Monday, 6 August 2012

English OCD

I have OCD! 

I have an Obsessive Compulsion of noticing spelling and grammatical errors in everything I read!!  My children, I'm sure, are sick of it! My fingers itch to correct their use of incorrect words and spelling on their Facebook updates! 

It’s not something new. When my son was in primary school I remember returning a school newsletter marked in red, with spelling errors the principal had made! (He was also a good friend!) My daughters were given fun ways to remember spellings of certain words, e.g. 

Betty Eats Cake And Uncle Sells Eggs – because!   

My daughter used to say Fri-End to remember which way the ‘i’ and ‘e’ went.   

We remembered that ‘stationEry’ was pEns and pEncils, so ‘stationAry’ was the other one! Generally it’s stood them in good stead – except for the odd lapse or two!

In an ‘officially’ single language country like England, although there are many immigrants, one expects those brought up and schooled in this country to be proficient in the English language.  In countries where there are more than one official national language (e.g. many of the African countries), one can excuse the odd English error; for example, lay-bys used to be a popular way of securing a purchase by ‘laying by’ money with the supplier until the item was fully paid and could be taken home. But was this a ‘lay-by’, ‘lay-buy’, ‘layby’ or ‘lay-bye’? All these versions were spotted in one African town!

Typos can be excused although they should not be present when in public display, but using the incorrect word can only be inexcusable!

While sitting in a doctor’s waiting room recently there was a professionally printed poster in bright colours, clearly printed, easy to read and understand, explaining the cautions to be taken when drinking alcohol.  It was presented in the form of football goals, obviously to get attention from the English population, with facts about what a unit equalled, the number of days a week one should go alcohol free, etc. But the last one read as follows: 
“Eat before you drink as food slows alcohol consumption.”

I didn’t have to read it twice! As soon as I got home I checked their website and with a sigh of relief saw they’d got it right! 

“Eat before you drink as food slows alcohol ABSORPTION! 

But how does a poster which has probably gone up in hundreds of doctors’ surgeries across our county, slip through a simple editing process? Even if there were only two people who checked it, surely one of them should have picked up the wrong word!?

(I noticed two other typos in the five minute wait for my doctor! One was, ‘appoinment’ and the other had added an ‘a’ into a sentence. Just in-house notices that weren’t read before pinning to the notice board!)

My daughter was also amused at the notice in the London buses:

Please do not talk to or distract the driver’s attention!

(I believe this has been changed to: Please do not talk to or distract the driver! …… in some buses!)

And finally: 

and ? (Megan captured a passionate English language boffs correction in Bath!)

(And yes, I've read this blog a good few times to make sure there aren't any glaring errors! If you find one I suppose you'll have to let me know!)

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Poets & Harvests!

       I often wondered how my high school English teacher could say with such certainty what a 17th or 18th century poet meant in the cloaked verses of our anthologies! In fact in my final English exam I remember phrasing some of my answers to reflect these doubts with comments like, The poet may have been referring to…. or, it’s possible that the poet was thinking…. and in one answer, our teacher said that……, but I think …..! Maybe that’s why my grade was not as high as I’d hoped!

        While standing at the bottom of a harvested barley field early in the morning with patient Bella at my feet, I tapped these words into my Blackberry memo pad:

Crass naked stalks where golden barley e’er did wave in gentle breezes
Hard huddling hollow brown and yellow clumps bereft of
childhood games.
But to the sun whose light is golden,
still a beauty lies beside
dark guardian trees and passing clouds;
admired by those who see beneath the discipline
of necessity.

It was a beautiful fresh sunny morning with the sun weaving in and out of grey-white clouds and it struck me that we often speak of ‘golden barley fields’ (immortalised by Sting!) but usually it’s the before-harvest picture! So to see that harvested field with the sun lighting it up was a beautiful scene. At that point my mind was not on ‘lessons of life’ or ‘deeper meanings’! I just wanted to describe what was before me in poetic language.

Maybe one day this 21st century poem will be read by high school students trying to find what the poet was trying to say, and I hope that their teacher will allow them to guess at any possibilities but also point out the incredible beauty of God’s creation around us all and how to express it for themselves!

(photo from via Google images)