Grammar shit

Something that’s been making the rounds recently, in various forms:

Two annoyed comments, and one admiring one.

First annoyed comment: once again, we get grammar used to cover everything that’s regulated in language, including spelling and punctuation. Actually, people who use grammar this way seem to be inclined to focus on such concerns, rather than matters of syntax and morphology.

Second annoyed comment: although the point of the above is to stress the importance of spelling and punctuation (especially apostrophes), by showing how crucial these are to avoiding disastrous ambiguities in print (spelling and punctuation are of no avail in speech), in fact it takes some ingenuity to construct examples where ambiguity could arise at all, and even more to construct examples where the choice between readings isn’t settled by context and background knowledge. So the example above is really just a cute pun, with no deeper moral lesson.

Admiring comment: I’m a great fan of paisley patterns (I have a bunch of paisley ties, and once had some really stunning paisley shirts, which I wore to tatters), so I admire the ornamentation. And now I’m pleased to discover that at least a few people call cloth with paisley patterns paramecium fabric or paramecia fabric (note the nice plural first element in the second compound). Reference to paramecia is so much more satisfying to me than reference to twisted teardops, droplet-shaped vegetables, kidneys, or even Persian pickles.

9 Responses to “Grammar shit”

  1. James C. Says:

    What would you propose instead of ‘grammar’ as a cover term for things like spelling, punctuation, and other topics of peeveology?

  2. the ridger Says:

    Spelling and punctuation is “orthography”. Peeves are “usage” or “style”.

  3. Stan Says:

    The recasting of grammar as spelling, style or usage annoys me too. I wrote a long post about it last week after finally cracking under the weight of links to a certain list of “common grammar mistakes” that contained little or no grammar. I find it an unhelpful and retrogressive confusion.

    On a more cheerful note: I read M-W’s Pocket Guide to English Usage recently and was amused by the sample sentences it uses to illustrate you’re vs. your: “your spelling is atrocious”; “you’re an atrocious speller”.

    I had never heard paramecium fabric before, but I might adopt it now.

  4. It’s All Grammar « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Arnold Zwicky's Blog A blog mostly about language « Grammar shit […]

  5. Steve Says:

    The Nike swoosh reminds me of a eucalyptus leaf.

    I like paisley patterns too, but I’ve always associated them with the 1960s. Until I followed your link, I had no idea how far back they go.

  6. John Lawler Says:

    Spelling: the difference between knowing your P’s and Q’s, and knowing your pease and queues.

  7. Dan Hemmens Says:

    You know, I am rather pleased by the irony here, since whoever designed this little placard demonstrates quite clearly that they do *not* know their shit, which implies rather strongly that they also don’t know they’re shit.

  8. Paisleyesque « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] came up here back in February, when I linked to the Wikipedia entry but didn’t quote any of it. Now some more content, […]

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