Sunday, 22 August 2010

Soapbox Sunday - Are You SITTING Comfortably?

I've been meaning to write this for a while, but I know that if I do you will see a side of me I generally like to keep hidden. I came across an unfamiliar phrase a short while ago - 'grammar snob' and I think I may end up in that catagory after this, but to be honest, I may not be all that bothered. Time to nail my colours to the mast, methinks.
Let me explain. I am from Portsmouth originally, way down on the south coast. Portsmouth has many charms, but its accent and pronounciation is not one of them (no, it ain't!) So when we moved to Worksop I got used to "Eh up, duck!" "I were badly," and various other interesting phrases, all new to me. I don't have a problem with each region having it's own flavour, it all adds to life's rich tapestry, I think. (There's nowt so queer as folk).
But I've only heard people in this region saying, "I was sat," and I thought it was just a 'northern' thing. You know the sort of thing, "I was sat at me desk and this man rang me..." Yes, it makes me cringe. Is it all part of dumbing down? Does it really matter? It's partner is, of course, "I was stood," as in, "I was stood at the bus stop..." Grrr! You were standing, people, standing! It's not rocket science, look:
He sat on the chair.
He was still sitting on the chair at 3.30pm.
So I was thinking to myself, surely there are some bastions of correctness left, surely one of them being the BBC, but I don't watch soaps, so how would I know if the characters in them are not 'sat' and 'stood' somewhere every week?
And the second safe haven, surely, would be publishing? Surely we're not going to see 'I was sat,' in books? Imagine my astonishment a couple of weeks ago, when I grabbed the book, 'The Exmoor Files' by Liz Jones from my library shelf and rushed home to start reading. There are several instances in the first few chapters where she says, 'I was sat,' repeatedly. My points are:
1. It's not a local thing then. Liz Jones is a Londoner (sorry love, but you are).
2. How on earth has a publisher let this pass? Didn't somebody proofread the flipping thing? It's pathetic. If we're all going to be able to express ourselves however we see fit, eventually no one will be able to understand anyone else (you might think that's happening already!) Why don't we just publish a novel written totally in text speak? That would be a long read, wouldn't it? Bearing in mind that we don't write 'kween' anymore, we write 'queen' thanks to William Caxton (so he could set up his printing press and get on with the job) it would be a shame to go back to writing however the heck we felt like it, wouldn't it? Soon there won't be any point in going to school at all.
I will now hop off my soap box (briefly!) but I'd love to know what others think, and if I'm labelled a grammar snob because of it, then so be it.

I do want to tell you a little bit more about the book 'The Exmoor Files,' though. I borrowed it because the jacket said it was about a woman who moves from London to Exmoor and buys an ex-racehorse. The perfect book, then... It turns out I stumbled onto a hornet's nest. The first few chapters are just Liz Jones totally and utterly berating her ex husband, Nirpal Dhaliwal, for the circumstances that led up to their divorce. I am not defending him either, but it does make you wonder if she wasn't who she is (she writes for the Daily Mail) if the book would even have been published.
Once I'd found that out, I started to dig around, and it turns out the book got very mixed reviews, as she's upset all the locals in her part of Somerset. She does write in the book that she lives in the middle of Exmoor, but she doesn't. She also made the massive mistake of slating all the local eateries in the area, claiming their menus were all relics from the seventies. It sounds as though she's actually very unpopular.
I did snort a few times about her antics with her horse (eg. feeding them on organic M&S carrots - like her horse would know!) and the fact that she can't buy anything without telling you how much it cost (three thousand pounds for a handbag) but to give her her due, I did laugh a lot when I read it, and cried twice, too (once when her horse bolted - been there, done that.) Towards the end she shows more of her vulnerability and I nearly started to like her. So it was a very interesting read, but I don't think I'd recommend it, although I'd still like people to read it, as then we'd all have something to discuss over dinner!
There, I've got down off my soapbox (where I was sat) as it's quite high up. In fact, if I was stood up there I'd probably get dizzy. Getting that off my chest has made my whole Sunday worthwhile. Thanks for listening. Food for thought?


  1. I am at a complete loss! A Grammar snob? Here was I, thinking that it was a person of Middle Class educational attributes, now I find it is no more than a person who uses the English language correctly!.....Or incorrectly, depending on your view of the spoken and written word.

    I am originally from Cumberland, not Cumbria! However, when in 1974, the Gov. decided to make one, from two(Westmorland as well) I was mortified. The joining of two totally grammatically differing areas? What rubbish! But they went ahead, and low and behold, it hasnt caused any major issues.
    I always spoke with an accent, "Ist` thee ga`an oot?" and such as, " Ar` yus aa`l reet marra?"
    So how was I to become a more understood person?
    I changed my speech patterns, and moved away.
    I am now an adopted Scot, and find myself slipping into the vernacular. So,what is a Grammar snob? Bad spelling? Bad Grammar? Or both, or poor vocabulary? Who can say?
    For me, a snob is a person who tries too hard, who attempts to show that those who speak, without the clipped tones and speech of the Aristocracy/Middle Class, are beneath contempt.
    However, I also feel that today, it doesnt matter, there are those who say it does, but no, if I was to move to another area, I would slot in, and take onboard the tonal variations and speech patterns of the people of the area. To not do so, would to some mark you out as being a snob? Or would it?

    I dont think you have too much to worry about,any one who even reads the Daily Mail, needs to re assess there mental capacity! You dont read it, do you? Lol.

  2. No one can take exception to a little local dialect. And there's no point in getting one's knickers in a twist over charming antiquated pronunciation.
    But when my boss said, last week, "What do you think? Is it time to leave out of here?" I did feel the need for a very short lecture.

  3. I have to bite my tongue hundreds of time. As an English teacher here in the US, I am bombarded by grammar faux pas. "Just between you and I," "I seen him coming," "Me and him are going together," "Jane and myself did the work," etc. And this is not only in the classroom. Forget about proper usage of "its, it's, there, their, they're" and other such grammar riddles.

    I cringe, but simply keep my lips sealed unless I am actually working with a student.

    If you are a grammar snob, then I am too!

  4. I think that I might be a bit of a snob too :o( I can get a bit wound up when I've got the tv on and I hear presenters complete with their local dialects and sayings. I really think that if a presenter is to be heard nation wide then they should have a dialect that is easily understood by all ie the Queen's English as it used to be termed!
    IT really bugs me when I hear people talking and they miss letters, or should I say le ers?, from the middle of words, usually the letter t. Coronation Street is a prime culprit!! Grrrrr!!

  5. "I can get a bit wound up when I've got the tv on and I hear presenters complete with their local dialects and sayings."
    Yes, yes.... Like the local Fox News story in which the anchor enlightened the audience about a driver who'd been arrested "all liquored up." She wasn't quoting an official; that was her text.

  6. Ya know that was a very fun soap box...I enjoyed your time on it!! :) I laughed and agree...without some rules we would all be like the tower of babel...:)


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