Friday, March 4, 2011

To happily potter

Simon Hoggart's column in Friday's Guardian featured a mention of Bas Aarts' new Oxford Modern English Grammar (available now from all good retailers). Hoggart expressed delight that a grammarian wasn't slavishly following old-fashioned prescriptive judgements about split infinitives, allowing him to feel unashamed of saying "I'm going to happily potter about in the garden". We've always said that grammar is good for you but it can also make you happy.

Slightly less prestigiously, Dan had his letter about Rastamouse and grammar printed in the Evening Standard this week, which he was very excited about, even if no one else was (even his own kids, all avid viewers of the mighty mouse). Because it's not online, I'll reproduce it in all its brief glory here:

It's a pity that Rastamouse has been criticised by some for encouraging "sloppy" English. There's nothing sloppy about different varieties of English and in fact most of them have very logical and well-established systems of grammar in place.

Rastamouse could actually be a very effective way of helping young people learn more about not only Jamaican English but also Standard English and the different forms of grammar used in other dialects. There's a growing body of linguistic evidence that analysing the grammar and vocabulary of non-standard varieties really helps young people start to understand the patterns we all use in our speech and writing. And that has to be irie.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

National Grammar Day

It's National Grammar Day in the USA on March 4th, and this webpage has lots more information about how it is being celebrated. Among my favourites are the Correct the Celebrity classroom task in which you spot the grammatical errors in Justin Timberlake lyrics, Paris Hilton's blogs and various film titles, although I'm saddened by the fact that we can't just put a big red ring around Paris Hilton herself and fail her.

There are some good tips on writing clearly, some myths exploded about "bad" grammar, and overall it's good clean fun. It veers a little towards the prescriptive for my tastes (Why's there no discussion about dialect forms, for example?), but you can't win 'em all.