If you have read my “About Me” page on scuffedgranny.com, you will know that I was once an English teacher in a high school in Britain. I haven’t taught for years but as the saying goes, “old habits die hard”. I think there will be many other teachers, retired or otherwise, who feel the same.
As an English teacher, one of the things that is essential is a very good grasp of the English language because if you’re going to teach it to others, it really does help to know more than them. I like to think that I have continued to display in my musings here that I have a good understanding as well as manipulation of the Queen’s own. But, conversely, one of the things that I am noticing more and more are the errors that are haphazardly and carelessly littering our wonderful English language.
I am not alone in this.
I certainly know that Lynne Truss has noticed too and if you have not read her, you really should as she gives hilarious examples of the bad uses of punctuation in the English language in her book Eats, Shoots and Leaves: A Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
Also, there is an anonymous someone who takes out books at the local library and has spent time marking spelling mistakes in the text, underlining them in pencil (such respect!) and even writing notes in the margin, like “Does this make sense?” It makes me chuckle. It’s got to be a retired teacher.
Before you think I am being a pedant, I know that I make mistakes too. Just today, I noticed in one of my already published blogs an extra word that made a sentence nonsensical and so with some chagrin, I removed it. I’m not infallible, more’s the pity.
I notice lots of errors in language in the world around me and it irritates me to a degree but being a sort of “live and let live” type of girl, I let them wash over me. It is certainly true that I am not as proactive as I once was, as in my younger days, I wrote a letter to the BBC because of the incorrect use of an apostrophe in one of its kids’ shows. I was such a zealot!
I can’t remember the exact example but it should have been “its” when it is used to show possession e.g. “the dog bit its paw” but they had put “it’s” which is the abbreviated version of “it is”. I know these are confusing in the same way that “their, there and they’re” are but still, this was the BBC, paragon of British broadcasting. In fairness, they did reply but I was a little disappointed. I had a small thrill when I saw the headed paper, a frisson of recognition but it soon dissipated once I read their explanation. They stated somewhat defensively that they were under time constraints to get the show out and so, sometimes errors happen but it did make me think. I mean, if the BBC is finding it acceptable to make oversights during the course of its programming, then where will it all end?
I understand that language is a fluid thing and always has been so it is only natural that it will continue to change and with the advent of emojis and popular abbreviations like LOL, words may become defunct. But we’re not there quite yet and so, I believe there are some rules that should be followed and that to me seem obvious, appropriate spelling being one. The correct use of the apostrophe is more tricky, I’ll grant you.
So the odd mistake in the course of day-to-day living is fine. I mean, none of us are perfect, are we? And mistakes are the way we learn, aren’t they?
That being said, however, there are some mistakes especially in the name of products or in the advertisements of big chains that especially rankle me. My personal feeling is that they really should know better and as a result, should be making a concerted effort to ensure that if they are going to publicise their product, they should be getting it right.
Where’s the pride in your work, people?
Let’s tackle the thorny issue of the apostrophe first, shall we? In the title of this blog, I have written “Kid’s Meal” which was used on the poster of a well-known chain here in North America called Boston Pizza to advertise that they provide nourishment for small people for a nominal fee.
All seems good, yes? What can be wrong with that? Well, it seems a little exclusive if you ask me as it appears that just the one kid is having a meal there tonight if it’s a “kid’s meal” so get there quickly or miss out!
The meals are offered to all kids and so it should be “Kids’ Meals”. I notice this is quite a common error on eateries’ menus but I forgive the small businesses who are photocopying them in their back room and providing some chewed crayons to amuse the youngsters whilst they wait for their nuggets. But polished advertising with bright posters in windows really should be better presented.
Shall we deal with Downy’s Unstopables next? For those of you that don’t know, this is a product that you throw in with your laundry and it freshens your washing for weeks after so that it continues to have that “just laundered” smell.
Easy to use but difficult to spell.
You see, it should be “Unstoppables”: like changing “stop” to “stopped”, you double up on the “p”. Nobody ever gets “stoped” by the police or is “unstopable” at the disco with their nifty dance moves because there is no such word. Your writing may be “sloping” if it leans a bit but you don’t have water “sloping” out of a bowl (unless it’s especially cunning and doesn’t want to be seen like a naughty teenager).
This irritates me so much that I refuse to buy this product until it is corrected and avert my eyes when I pass it in the detergent aisle. My friend, Erin gave me some to try in a plastic bag to get rid of the smell of chlorine on my boys’ swimming trunks and the only reason I accepted them was because they were not handed to me in their misspelled packaging so I could pretend they were something else. They performed admirably but still…
Finally, “artifical”. This was flashed on my T.V. screen as part of an advertisement for McDonald’s, extolling the virtues of the lack of ARTIFICIAL anything in their food. It was up there for a matter of seconds and not only did I notice it but my then twelve year old did as well. We laughed at the images that McDonald’s were projecting in the use of “artifical” which if you say it out loud sounds like it could be “arti-fecal”, the components of that word suggesting that something has been artfully placed on a plate to look like poo.
I am pretty sure that well-presented poo is not an association that McDonald’s would want people to make about their food.
With respect to McDonald’s, they pretty much immediately corrected it to read “artificial” much to our relief and all was right in the world again. I have to say that I also felt glad that there must have been somebody else with our vigilance that also spotted it and let McDonald’s know – I am no longer in letter writing mode unless it’s for Letters Against Isolation so it wasn’t me. It made me feel warm inside nonetheless.
Well done, McDonald’s.
So, please big corporations, take the time to check your stuff or employ people who can as for one member of the public, it is exceedingly annoying.