Friday, October 7, 2016

Grammar is just a game

I've been wrongly called a pedant when nothing can be further from the truth. Those who know me well know that I don't care in the least about grammar. When I blasted Singapore's Speak Good English Movement in about eighty posts or so on this blog, I did so only because the Movement has repeatedly shown itself to be totally ignorant of basic English grammar and yet it insists on telling others they are grammatically wrong when they are not. It is this blatant idiocy of the Movement that I had to address in those posts.

But I do not generally go about telling others they are wrong grammatically however much they may have flouted the rules of grammar. That's because I don't give a toss about grammar. Grammar is nothing more than a game with a set of rules that get altered every few years. It's a game in which the goal posts are repeatedly moved about according to the taste and fashion of usage.

Let's look at a simple example. For decades, many school children were told off for using some conjunctions as conjuncts. I can speak about this with some passion because I was rebuked as a schoolboy by my English teacher for doing precisely that. But I didn't just take it lying down. I cited Sir Ernest Gowers in my defence but to no avail. My teacher was a stern and inflexible woman with a beehive hairdo and as you probably know, a teacher with a beehive hairdo usually doesn't budge an inch once she's decided on something. So I was obliged for as long as she was marking my exam scripts to comply with her 'superstition' which is what Gowers calls such a non-existent grammar rule.