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minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Fri Jan 23 17:27:56 EST 2004


Dorian wrote:

>  I don't know about the UK, but as an Irishwoman, I write Britglish, and I
>consider the comma splice to be an abomination.

The examples that have been given seem to me indefensible, but I can't
answer for the entire population of the UK.

It may be that the reason people don't know what you're talking about when
you talk about a comma splice is that they don't recognise the term, rather
than that they don't recognise that it is wrong, though.  Fowler in Modern
English Usage doesn't like the thing but doesn't seem to dignify it with a
name, f'rinstance, and Lynne Truss talks about the splice comma instead.

>  Then again, part of my job entails copy-editing/proof-reading the documents
>that my company sends out, and every time I mention the evilness of the comma
>splice to whoever wrote the document, I get "what's a comma splice?".  (Mostly
>Irish guys, but one Australian and one American-raised.)  Though to be fair,
>once I explain the term, they usually admit that it is a bad thing and they
>wrote whatever it was wrong.

Coo1  Do they then refrain from repeating the offence, or do they expect
you to correct it for them forever on the grounds that you know what it is
and they don't?

Either way, if they admit they were wrong they are rare and special and you
should *cherish* them.

I throw you a sentence for your collective consideration.   I was handed an
article to read in a periodical; I read it, admired it, and then said,
"What a shame about the typo."  "What typo?" quoth the author.  "Why, this
one," I said.  "They have missed out a word, I think, or perhaps it was
just an s."  And I handed it to the gentleman whose words I had been
reading, pointing out the following:

"It's this sort of attention to detail which makes the book so good, and
feel so right."

He would not (or possibly could not) accept that this might be other than
absolutely clear, lucid and correct.  He said that it was exactly what he
had written, and that if I thought it was other than right I was ignorant,
and when I still failed to accept his explanations (what he meant was that
the attention to detail made the book good, and felt right, but he wanted
to have both the attention to detail and the book being the subject of the
sentence simultaneously somehow), that I was stupid.  For some weeks
thereafter he harked back to it, trying to convince me that the thing he
had perpetrated was flawless use of English.

We might still be friends if he'd had just felt able to say "oops, I
goofed" when I looked baffled and said "but it doesn't *work*!"

The words, "I'm sorry, I made a mistake" are altogether too rarely used.

(Mind you, if someone from the list can now show me how that *is*
grammatically defensible as it stands, I will have to send him a telegram
saying "you were right I was wrong you are the true father of Russian
communism", which will be a bit of a bore since I don't have a current
address for him, but these are the risks I run in life, and on balance I
think it improbable.)

Minnow


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