Thursday, February 03, 2011

Keeping it old school

Most of the links I put up here are to fairly recent news stories about language, but this one is nearly 16 years old. That means it's possibly older than some of you who use this blog for your AS levels. Wow.

Anyway, I stumbled across this Miles Kington article from The Independent of December 1993 while doing some research on attitudes to grammatical errors (which more often than not, aren't really "errors" at all) and it's a good read.

It's about people's language peeves and how they are often not really very well rooted in linguistic reality. My favourite bit concerns the guidance that we're often given about the adjective unique. In Strictly English, Simon Heffer pompously tells us that phrases like almost unique or nearly unique are "vacuous" because "something is either unique or it is not". Kington sees it differently:

Now, this to me is the kind of pedantic rule-of-iron that a third- rate schoolteacher falls back on. Not only that, but it is demonstrably untrue. For example, if there were two unicorns left in the world, and one was very ill, then the other one would be nearly unique . . .

No comments: