine was a slowcore band from NYC. It formed in 1989 and broke up in 1994."
      That sounds stilted to me, but at least it's logically consistent.
      The actual wording, with its jarring mixture of singular and plural, is just horrible.

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    6. Grhm! You are the winner! Please get in touch!

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  4. What effect has the internet, which favors text communication, had on trends in grammar/spelling? The common error of writing the possessive of "it" as "it's" is not likely to go away - will it become accepted someday?
    (US)

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    1. Hi Peter, "it's" for "its" had already had a long and happy life before the internet showed up. I don't know what will happen in the future. I would be ready to adapt to "it's" for the possessive if I lived to be 200 or so and it changed! Some people have trouble switching back and forth between casual textspeak and formal writing, but skilled writers can roll around in the mud and then put on their writing tuxedos. I happen to enjoy all the forms. I often neglect punctuation and capitalization in private texts to friends—especially to the writers! It feels rebellious and playful to me. 😜 But then I turn around and am positively PUNCTILIOUS about the punctuation and other features of my public posts. I'm afraid I can't comment on the larger trends you've asked about. I rely on Lynne for information about trends. πŸ˜€ I do take complaints at the Grammar Table, though, and I still remember one junior college instructor in Massachusetts who told me that her students, of all demographics, seemed opposed to capitalization in their papers.

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    2. I on the other hand would like to see apostrophes disappear, as in German, and write (with Shaw in The Apple Cart, "One man that has a mind and knows it can always beat ten men who havnt and dont". I would also like to see a conservative and dialect-respecting spelling reform like the current proposal from the English Spelling Society. But these things are ponies.

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  5. Here's my question for Ellen:
    Do grammarians still frown upon starting sentences with conjunctions?
    Because I find myself doing that all the time.
    And I'd hate to think I was causing anyone distress!
    Grhm (UK resident)

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    1. Hmmm, I answered this, but I seem to have forgotten to thread it, and now I can't figure out how to delete the original. I hope you saw my (unthreaded) response, Grhm, but in case you didn't, here it is again: "I can't speak for the larger category of self-styled grammarians, but this has never struck me as a remotely meaningful issue for the well-informed grammar lovers among us. Grammar is about possibilities! It offers variety and beauty! I love beginning with conjunctions. The fact that I didn't begin with one in this response should not be understood as a reproach to fans of the sentence-launching conjunction."

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    2. I remember teachers requiring us to answer test or homework questions as full sentences. They said answering a "why" question with a sentence starting with "because" was unacceptable. It was the same with "and" or "but." I think it's a silly rule. I sometimes wrote things like "Because of XYZ, this thing happened" in essays just to be contrary.

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  6. I can't speak for the larger category of self-styled grammarians, but this has never struck me as a remotely meaningful issue for the well-informed grammar lovers among us. Grammar is about possibilities! It offers variety and beauty! I love beginning with conjunctions. The fact that I didn't begin with one in this response should not be understood as a reproach to fans of the sentence-launching conjunction.

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    1. Thank you. That is slightly reassuring; but if there is still a substantial body of opinion that (rightly or wrongly) dislikes the practice, then to spare their sensitivities I wonder if it might be best to avoid doing it anyway. I try to avoid gratuitously splitting infinitives for that same reason. I know there's no real grammatical reason not to, but I also know how irritating some people find it. How widespread is the prejudice against sentence-launching conjunctions, would you say?

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    2. Oops! That was me! Forgot to put my name in.

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    3. I hear you on that, Grhm, but I need my opening conjunctions, so that is one thing I can't compromise on. There are a few things I do give up for that audience-sensitivity reason, but they are not things I care about. Initial coordinating conjunctions ("and" and "but" in particular) are SO common in excellent writing that I do not feel they are a meaningful liability with readers—as long as the writing is good. But those same initial conjunctions in weak writing can make the writing seem worse.

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  7. How do you find the name ‘grammar table’ is received across the US? I wonder if it would be different in the UK, where I feel there has long been antipathy towards the term ‘grammar’. I recall (1970s) a Latin textbook that renamed its grammar chapter as ‘information about the language’, which struck me as a mouthful.

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    1. Hi Sigrid! I assume that some portion of the people who DON'T stop at the table are put off by the term, but so far no one has thrown rotten tomatoes at me. There is quite a bit of antipathy here to the term "grammar," but so much of it has to do with the point of view of the person talking about it, and I'm not scolding. Also, once you add the word "table" and have a big dorky sign, people often start laughing, so I think the table component has a softening effect on the grammar component. πŸ˜€

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  8. I am indeed in the UK and I am often confused by "is/are" and collective nouns, and how the common usage seems to be wrong, or maybe it's just me.

    You will see "England are going to the World Cup" everywhere, but shouldn't that be "England is going to the World Cup", because we're talking about the team as a single unit rather than as individuals?

    I've even seen stuff like "The England team are going to the World Cup" and that seems very wrong, but no one seems to think it's dodgy.

    Is there a special rule exception that allows this, is it a case of common usage trumping what is correct, or am I just wrong (it happens)?

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    1. Did you grow up in the UK, thekelvingreen? I never see "England are" in the US, but I definitely encounter it in writing in the UK. I am completely used to it and enjoy it, but it sounds totally wrong to most US-based, uh, ears. In the UK you are a lot more likely than in the US to see plural verbs used with collective nouns, which are nouns singular in form but representing multiple people, animals, etc. Pair, family, troup, group, and England in a sports context are all examples that could be matched up with a plural or a singular verb, depending on where you're standing and who is talking. The concept behind choosing the plural is "notional agreement," and you can read about it briefly here: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/notional-agreement-subject-verb-principle-proximity. I personally am a huge fan of notional agreement, where meaning trumps form in determing the choice of verb. I wish I were allowed to go with notional agreement more often! People look at you funny if you do it too often in NYC.

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    2. Born in England, raised in Wales, spent a couple of years in Minnesota along the way, back in England, all of which may explain my confusion.

      Thanks for the link!

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  9. In languages such as Spanish and French that have gendered plurals, do you see any movements towards redressing the imbalance whereby a group of English women are "inglesas" but add just one man and they become "ingleses"? In written Spanish I have seen forms such as "amig@s" to represent both masculine and feminine. I am British - from the land with a gendered national anthem.

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    1. Oh hello, Phil—I know you from Twitter! Thank you for this question. I encounter far more Spanish than French, unsurprisingly—I hear Spanish regularly in my NYC neighborhood and French only rarely. Since first studying these languages in school, I haven't personally experienced the use of masculine forms for mixed groups as a problem or imbalance, but I recognize that other people do. I encounter things like "amig@s" in academic settings, but that usage is not something I have noticed in Spanish encounters in my walking-around-town regular life. I would need to be far more immersed in these languages to be confident I know what's happening around me outside of scholarly and activist circles. I do read the articles, though! πŸ™‚

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    2. Yes, I am @philbanting - and thank you for your reply. Although I am in Europe most of my Spanish-speaking connections are with Latin America. I could have mentioned that I once asked a Bolivian female teenager what she thought about the gender balance problem and she said that it was just the way the language worked, but I have seen her own father use the amig@s form in e.g. Facebook posts. Since gender is such a hot-button topic in the English-speaking world I will be interested to see how this develops.

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  10. What do you suppose constitutes the greatest barrier to advancing uptake of linguistic knowledge in a world that cherishes peeves, prejudices, intuitions, and obiter dicta? (One of my guesses would be the jargon of linguistics, not that I'm an adversary of technical jargons. Another would be anxiety about being *right*, rather than eagerness to understand difference.)
    Oh, and yes, I'm in the UK.

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    1. Uh, looking around for a 'Notify Me' option

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    2. when entering a comment, it should be a tick-box next to the 'publish' button. You have to do it when publishing the comment, rather than after. Not sure if this works in all interfaces, but it's there for me when I see the webpage on a Mac in Chrome. If it doesn't work for you, it probably doesn't matter, as I know I can contact you through Twitter or your blog!

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    3. Hello, A K M Adam. That's a good question. And a big question, one that I wonder about a lot. I have a number of not-fully-formed thoughts on the matter that I am not quite ready to share (sorry!). By the way, I considered pursuing a linguistics major at least twice in college, but each time, after reading course descriptions, I decided to go a different direction. But I didn't experience grammar as a set of restrictions. Childhood prohibitions are powerful and tenacious, but reading widely—and by that I mean across historical periods and across cultures—is a powerful antidote to mistaken beliefs that language is monolithic and static. So is the study of other languages.

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  11. I think because linguistics is a science that is not taught in schools, people are just pig-ignorant about it, particularly since they are exposed to a lot of anti-linguistics in English classes, which is the moral equivalent of teaching only Aristotelian physics and never mentioning Newton or anyone more recent. Really, linguistics should be part of the primary and secondary school curriculum everywhere in the Anglosphere, just like biology, chemistry, physics, geography, sociology, etc. But ignorance is self-perpetuating: people aren't taught it, so they take no steps to make sure their children are taught it, so this is yet another pony.

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  12. I have a question I want to ask every time I see an example, but then my mind goes blank trying to remember a real example when there is a grammarian to hand. However, I now have an example in a recent book title: All Boys Are Not Blue. To me this means zero boys are blue, while what I think is meant is only some boys are blue, which, to me, should be Not All Boys Are Blue. Is this different placement of 'not' with 'all' a dialectical, US/UK, or stylistic difference or am I just out of step with the rest of the English speaking world?

    Although I'm not in the UK, I can pick the book up from my parents' when I next visit them.

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    1. I don't think this is a UK-US difference. I don't use this construction in my own writing, but I suspect there was an artistic goal involved in this choice. "Not All Boys Are Blue" sounds a lot more limiting and negative than "All Boys Aren't Blue." In addition, the title kind of makes you sit inside it for a while and roll around in its meaning and its ambiguity. So yes, while I don't use the construction myself, I think the choice served art here. Also, I don't view "All Boys Aren't Blue" as clearly the equivalent of "No Boys Are Blue," but I do find these constructions ambiguous and/or taxing when I see them in, say, workplace writing. I have just made a Twitter poll based on this question, and if you are on Twitter, you can look for it at https://twitter.com/GrammarTable/status/1575701127181762572. In case you aren't on Twitter, I will come back with results. One commenter on my Twitter poll has already cited this example: "All that glitters is not gold." People certainly do seem to accept that (very old) one.

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    2. Hmmm but we sometimes hear the construction 'all of them did not answer' when it would have been easier to say 'none of them answered'

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    3. Yes, I would naturally understand "all of them did not answer" as "none of them answered", but observation of situational contexts leads me to believe that some people use "all of them did not answer" to mean "only some of them answered", for which I would expect "not all of them answered".

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    4. Poll results, with 597 results (and I admit it is not a perfectly constructed poll!):

      What does this sentence mean? "All cats are not sly."

      A. No cats are sly. 34.5%

      B. Some cats aren't sly. 45.9%

      C. could be either / depends 16.2%

      D. something else / see answers 3.4%

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  13. I'm not sure if this a grammar question , an AmE/BrE difference or something else. Either way this looks like a good place to find an answer!

    Why is it THE CIA and THE FBI but not THE GCHQ and THE MI-6?

    I am in the UK.

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    1. I imagine there is some linguistic work on this, but I personally don't know why—sorry! As a freelance reporter, I used to have real trouble with this very thing, and I know I had plenty of company. I would sometimes end up on a long and annoying internet hunt trying to figure out a particular organization's preference, and then there would be inconsistency on their website, and in news stories, and in public use. In fact, I've had a client for almost 20 years whose name is regularly abbreviated, and I STILL have to look up about once a year whether I need an article with it or not. I simply cannot remember. I'll ask Lynne and others on Twitter whether they know of research on this topic. I have some half-baked thoughts and impressions, but we might as well go straight to a useful source.

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  14. I'm also not sure if this is grammar or not, but, why do we have a rule that says you can say a fast red car but not a red fast car? What do we gain from this?
    Cheers, Fiona in Scotland.

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    1. Wow, these are some tough "why" questions on your website, Lynne Murphy! πŸ˜€

      Wisob, I confess I have never paid much attention to those adjective-ordering principles. It hurts my head to think about my English adjective habits in that way, and I will leave the why of it to linguists. Even when I approach a new language and learn its various adjective patterns (do the adjectives go before or after the noun, do they show gender and number, how many cases do I need to learn, does an adjective mean something different if it comes before the noun than it does when it comes after, and so on), I just try to understand instinctively what the patterns are and develop a feeling for them. We have all kinds of cool patterns in the currents of our words, most of which most of us don't think about very much. I enjoy the whirling around more than I enjoy accounting for the whirling. I apologize for my deficiencies. πŸ˜€ Now let's go swimming!

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  15. Dru Brooke-Taylor29 September, 2022 21:56

    Dear Ellen,

    I’m in the UK (specifically England), male and over 70. I also can't get this 'notify' thing to work.

    I’ve two things I’d like to air with you.

    The first is to ask what is your view on the naming of rivers and the differing use of ‘River’ whether it is absent, precedes or follows the name. That is to say, whether it’s the Amazon, the River Amazon or the Amazon River. I first noticed this when what was marketed as an Anglicised version of a US Bible translation referred to Jesus ‘being baptised in the Jordan River’. This may surprise you but to my ears, that sounds wrong. It’s certainly incorrectly anglicised.

    For a start, everyone knows the Jordan is a river. Normal UK usage would just be ‘in the Jordan’. However, if it was necessary to add ‘river’ at all, my instinctive feeling as a BrEnglish speaker is that ‘river’ goes before the name of the river, not after it, ‘the River Jordan’ not ‘the Jordan River’.

    So, as BrEnglish speaker, I would naturally refer to the Thames, the Severn, the Mississippi, the Hudson, the Amazon etc as just the name. If I were to add ‘river’ at all, it would go before, not after the name. I tried an Australian cousin on this, and he preferred ‘river’ going after the name.

    This is a difference I haven’t found mentioned anywhere else. On reflection, it strikes me that there may be a good historical reason for how it has arisen. In the Old World, most rivers have always had their names, since long before anyone spoke English. Many river names are even thought to be pre-Celtic. On the other hand, in the New World, English speakers found a river and then named it. So, in the Old World, when ‘river’ used with a name it is being used more of an adjective. The name is the noun. In the New World, it is more that the ‘river’ is the noun and its name is describing it.


    My second question follows from the discussion there has already been about whether a collective noun takes a singular or a plural verb. As you will already know, BrEnglish is also much more comfortable than USEnglish with using ‘they’ and ‘them’ as singular pronouns where one doesn’t know yet who the person is going to be, as in ‘Whoever we appoint to the post, they need to be ready to start by the 1st of November’.

    This sort of usage is traceable back at least as far as 1800 with examples from classical writers who, to US ears, should have known better. It has the advantage, now that people are more sensitive about such things, that it avoids the clumsy ‘he or she needs to be ready … ‘, particularly if one would otherwise have to repeat it more than once.

    So far, sort of, so good. My question which follows from it, is how fluid should one allow oneself and others to be as to whether a reflexive ‘them singular’ is ‘themself’ or ‘themselves’? Spellcheckers, which are normally North American are outraged by ‘themself’ but to my ears, there are some contexts where the pronoun is so self-evidently singular that to me ‘themself’ sounds better.

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    1. There's a lot of individual variation in river names even in England. Most of the rivers (per Wikipedia's list) are "River X", but there are the Clough River, the Brennand River, the Whitendale River, the Little Avon River, the Mells River, the Little River, the Oldbridge River, the Whitelake River, the Huntspill River, the Sowy River, the list goes on. The River Wriggle is also known as the Wriggle River. Most of these are either tributaries or what Wikipedia calls "minor coastal catchments", but there are plenty of rivers of similar size and status that are the River X.

      The American spiritual "One More River" has a line "There's one more river, and that's the river of Jordan", but I don't know any other cases like that. However, in Michigan we have the River Raisin and in Ontario the Raisin River, both named "la riviΓ©re des Raisins" by the original French Canadian settlers.

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    2. Dru, Jordan River sounds weird to my US-manufactured ears. I would instinctively go with River Jordan if I had to use both words in the name.

      As for your larger flowing-water-naming question, what we need right now is a toponymist specializing in rivers. I am not that, but I am certainly aware of inconsistencies with geographic names and have had to deal with them as a writer/editor. One example is "on" versus "in" before the names of islands—and though that may seem obvious, the principles and practices for which preposition to use are almost always more complicated than people think. As a nontoponymist who has had to refer to rivers in multiple languages, I would guess there are diverse linguistic influences and histories affecting some of these river-naming choices and word-order habits, but I do not have the detailed knowledge I would need to answer responsibly.

      Thank you for your river examples, John Cowan. I especially enjoyed the River Wriggle / Wriggle River.

      Now back to your second question, Dru. I am a big fan of avoiding "he or she," which was always so awkward, so I am relieved about that pronoun development. Some people I know use "themself." I haven't yet, but I probably will. I do think it serves a need, and I assume it will feel more natural with time.

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  16. My question: Which one particular feature of Irish or British English do you find most engaging and/or persuasive and feel tempted to adopt (even occasionally)?

    I’m British, live in the U.K., and am an avid follower of your Twitter feed. Thank you for the kindness, consideration and gentleness you demonstrate on a daily basis as you explore the many ramifications of “English as She Is Spoke” around the world with your delightful collection of followers.

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    1. Hello, Michael! As always, it is lovely to see you online, and thank you for your generous words. My top two favorites are (1) plural verbs with collective nouns (as discussed above, so I'm sorry I can't be more original, but it's the truth) and (2) more opportunities to put my punctuation outside my quotation marks. I request the opportunity to visit so I can add to the list. (P.S. I generally love listening to Irish English, but I don't get enough exposure.)

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  17. Neither a linguist nor a grammarian, as a (British) scientist I nevertheless like accuracy in written text.

    Here is an example of a form that I see frequently - 'My best friend was Albert and Eric's mother'. Well, was it Albert, or Eric's mother? Oh, I see, your best friend was the mother of both Albert and Eric! .... Am I being pernickety? Should I let this slide, as I sort-of know what is meant?

    I recently read about an egregious piece of grammar - let's call it non-standard, or just plain wrong - which got me thinking about which word should have been used. I can't find the original reference, concerning a tourist attraction, so I will give Lynne's book as the example:
    This is a book that's aim is the untangling of a common language
    This is a book that is entertaining
    This is a book that will help to answer your questions about 'Americanisms'
    Buy this book, that will help to answer your questions (I would have used 'which' there - but what word should have been used in the first example? Am I right to think that 'whose' could be used there, even though the book is not a person?)

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    1. My father is a biochemist. I appreciate biochemists. Did you know we say "persnickety" over here? "Pernickety" sounds weird though 100% charming to my ear. I enjoy that variety.

      Regarding your "Albert and Eric's mother" example, I understand your point. I do feel I can understand the phrase based on convention (i.e., it's just how it is done) and contextual clues. Lately I have been contemplating the rigidity of the prescription, though. It seems random. I have just posted a poll on it and can report back if you like, or you can view the results here: https://twitter.com/GrammarTable/status/1576397247708659712.

      Regarding your second point, this is what I would do, without question:
      1. This is a book WHOSE aim is the untangling of a common language. ("Whose" can be used for objects. People complain about it, but that opposition is grounded in superstition and not actual usage. I am passionate about this point. Terrible writing sins are committed in an effort to avoid "whose" with objects. I object!)
      2. Buy this book, WHICH will help to answer your questions. (I couldn't use "that" after a comma there. This which-clause is what is described—confusingly and tongue-trippingly—as a nonrestrictive relative clause.)

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    2. Gosh! Thank you for that!

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  18. I would use either "whose aim" or "the aim of which" depending on the degree of formality.

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The book!

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Abbr.

AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)