Thursday, 29 January 2015

Subjunctivitis

Pompous? Moi?
They looked into the subjunctive but reckoned it hadn’t brought anyone any happiness. (Ken Campbell on Pidgin English)

He came on very grand and subjunctival. (Jeremy Treglown on Roald Dahl)

I think Ive got subjunctivitis. Would that I didn’t! (‏@MooseAllain)

The subjunctive mood, always weak in English, has been dwindling away for centuries until it has almost vanished. According to traditional thought, statements about the conditional future such as “If I were a carpenter...” require the subjunctive “were”; but “was” is certainly much more common. Still, if you want to impress those in the know with your usage, use “were” when writing of something hypothetical, unlikely, or contrary to fact. (Washington State University)

Many complain that writing has become sloppier over the past 30 years. It’s much worse than that: language has become increasingly pompous. We used to say “The rules require that helmets should be worn” and now we say “The rules require that helmets be worn” – why?
People are using the subjunctive after even “if”. Why do they not eschew the subjunctive as a ghastly Americanism? Americans love it! And why is “dare” always in the subjunctive?

It’s important that this community flourish. (should flourish)

If someone needed a kidney and I were a match... (“If I were a match” sounds wrong too.)

If that weren't bad enough... (wasn’t)

My advice is that he take a trip to Stroud. (he should take? that he takes? How about: I’d advise him to take a trip to Stroud.)

He suggested that it be done (it should be done)

And as if that weren’t confusing enough… (wasn’t)

The obvious thing to do in this crisis is to capitalise on the situation's many diplomatic opportunities, rather than loudly demand Putin accede to Western demands (accedes - and find a synonym for "demand". And shouldn't it be "demand that Putin accedes"?)

Or to put it another way, would we rather our economy collapse inside or outside the collapse of Europe’s economy? (collapsed)

Better the species become extinct than that it should attack small children.
(Where to start with this dreadful sentence? It would be better for the species to disappear than for it to attack small children? It would be better if the species disappeared than it attacked small children? If the species attacks small children, let it go extinct?)

Can a noun save the day?

recommends that the submission be approved: recommends the submission’s approval

demanded that the King abdicate and the PM resign: demanded the king’s abdication and the PM’s resignation

If I were a swallow I’d whistle and sing... (But this is right, somehow.)

More pedantry here.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Inspirational Quotes 68

Don't follow the cool crowd
People will take you at your own valuation, and suchlike tosh.

“Seeing me treated like a child, and put down like a fool, he... has a fling at a fellow that he thinks—and may well think too—hasn't a grain of spirit.... I can bear with you, but I cannot bear the contempt that your treating me in the way you do, brings upon me from others every day.” ... The more young Joe submitted, the more absolute old John became. (Barnaby Rudge, Charles Dickens)

Everyone has seen the bright, polite and slightly false smile pasted upon the lips of a host and hostess... Being sociable has always been something of a duty. (If Walls Could Talk, Lucy Worsley)

One ought to know how to come into a room, speak to people, and answer them, without being out of countenance, or without embarrassment’. (Lord Chesterfield)


Seemingly iron laws about behaviour eventually relax. (If Walls Could Talk, Lucy Worsley)


Sentiments which have nothing in them make the loudest ringing in the world, and are the most relished. (Dickens, Barnaby Rudge)

“I suppose I’m just out of the social habit. I haven’t read the new books, or seen the new plays.” (Change Here For Babylon, Nina Bawden)

In moments of utter disaster you don’t really think or feel anything exceptional or unexpected. Your actions are not so much your own as the automatic responses learned from stage and screen as being the inevitable expression of catastrophe... They had talked, she said, in cliches. Everything that had been said was a platitude from a third-class romantic novel. (Change Here For Babylon, Nina Bawden)


We do as our neighbors do. Though we don't speak to each other much when we are out... we take our holiday in common, and go back to our work in gangs. ( The Christmas Books of Mr. M.A. Titmarsh, William Makepeace Thackeray)

"I forbid you to grin in that way. I forbid you to look sulky. I forbid you to look happy, or to look up, or to keep your eyes down to the ground. I desire you will not be trapesing through the rooms. I order you not to sit as still as a stone." (The Christmas Books of Mr. M.A. Titmarsh, William Makepeace Thackeray)


Every girl, I don’t care who she may be, wants to be attractive and popular.... One of the most important things for any teen to realize is that she is always on display. (Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide)

Good manners are one of the things employers notice right from the very start... Once you are hired, don’t relax your efforts. Be sure to report to work neatly dressed, with your make-up in low key. Remember that your looks will be judged by those around you. It is especially important to be scrupulously careful of your appearance if you are working at a job where you come in contact with a firm’s customers, for your appearance will reflect on the firm. Salesgirls, waitresses, receptionists all know this. Courtesy on the job is mighty significant. (Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide)

Oh, I know what people say—that you should make yourself talk, go to parties, join in conversations and get out and go... Do it by degrees. Start small and work up... Never be hoodwinked into thinking that because a formula is a formula it need be without meaning... It is a good thing to keep the subject vague and general. You are not likely to strike a person who wants to hear about fish breeding or advanced algebra... It helps to join school clubs and community projects—the Y, the Red Cross, church clubs, etc. Or get a part-time job, or take up a hobby or a sport... but not collecting cheese labels. (Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide)

Closing in your circle only makes you prey to day-dreaming in which you over-emotionalize your life. Keep busy and you won’t have time for self-pity... Plan something ahead to get the ball rolling... Don’t be conspicuous... Being a hostess is being yourself... Sincerity, honesty, and good taste are in. (Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide She also warns against being "loud" or "kittenish".)

College men are conservatives. They like their women to be pretty, but not movie queens; to be intelligent, but not Quiz Kids; peppy, but not persistent... In other words, a college man wants a well-rounded girl who knows what the score is. (Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide)

Jane, in trying not to look like others, does not carry the attempt too far... Now there are girls, unlike Jane, who are always trying to look like somebody else. One year it is this movie star, the next year another. You will do the best you can if you get up the gumption to develop your own style, preserve your own personality and make like an individual. Now, of course, you cannot assert yourself all over the place. There are circumstances and customs that limit you. You are subject to the habits and ideas of the world you live in. Your parents, your school, your friends, your total environment combined with the exact point of time in which you live, all affect you. These influences tend to integrate you into your community. (Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide Be an individual... just a bit.)

Some people adapt too easily. They are too readily shifted by every prevailing whim... The top crowd, and there is one in every school, usually sets the pace and the others follow in line... Where the situation becomes dangerous is when the top crowd decides that it is smart to drink or to drive cars at seventy miles an hour on a dark winding road... You can no more become a well-rounded personality if you become a slave to crowd customs than you can be attractive in your own right if you pattern yourself after a movie star. (Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide I think she’s saying that you should follow the right models – not movie stars or the fast crowd.)

More here, and links to the rest.