Yore a pendant

19/12/2013 § 3 Comments

A small earthquake was reported in the Home Counties this morning.

The cause?

“The military is moving towards less boots on the ground.”

The lips of thousands of enraged Radio Four listeners exploded simultaneously.


The impact was seismic. Tiles were loosened. Garden furniture wobbled. A wall in West Byfleet fell down.

And then the typing began.

“Dear Radio Four, I was appalled to hear chunter chunter fume explode…”

How we love it when Radio Four gets something wrong. How we squirm with outraged delight. And how we enjoy it when they apologise an hour or so later.

It’s exhausting being a pedant. You have to be right all the time. There is nothing worse than being hoist with your own pedantic petard.

And there, of course, the pedants dive in.

“What do you mean ‘Nothing worse’? There are many things worse. Just think of all the people who have nothing chunter chunter fume explode…”

And so the long day wears on.

I waver when it comes to pedantry. Part of me quivers, longing to correct the hapless pedantee. It’s / its. They’re / their / there. You’re / your.

“Your joking,” someone texts / tweets / emails / Facebooks (yes I know “to Facebook” isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, a thing. Sue me.)

“My joking what?” I reply (in my head – I don’t quite dare commit it to the ether).

But while one part of me quivers, the rest of me is painfully aware of the sad truth: the trouble with pedantry is that you tend to look like a bit of a prissy do-gooding git with nothing better to do than flaunt your perceived superiority over whomsoever you happen to be conversing with at the time. It’s not an attractive look. You can’t be a graceful, good-humoured, life-and-soul-of-the-party-type pedant. It’s the prissy way or no way at all.

And the other trouble with it is that language changes. If it didn’t we’d still be thouing and wouldsting each other instead of, like, omging and, like, loling, you know? Because language.

[That last sentence, by the way, is, so I’m told, correct nowadays. Because + noun = correct sentence. Because internet. I share your pain and raise you a hit of pure agony.]

Anyway, if you take the evolution of language back to its (‘it’s’? ‘i’ts’?) logical conclusion, we’d still be wriggling at each other in a single-celled haven’t-evolved-out-of-the-primordial-soup-yet kind of way.

So, yes, languages, like life forms, evolve.

But I’ll be buggered if you’ll get me to accept that the only reasonable reaction to the word “webinar” isn’t to vomit noisily on the person who said it.

Anyway, the “Radio Four got it wrong” thing led me to a brief burst of “Film Titles To Annoy Pedants”. Feel free to add your own.

For Who The Bell Tolls

The King and Me

Its A Wonderful Life

Me, Claudius

South Specific

To Of and Of Not

Brewsters Million’s

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