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My Last Post?

In the everyday context of reading and interpreting the written word. Does grammar matter? Should those who have good grammatical skills refrain from criticism?

Should those lacking good English desist from airing a view even though the value of their contribution is unquestioned? Or in the broader context should those of little formal educational merit abstain from expressing an opinion?

gramma

William B Bradshaw the author of ‘The Big Ten of Grammar: Identifying and Fixing the Ten Most Frequent Grammatical Errors’ explains why grammar is important this way.

‘’Grammar is important because it is the language that makes it possible for us to talk about language. Grammar names the types of words and word groups that make up sentences not only in English but in any language. As human beings, we can put sentences together even as children–we can all do grammar. But to be able to talk about how sentences are built, about the types of words and word groups that make up sentences–that is knowing about grammar. And knowing about grammar offers a window into the human mind and into our amazingly complex mental capacity. ‘’

Now it’s pretty hard to argue with that. Good grammar is vitally important. But how important? In Tim Winton’s latest book “Eyre” (which is very conversational) he doesn’t use any quotation marks at all. And of course grammar can vary from one English speaking nation to another. And what the purists think of texting is anyone’s guess. Added to that is the flexibility of language and how new words arise and the meaning of old ones change. So language is an exceedingly malleable but a very important thing.

To be able to write written words that express the manner in which you might speak them, requires an understanding of grammar.

Books, magazines, newspapers, and blogs of this ilk require grammatical excellence. Publications of all sorts employ proof readers. They don’t trust their writers/journalists with their grammar. They seek a higher skill. And skilful they are. I have employed a few.

Which brings me to my point. This blog does not employ a proof reader. It relies on its writers to get it right. Unfortunately this writer who is almost entirely self-educated is the biggest culprit. Inevitably everything I write comes under criticism for one grammatical error or another. And rightly so I might add. So much so that, sometimes, there are more comments about my grammar than the subject of my writing.

I was born in the year of Pearl Harbor. As a lad I was sickly and my mother was very poor. My father left her after I was born. I attended five state schools in six years. Attended is the wrong word to use because I rarely did so. I had a few months at Brunswick Tech before starting work at 13. It was illegal but I did.

So my first job was with a printing company and it was in the variety of what they printed that I educated myself. I had a successful sporting career. I ran my own marketing business for the last 25 years of my working life. I completed many courses including public speaking. I finished a Dip of Fine Arts in retirement and specialised in portraiture. I learnt to play the piano and musical theory and had a number of songs recorded. I have read my poetry and short stories in places like the Vic National art Gallery, Montsalvat and many churches. I have spent a large part of my life on committees of one sort or another. As an amateur actor I have acted in many productions.

Reading and the attainment of knowledge has been a lifetime pursuit. In my work and private life I enjoyed a reputation as someone always prepared to have a go.

So should uneducated folk like me just lay on a bed in a darkened room and never share the worth of their accumulated experience.

In a piece by Indian writer and columnist Aakar Patell he comments on the virtue of education in leadership and lists a number of very educated world leaders.

“Usually, a lack of education produces two qualities. The first is the instinct to simplify. The other, a product of the first and more dangerous, is certitude. Dangerous, particularly when one is convinced that one is “decisive”—a word that really means that someone who is quick in making decisions. Sanjay Gandhi, who was barely literate (he failed in, and then dropped out of, high school), had just such a dangerous certitude”.

Speaking for myself I cannot at all agree with this conclusion. In my experience formerly uneducated people are more likely to doubt, to look beyond the simplistic, or beyond the obvious in search of greater understanding because they are closer to real life experience. Doubt I believe brings one closer to enlightenment.

Conversely there have been many successful uneducated people. Albert Enstein was a high school dropout, John D Rockefeller left school at 16. Abe Lincoln was entirely was self-educated. Paul Keating left school at age 14. Astronaut John Glenn never finished college. Neither did internet giants Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. Mark Twain was an apprentice at 11. Henry Ford left school at 17. It is thought that William Shakespeare did not attend school from 13. And of course Winston Churchill did very poorly at school.

For a more comprehensive list of successful people who have not completed their education you might try this.

So I finish where I started.

“Should those lacking good English skills desist from airing a view even though the value of their contribution is unquestioned. Or in the broader context should those of little formal educational merit abstain from expressing an opinion?”
The answer is of course an empathetic NO.

Undoubtedly there will be some who will find fault with this piece. You can email any corrections to me and I will correct them. You can as a lot of people choose to do, tell me in the comments. However, I defy any reader to say they cannot comprehend the meaning of my language.

johnlord@wideband.net.au

155 comments

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  1. Roswell

    A faultless piece, John.

  2. Konstantina

    Dear John, I want to thank you for all your writing. You always write with empathy, wisdom and wit. Reading this last one (which I most sincerely hope it will not be) has inspired me greatly and has given me hope for one day pursuing all the beautiful things you have.

    I am an adult literacy teacher. Every week I share class time with the most intelligent and resourceful people I have ever met. Very sadly, they still each see themselves as having a ‘disability’ because they were not able to learn the rules of grammar and spelling as others so easily have, despite decades of trying incredibly hard. It breaks my heart but thankfully, every week something wonderful happens and we are getting lots of little breakthroughs.

    Please ignore the people who make such irrelevant and thoughtless comments. You are valued and needed here. Please don’t stop sharing.

  3. hilderombout

    Dear John, you are far from uneducated, really far from being so. I look at your list of achievements and there is no way i could possibly match it, even though i have a university education. What you possibly lack in formal education you have made up more than adequately in your life education imho.
    John, i always enjoy your writing and look to the spirit in which it is written and as such it enlightens me. Being an ex-teacher i might notice spelling mistakes but it does not in any way do away with my understanding of what you made me aware of.

    Like you i am retired and i do some volunteer work with migrant elderly in the Latrobe Valley, many of whom are not fluid in English. Should this group of people be ignored because not only their grip on the English language is not perfect but they can’t express themselves fully in this language either? What a silly idea would that be. Apart from a tongue we have also been given two ears, not just one but two, to listen, and listen with our hearts as well. And this will help us understand even more than the mere written word.
    So i thank you first and foremost for your contributions and i totally agree with Konstantina in saying, “Please ignore the people who make such irrelevant and thoughtless comments. You are valued and needed here. Please don’t stop sharing.”

  4. abbienoiraude

    ‘’Usually, a lack of education produces two qualities. The first is the instinct to simplify. The other, a product of the first and more dangerous, is certitude.”
    Turned to my man and asked; What’s certitude?
    (So you can see I am not ‘educated’)
    My reaction when he told me was; “Oh god NO”.
    For those so ‘highly educated’ produce far more ‘certitude’ than those ‘uneducated’. The uneducated know we are, and so second guess, doubt our certainty every day. Knowledge is powerful, but curiosity is even more thus.
    Save us, John, from the certitude of the educated powerful for they know how to manipulate the People to their own gains. The ‘educated’ politician who has unbridled ambition is the most dangerous product we can imagine. How they laugh at the unwashed fools, we who are not educated to their degree.
    I would prefer to read a piece full of passion than one full of correct grammar if there was that choice.
    Thank you for the journey of your background. You cannot claim to be ‘uneducated’ after all that experience and your Dip of Fine Arts!
    Your blog gave me a little hope that one day I, too, may be able to write.

  5. pappinbarafox

    John, a knowledge of grammar is not necessary for good writing. Indeed I’d say time spent on learning grammar could be better spent writing (note that is a verb – a doing word – an action therefore not a fixed item). Which of the over 35 grammars that have been developed to describe English would you choose as the yardstick? Not using quote marks is not grammar – that is a convention outside grammar and only a relatively recent one anyway. Grammar is syntax and mainly is language in use in context. Grammar only becomes important when ambiguity needs to be avoided (and that is not all the time. Tolerance of ambiguity is a cornerstone of a thinking person (nothing to do with education!)).
    Most people who pick up on grammatical errors (showing their superiority) are usually wrong anyway. Go back and have a look at all the corrections or errors that have been pointed out to you – I bet most have flaws themselves!

  6. cordannao

    Thanks John you just validated my existence.

    Being self educated has led to an enquiring mind and need to research everything I don’t understand. As I have often said to my kids, ‘mistakes are the best teachers in the world’.

    Have you ever wondered why people tell a person who is singing to shut up because they sound awful?
    It’s as if they would prefer listen to a person whining well.

    This is a beautiful piece of writing and will be so uplifting to many of us.

    Coralie

  7. donwreford

    The greatest threat to democracy are academics that are unable to distinguish idea and concepts that are written and invalidate these comments as being grammatically incorrect, I would add no perfection exists for the written word, no philosophy of language can describe the universe as the perfect text.

  8. Kaye Lee

    You know that I appreciate your writing John as we have had this conversation before so I will add a slightly different perspective.

    I am not sure what formal education means. Even within the constraints of educational institutions, learning is a personal thing. I did chemistry for two years at university and failed both times. I later did it correspondence while working full-time, doing the prac work in my holidays, and I got 100% in the exam. My point being that I taught myself far better than other people did (though I have to admit I put more effort in).

    I understand the comment about the certitude of ignorance being dangerous but contest that it is a function of formal education. I fondly remember a bottom year 8 maths class that I taught. I was forced to give them the same tests as the rest of the form. I spent a lot of time working on their self-esteem. They would come out of these tests and say to me “I nailed it miss…finished in 15 minutes”. The kids in the top class were never so confident as they knew enough to know what they were not certain about. The more you know, the more you know what you don’t know. I see this dangerous certitude in Coalition voters who are very willing to believe and repeat what they are told whereas more inquiring minds question and research further.

    Being well-informed is not a function of education so much as application.

    That being said, when we choose to put our words in the public sphere we are laying ourselves open to criticism. We all have strengths and weaknesses just as we do when playing sport. I was an excellent defence player in netball but I couldn’t shoot a goal for love nor money. We must be able to accept criticism of our weaknesses along with the praise we sometimes receive for our strengths. Imperfection does not invalidate the contribution and criticism of grammar does not detract from the overall narrative.

  9. Anne Byam

    John … there is little I could add to the comments already written – I agree with them all. Cordannao’s comment about being self educated leading to >>>> “need to research everything I don’t understand”. I do the same. I am self-educated in the use and technical aspects of computerisation. English however, was my favourite subject at school – I am a writer of poetry ( Internet published by many ) yet I STILL to this day, make sure that I have used a word correctly, by using my much thumbed dictionary – or on-line dictionaries to make certain. I did not finish the full years of High School, but that doesn’t matter – in hindsight.

    The literacy level of many these days, leaves much to be desired ( no offence to KONSTANTINA here who is doing a superb job of helping people over their illiteracy ). I think the quickie response in texting, the abbreviations known to many Internet users, and general constant changes in the education system over the years, has contributed to literacy inadequacy. Used to work with a man whose brilliance was in technology – high profile broadcast cameras, editing suites etc. He was truly the brightest star, but his written English was utterly atrocious. He couldn’t write any sentence correctly, nor could he spell to save his life. That didn’t stop him a) getting his written messages across, and b) being absolute top of the grade in the work he was trusted with.

    I confess to being a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to writing – grammar etc. is important to me. However, I would no more chide someone for incorrect grammar or spelling, than fly to the moon.

    Notice you went for a brief time, to what was affectionately known ( in those days ) as “Brunnie Tech”. I lived in Pascoe Vale South myself – know the separation of the various ‘levels’ of schooling that had students go to wherever they were sent from State Schools. The intense pressure that students felt back then, from parents most often – was tough. I believe those days are past – thank heaven.

    @ Abbienoiraude ….. you already KNOW how to write !! But, agreed – we could all do with the kind of inspiration that John gives.

    JOHN —– Your articles / writing are a real joy. Please keep up your great work and congrats. on your achievements.

  10. Kaye Lee

    A practical suggestion?

    I always type my articles in Word so it usually shows those red and green squiggly lines where I have made mistakes. After I fix them, or those I find, I then copy and paste it here. Some mistakes still happen but it helps with the proof reading which is very difficult to do to your own work as your eyes read what your brain meant.

  11. Stuart Dean

    I may be guilty of tactfully pointing out an error sometimes, John. But good grammar is not all that necessary. I even doubt my own spelling at times, but a quick check with Google puts me right. I also spend a moment or two reading what I have written, to make sure I have no typo’s. Keep writing, John – we all love your work. By the way, I stumbled on this the other day – it’s rather catchy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8Gv0H-vPoDc

  12. francescaagosti

    I’m wondering how readers of Tim Winton’s latest book ‘Eyre’ found the experience of reading dialogue with no quotation marks? Personally I would find this cumbersome and confusing.

    The point of a good novel or any written or spoken work is to draw the reader in. Having words that flow well, a narrative that is fluid and can be unambiguously understood contributes to the pleasure or reading, and listening. If I had to choose between reading a well written and engaging piece of work rather than one riddled with spelling and grammatical errors that made it difficult to comprehend the writer’s intent, I would chose the former. Language, for me, is about conveying thoughts and feelings in a clear and easily understood manner that others can understand and not misinterpret. The more we master language the better we are at making ourselves understood in our external world.

    To this end, I believe having a prescriptive method of clear and unambiguous spoken and written communication is essential for any progressive society; in medicine, in science, in law, in every area of human endeavour.

    I don’t believe that attempting to preserve language is related to humiliating or castigating those “lacking good English”. Nobody is suggesting that those who have “little formal education” refrain from expressing their opinion, or are indeed less intelligent than anyone else. However, I believe it is selling everyone short when we assume that developing effective language skills is beyond the reach of any one of us. We are all capable of improvement in any area we choose, including understanding how to use language effectively.

    I believe the casual attitude toward language in our modern world is a byproduct of the technological age. As a species we seem to have our collective attention permanently directed toward our iPads, iPods, MacBooks, and Blackberries; focused on Twitter, Facebook, WeeWorld, or Tumblr. Reading a great novel or work of fiction appears to have become less valuable than checking emails, staying connected via social media, or following our favourite celebrity’s blog.

    As a species we excel when we direct energy in a specific direction, when we strive for excellence rather than mediocrity. For me language is one such worthy pursuit.

    And for the record, I very much enjoy reading your work, John Lord.

  13. bjkelly1958

    You know I only pick up on things that alter or detract from your intended message. You stop posting and I’ll hold my breath until I turn purple!

  14. staffordhall

    We all love youse Johno, for all our sakes, dont stop!

  15. MarkH

    Maybe those of the disposition you are highlighting might like to hear your written word rather than read it?

    I enjoy your writing but if they cannot cope with expression and word choice based on personal rules rather than substantial and recognised book learning then perhaps they should be subje—errm, honoured to receive your views in audio form….:D

    Please keep writing John.

  16. aravis1

    Even though I’m a spelling and grammar nazi, I would consider it bad taste to write in and correct an author’s mistakes. That IMO, is rude. Unless the sense is ambiguous. So don’t worry, John Lord, your contributions are invaluable and we would all be the poorer without them! Please do keep on writing!

  17. Jimhaz

    [But good grammar is not all that necessary]

    Not necessary, but still helpful. Not that I’d know good grammar if it bit me on the botty.

    One of the problems imperfect grammar or poor phrasing has, is that it produces a slight irritation in some readers and this irritation detracts their focus.

    People tend to comment mostly on what they disagree with (or is that just the more pessimistic). With social media people are often at work, or other places, rather than sitting at down at home, relaxed and ready to contemplate and perhaps make comments that add value. When they are time limited, or primarily agree with the content, they may just make a quick post on an irrelevancy. If they have been irritated by some minor grammatical or wording error, then to complain about it becomes the easy and quick target they will use. Of course, some people are just anally retentive.

    Amongst others, I also misinterpreted the intent of the wording on a recent article by John. Funny thing is that phrasing error ended up resulting in quite a nice thread.

  18. Carol Taylor

    John, a person can have a piece of paper confirming to the world that they are educated, but cannot own a piece of paper saying that they are a gentleman. You John, are not only educated in the finest sense of the word, but are a true gentleman. It has been a privilege to make your acquaintance via this blog and via your thoughts for the day online.

  19. Dissenter

    As someone who taught English in high schools for half a lifetime I agree with you John entirely that people whose English is poor or not grammatical or punctuated correctly should contribute their ideas and debate equally with all others. Anyone who is so pedantic to question grammar or the use of vocab should consider that perhaps they are bullies who are simply jealous of the quality of ideas expressed or their meaning in a text.
    These days formal correctness is not always the desirable style and I purposefully break grammatical rules in my writing for dramatic purpose and also used capital letters the same way.
    I have been significantly bullied on another site because of this. I find this laughable. I was also bullied because of my ideas which I was told I should not be allowed to express because they were critical of Labor.

    Ultimately if we live in a society where freedom of speech is encouraged then it should be logically argued that that freedom condones others opinions and also the way that they are expressed.It should not condone attacks on other commentators or even the right to interrogate another writer.Interrogation is overstepping the mark as it is abusive and bullying.
    I would be deeply saddened to see you stop writing John. You work is considerable and significant and always compelling and written with commensense and rational argument. I always read your articles.

  20. EJB

    Beware pedants and those who are certain. Language is ever changing. But I admit I do have a problem each time that Tony Abbott says ‘somethink’.

  21. Terry2

    ‘Love your writing, John: a quote springs to mind :-

    ‘ It is impossible to withhold education from the receptive mind,as it is impossible to force it upon the unreasoning ‘

    Have a good weekend.

  22. abbienoiraude

    @Ann Byam
    Away from tropic, but one little comment from you, a stranger, brought tears of emotion to this 60 year old frustrated writer.
    Thank you for the sweet tidbit of encouragement. Much much appreciated.

  23. lawrencewinder

    Oi rekon ya dun good fer a Brunny boy!

  24. Lee

    “Let’s eat Grandma” vs “Let’s eat, Grandma”. Correct grammar saves lives. 🙂

    John, the people who are criticising your writing do so because they are nitpickers with nothing of value to contribute to the discussion and need to feel good about themselves by putting someone else down. I am a grammar Nazi and if I can read an article without cringing about the grammar (which I can do quite easily when reading your articles), then there isn’t much wrong with it. Picking on the occasional error isn’t warranted. I guarantee if I read enough from your critics I’ll find spelling and grammatical errors somewhere in their writing too. I see grammatical errors in MSM on a regular basis and they should be employing proof readers. I once read a series of four novels where the self-published author used an apostrophe before s to indicate plurals throughout the entire series. It detracted from the enjoyment of reading as it was so widespread. I did write to the author and suggest that she hire a proof reader.

  25. Carol Taylor

    Has anyone noticed the number of typos in the msm..and they have an army of editors and proof readers (paid ones!). Yet here are people such as John bashing out ideas and opinions armed with nothing more than a mobile device..how John manages I do not know.

  26. Anomander

    Seriously? Do people really have so little to complain about that they need to correct minor grammatical errors on a blog post?

    We are in the grip of the worst, the most divisive and the most destructive government in our history, and the writers here are contributing immensely toward breaking through the governments shroud of misinformation and lies. Can’t we all just focus on the message, not the delivery?

    Please keep-up the superb work John and ignore the pedants, we desperately need commentators of your calibre and quality more than ever.

  27. corvus boreus

    John Lord,
    I respect and enjoy your writing, both your commentaries(even in occasional disagreement) and your creative pieces. The language you use is subject appropriate, and clearly expresses the thoughts behind the words. There is also versatility of diction in your fiction, your characters speak with distinctive voices.
    Some others can tend to become enamored of their own overblown enunciations until tangled in tautology and wrapped in redundancies (looking at you, mirror-man).
    Lack of formalised(institutionalised) educational processes can be a positive advantage in that it can aid the retention of individualistic thought(divergent thinking does not thrive in indoctrination) and avoids the pitfall of post-grad complacency(I have a degree, I am done learning).
    As for punctuation and spelling, for me commas randomly sprout like pimples on a pubescent, and spill-chuck dozen git context.
    I will not plead with you to continue writing, I suspect as an artisan and artist you might find it harder to stopper your creative flow.
    Abbienoiraude,
    the only context that you are a frustrated writer is in that you are a writer who expresses frustration at obvious injustice in eloquent writing.

  28. Rob031

    I can’t remember the source of this excellent quote:

    “Just as Masons have secret ways of recognising one another, so too do people of intelligence”

  29. Anne Byam

    To EJB …

    wonder how many people have noticed the “somethink” …. he uses the word often – – – – there IS no such word as we know. Now that, I object to – he really should have studied the English language a tad better than that !!! Shambolic ( although a legitimate word ) is another of his favourites. hmmm. I do wish someone else would write his speeches for him ( I am presuming he does HAVE a speech writer ).

    And now, I can be accused of being a bit of a dope and picking holes when incorrect use of the English language, is seen.

    What REALLY gets on my nerves is the word “nucular” ( Americans seems to have a penchant for that one ) instead of nuclear … and the worst of all …. Mischievious. It is mischievous, no ‘ i ‘ before the ‘ ous ‘. I figure 8 out of 10 people say ” mischievious”. Grrrrrr.

    OK … that’s my rant for the day.

  30. Anne Byam

    @ Abbienoiraude. You are more than welcome. Keep on writing, and have faith in yourself. I very much appreciated your thank you.

    AND

    @ Lawrencewinder. I darn near choked with laughter at your comment. Well said. A great scramble of English spelling and grammar for effect.
    ( * still chuckling ).

    AND

    @ John … PLEASE don’t stop writing your excellent articles. You have much to give, and it is so much appreciated.

  31. francescaagosti

    I didn’t read this excellent article by John as a response to his critics. Had I know, my earlier comment might have been entirely different. John, I echo the deluge of comments that have come before mine. You have so many interesting and informative things to say, and I love the way you say them. I’ve always enjoyed your articles very much, and learned so much. You have expanded my consciousness, and for me that’s the whole point of reading. Please do not be deterred by naysayers. To your critics I say … chook poo!

  32. Dan Rowden

    In the everyday context of reading and interpreting the written word. Does grammar matter?

    Superb use of irony.

  33. rossleighbrisbane

    One attacks grammar when one cannot defeat the arguments. Alternatively, one can attack the spelling and grammar just for the fun of it when the person one is attacking is either a) is writing about the poor grammar (and spelling) of today’s youth or b) Andrew Bolt or c) Uses the following spellings: The Labour Party, ‘Til, Morun, or several others that autocorrect won’t let me write without changing…

  34. rossleighbrisbane

    Should anyone wish to attack my incorrect use of the word “either” or the incorrect usage of the word “uses”, rather than a more consistent “using”, then please do so and I’ll feel that my argument – as opposed to my grammar – is validated. 😀

  35. rossleighbrisbane

    P.S. For those who are wondering: “either” should only be followed by one alternative “or”, just as “neither” should only be followed by a singular “nor”.

  36. corvus boreus

    Rossleigh,
    Your fine with you’re either/ors and neither/nors, just don’t muddle you’re yaws and yores.

  37. francescaagosti

    Ditto.

  38. Kaye Makovec

    “Unfortunately this writer who is almost entirely self-educated is the biggest culprit.” Self education should be commended as it shows the required intelligence.

    “Inevitably everything I write comes under criticism for one grammatical error or another.” Even the most educated make mistakes and typos and even if they didn’t, good manners are very if not more important than the odd grammatical error, in my opinion only of course.

    Surely it is more important for a well written article be understood by its readers, which often includes many others without a formal education.

  39. Vicki

    John, when I was at uni I had wriiten in block letters and red ink on several of my essays – THIS IS A SPLIT INFINITIVE!! And yes (big no,no – you do not start a sentence with ‘and’ but no worries) I was undertaking a Masters in English at the time!!!!!! Still do not know what a ‘split infinitive’ is so I’m probably doing it all the time. Bound to be someone out there who can enlighten me and I will endeavour to split infinitives no more. Please John do not stop posting your musings or your essays.

  40. Dan Dark

    Kaye Makovec….Great to see you back at AIMN 🙂

  41. Anne Byam

    Doesn’t matter how one writes ( as opposed to speaks – that is entirely another matter ) … as long as it gets the message across, fluently and with little digression. Speech is more person to person, with body language and emphasis on the utterance, thrown in for good measure !! Writing is entirely different and appeals to everybody – one way or another ( or maybe not ). Depends always on the reader I guess.

    And what I have read of John Lord’s posts, have been good, informative, and not blatently biased. Well done John. Keep doing it – please.

  42. Anne Byam

    @ Vicki …. I haven’t a ruddy clue as to what a split infinitive is. I figure it is something the dons at Uni. have kind of invented ???? LOL. However, your post had me doing what I most like doing ….. looking it up. !! Here is a link for you to study, and if you can make head or tail of it, I would REALLY like to know. http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/split-infinitives Cos I couldn’t. Woe is me.

    I think we should all just be ourselves, write the way we want, express our concerns in whatever way we choose, and enjoy the likes of John Lord’s articles – and many others on AIM Network, who submit essays or commentary on topical subjects.

    Just sayin’ ………..

  43. Rossleighbrisbame

    To boldy split an infinitive where no man has dared to split an infinitive. Ah, if it were me, I’d use the subjunctive if I were using the conditional…

  44. Anne Byam

    @ Anomander. I believe the subject was headed “My Last Post” …. and as 99% of people here, do NOT want this to be John Lord’s last post … then the subject has been more than adequately covered – as per the actual heading and content. Perhaps people did not want to start World War 2.5 here by getting into the politics that ‘reign’ ( rain ) in and on our country today ?, although I take your point and agree with it – politically. The current PM is a dangerous man … There are plenty more posts on AIM and MANY other sites / blogs / critiques / media reports, that one can swing the axe ( and rightly so IMO ) at our current alleged leader.

    End of …… ( except maybe for those that want to have a go at me for my comment !!!!! ????? ) …

    AND

    @ Rosseleighbrisame …. Yeah ok right. I will believe you – this time !!! Meantime, let me look all that up on Google !! 🙂

  45. abbienoiraude

    Turned to man. What is a ‘split infinitive’?

    “To boldly go where….”….he answered.
    To live with a grammar Nazi who is considered ‘uneducated’ can be quite a feat! Believe me.
    He not only explained it to a boring degree, but demanded that YES it was ‘important’. I disagreed and remain unmoved by his argument.
    So there!

  46. whatismore

    Keep writing John. Language changes with common usage. Never mind the pedants.

  47. aravis1

    Glad you answered the split infinitive Ross; it’s a weakness of mine to jump in and educate people on stuff like that, when they ask – which is still stupendously unnecessary. Wasn’t it Churchill who satirised the “with” thing by saying, “This is something up with which I will not put”? Or something.

  48. sdrawkcaB

    Education is interesting to me.

    An educated person is an independent self-directed learner who is capable of independent thought. The goal of education institutions is to produce these self-directed, independent thinkers.

    Curiously, if one actually goes forth and does some self-directed learning and thinking, the education and training sector has a whole raft of excuses to deem your own efforts null and void.

    More curiously, most graduates are leaving dependent on others to instruct them. They are full the ability to give good sounding answers but the thoughts are not their own. They are just reciting previous instruction. Ask them something they do not know and you do not see them developing an answer for you based on first principles. Instead they start fumbling around on the internet to find the answer that someone else has already arrived at. My view is they are not educated but taught.

    As to the article and grammar. Yes, as a writer, you should have a handle on grammar. Does it mean you lack education? No, it just means you have not given suitable attention to grammar.

  49. corvus boreus

    I think to split an infinitive is to leave a linking word like an and or an or out on it’s arse at the start or end of a sentence. They should be sandwiched between words that name, do or describe , possibly ad-infinitum. Or I could be wrong.

  50. donwreford

    If grammar is so important why is it not possible for politicians to write laws that do not have loop holes?

  51. corvus boreus

    I was comprehensively wrong.
    Thank you, Mary B, for the 8:01 link.

  52. Dan Rowden

    Grammar: The difference between feeling your nuts and feeling you’re nuts.

  53. mikestasse

    Hi John…….

    Thank you for your faultless and thoughtful piece. I devoured every word.

    I know this is largely aimed at me, because I am one of the pedants who comments about bad spelling and grammar on occasion. I have largely abandoned the pursuit as a waste of time now. The medium of the internet has allowed far far more people to write publicly these days, so whilst once upon a time anything published (and laboriously hand written or typed on a typewriter) went past a publisher before publishing, some absolutely utter crap goes through to the keeper on the internet…. The result of the pre-internet era was that every t was crossed and ever i was dotted, as they say. It also means that far far more opinions can now be expressed, and that is a very good thing. I make the most of this facility myself!

    Unlike you, I am lucky to be somewhat of a natural linguist. I was born French, and when I left Europe aged 11 I had just finished my primary schooling, and topped the school in French. I have a love affair with language….. I started school here in Australia not knowing a word of English. When I sat for my Junior exam, I got a B for English (and an A for French, surprise surprise..). Within just three years I was better at English than half my class. Two years later I sat for my Senior exam and got an A for both languages. I can also read Italian and Spanish, sort of… I’m not writing this to ‘show off’, I’m doing this to explain I’m one of the lucky ones who finds language and expression and comprehension a cinch. It’s a skill I treasure. I still make the odd typo, but I like to blame the technology for that…. my laptop has a sticky ‘C’ key that I have to watch all the time…

    Language is what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, and we should not take it for granted. I like to compare good language to good cuisine. Just imagine an utterly delicious meal some chef has taken a huge amount of trouble to prepare and plate up, only to be spoilt by too much salt (or too little)….. that is how I feel when I read an excellent piece, spoilt by some bad grammar and or spelling. Judge me how you want, that’s who I am.

    There are many reasons why some piece of writing can be spoilt thus. A very good friend of mine is dyslexic. Yet he has a phD, and currently blogs, writing some amazing stuff I can never get enough of. Steve knows his limitations, he gets someone to proof read his work. I always look forward to his writings, just like I look forward to yours. We can’t all be good at everything, no one knows this better than me after building a house! So when you know your limits, ask for help. I would happily assist you….. you’re worth it.

  54. corvus boreus

    My c’s are choppy,
    my t’s are weak,
    my b’s don’t buzz,
    and my i’s are crossed.
    To say nothing of my sloppy r’s.

  55. Carol Taylor

    Corvus, split infinitives are one of my favourites…so much so that I do this frequently. 😉 A split infinitive is when an adverb is inserted between ‘to’ and the verb, the most famous split infinitive being: To boldly go where no man has gone before.

  56. corvus boreus

    Carol T,
    Got that. Anne Byam, (who I previously misclassified as a Mary) kindly posted a link to comprehensively correct any misconceptions upon the definition of the split infinitive.
    Now my mental mud is slightly clearer, and I shall continue to happily breach the rule prohibiting the splitting of infinitives, but now do so with the added spice of knowing that I am gleefully engaging in another form of dirty talk.
    It is a lesser transgression to capriciously split an infinitive than to maliciously split an atom.

  57. Lee

    @Anne

    “A split infinitive puts an adverb between the two parts of the full infinitive. “To generously sprinkle” is a split infinitive because “generously” splits the word “to” from the word “sprinkle.” – See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/split-infinitives#sthash.IoOTsQfb.dpuf

    The correct way to write it is “to sprinkle generously”.

    Grammar rules change over the years and Americans tend to make up their own. One is not supposed to use the word ‘but’ after a comma, yet I’ve noticed American authors do it on a regular basis.

    When I went to school practice was a noun and practise was a verb. Now I seldom see this rule practised. 😉 Practise seems to have dropped out of common usage.

  58. townsvilleblog

    John, many thanks for your contributions they have been very much appreciated by me.

  59. corvus boreus

    A practice not practised. 😉

  60. LogicalPhilosophical

    While I completely agree with John’s sentiment that you needn’t be ‘properly’ educated to form or communicate a valuable opinion, I feel I must take a stand for effective grammar and punctuation. I’m not taking a stand for being a pedant in the comments section, mind, that is what ‘corrections@…’ email addresses are for.

    Grammar and punctuation guide us through written text, telling us when to read on, when to pause, and when to stop completely. (I’m about to get shouted down for this…) They make the difference between a good post that expresses ideas in logical order (like John’s post here), and a great post that has those ideas in logical order while also leading us on a merry dance from one point to the next.

    Take John’s opening sentence; “In the everyday context of reading and interpreting the written word. Does grammar matter?”. Does that full stop after ‘word’ not bring anyone else to a grinding halt?! It should be a comma. Am I being petty? Sure, I work as an editor/proofreader; I probably notice these things more than the average person. However imho, if the AIMN team wants to be taken seriously by a wider audience, they need to take presentation seriously. They’re already on the right track – I much prefer the formatting of articles, the writing, and the website layout of the AIMN to Independent Australia’s, for example.

    However the AIMN doesn’t have an editor so my comments are all rather moot. John, you’re always welcome to send your articles my way for me to hammer out those excessive full-stops and pesky floating conjunctions 🙂

  61. aravis1

    I resonate with all you say here, mikestasse, and have the same love for language. But I do try to keep my passion in check and not to correct others unless their mistakes have obscured the sense; or unless i feel they could do with some suitable punishment.. it can become quite a good discipline in self-control… now i have spilt muesli on my keyboard and will make all sorts of egregious errors if it isn’t fixed…

  62. John Lord

    LogicalPhilosophical

    I take your point on the opening sentence. If that’s a serious offer I might take you up on it. My email was at the base of my piece.

  63. AnneK

    I don’t qualify as a grammar nazi (although I have my pet peeves when it comes to word usage).

    The objective of any piece of writing is to convey ideas. Personally, I find poor use of grammar can pull my attention away from the content, distracting me from the ideas being expressed. In my role I read a lot of reports, and poor layout can have the same effect.

    However I couldn’t give a flying whatever about split infinitives, starting a sentence with “And”, and many other transgressions that will set the teeth of a true grammar nazi well and truly on edge.

    So, if you are able to convey your thoughts clearly and unambiguously, I am happy to read them. And surely that is the primary function of these rules – to remove ambiguity.

    Those who will correct you will do so for a variety of reasons. For some, it’s a measure of their perceived superiority. For others, it’s a charitable act – they are truly distracted by an error, and wish to help you avoid making those errors in future. This allows them to focus on what you’re actually saying, rather than the manner in which you’ve said it. Give them the benefit of the doubt – assume they are acting with the best of intentions and move on.

    Thought for the day: hug a grammar nazi and say “There, their, they’re”.

  64. John Lord

    I am both overwhelmed and touched by your comments. I shall have to confide with Morrie as to a way forward.

  65. Fiona

    John,

    If I may offer an analogy, those who criticise your grammar are like cynics, who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

    The value of your many posts here is infinitely greater than their petty-minded sniping.

  66. Vicki

    Thank you to all those posters who clarified ‘a split infinitive’ for me. Hope everyone was paying attention and that no more shall infinitives be unnecessarily split and doomed to the great grammar faux in the sky. Or have I just commited another one?

  67. Keith

    I don’t always ” write real good.” The important thing from my point of view is that as long as the message is understood; then, that is the main issue. At times errors happen due to time pressure and poor editing. I find those who get hung up on grammar are quite pedantic, the underlying message is there.

  68. mikestasse

    If I may offer an analogy, those who criticise your grammar are like cynics, who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

    Fiona…….. funny you should say that, because that’s how I feel about almost everyone these days……. yes, I’m an Uber Cynic. I happen to value John’s work. I also believe in value added…..

  69. LogicalPhilosophical

    Oh, I actually hadn’t read your analogy, Mike; “Just imagine an utterly delicious meal some chef has taken a huge amount of trouble to prepare and plate up, only to be spoilt by too much salt (or too little)….. that is how I feel when I read an excellent piece, spoilt by some bad grammar and or spelling. ” That’s exactly how I feel 🙂

    John, sure I was serious, I’ll email you.

  70. donwreford

    Can someone comment on grammatical correctness and social repression as similar to how or what is said is immediately understood as to what club you are to be designated to?

  71. donwreford

    Spelling is arbitrary, I have a spell check and use it a lot, some do not have or decide they are not using it, so spelling is a waste of time to correct what is important is where spelling mystifies the idea or concept, as has already been quoted, I have seen on TV subtitles spelling mistakes, what’s the point of using energy to point this out, surely we have more important things to do? such as give peace a chance!

  72. Anne Byam

    Yes I believe Winston Churchill did say something like that – or even those exact words. !! His original statement ( lost in a plethora of analysis and argument – I looked it up !!!! 😉 ) still made sense. And since the original article by John was about the use of the English language, correct grammar —- grammar being corrected, and various other themes on the subject, I feel obliged to respond !!

    ” Obligation ” – now there’s a subject we could ALL get our teeth into – big time. ( just a thought ).

    Grammar IS very important – but not imperative to convey a message. Spelling is important too … ( pet peeve – bad spelling and the incorrect pronunciation of words.) …. I am guilty of incorrect spelling myself ( although I usually blame my keyboard and it’s accumulation of crumbs from eating in front of my computer which results in some ‘jam-ups’ of certain keys …. hmmmm – something we have in common aravis1 ).

    Thing is … if someone – anyone, can get their message across to others, and have a positive impact – does it all really matter ? So many changes have occurred over the years in the study of English, how it is written, how it is read. I remember the cursive way of writing English ( may I suggest – properly ?? ) … that was taught eons ago when I was a child. Then ( horrors ) children began to write in more a prosaic style – no lovely curves, no unique style per person, no nuffin. It became a kind of weird squiggle of printing and bad cursive writing – and degraded from then on. Fortunately, that has now been corrected to a degree. But … heaven knows, it will probably be changed – yet again.

    Dare I re-introduce the subject of the split infinitive ? Nope – not going there folks. But I can say that I will continue to use split infinitives if it suits me … and my writing. As long as what it is I am writing, gets a positive thought across to at least ONE person. Then I have done my job.

    Good luck everyone – with your prose, verse, essays, articles and books.

    And KEEP writing John. You are a master at it.

  73. LogicalPhilosophical

    I’m going full pedant. Don, your second comment there is a perfect demonstration of how poor grammar and punctuation get in the way of making a perfectly valid point.

    Fixed very quickly:

    Spelling is arbitrary. I have spell check and use it a lot, but some people do not have it or decide not to use it, and therefore spelling is a waste of time. It is only important when poor spelling mystifies the idea or concept, as has already been stated. I have seen TV subtitles with spelling mistakes, but what’s the point of using energy to point these errors out? Surely we have more important things to do, like giving peace a chance?!

    I hope people can see the difference.

  74. donwreford

    The ability to understand language so well is enviable, the statement on our separation from language is not true many animals have language, like whales and dogs, it is a different language to ours.

  75. donwreford

    I am pleased you understand what Churchill said and means, I have no idea what he means?
    I venture to quote the Alice in Wonderland, or the riddle, something like “what do you mean? I mean what ever I mean” its a bit more clever than that, nevertheless, it reminds me of when I had finished a meal and she remarked why I had not at the end of the meal put my knife and fork together? I said why? so the waiter knows you have finished, I said my plate is empty what is that telling you? I had known for some decades on this protocol, so what?

  76. Anne Byam

    Have to disagree Logical …. spelling is NOT a waste of time. The very fact that people – so-called educated people have to use a ‘spell check’ at all, is incriminating ( dare I use the word ). MOST SHOULD NOT NEED RUDDY SPELL CHECK ….. Spelling is not arbitrary – or it shouldn’t be. It should be studied, known and understood. Having said that ………..

    Admittedly there are many persons who simply cannot spell … they have a problem with it, and most likely have done so, since childhood. I feel for them, and would never admonish them for using something relatively new in technology – that being ‘spell check’. If ‘spell check’ assists them to learn – then that’s a very good help for them.

    As for the ribbons on TV – news “catches” to interest the viewers. Some of the spelling in those ribbons are atrocious, and there is absolutely no excuse for that. The people who write them are ( I presume ) employed to do their job properly. And they so often don’t.

    With your last statement though, I can only agree. Peace should be given a chance – for once. We don’t have a clue, if and when that will happen though. Let’s just hope it does.

    *******

    @Donwreford …. how right you are about the animal kingdom being able to communicate in languages that we cannot possibly hope to understand. However, they pick up on, and react to OUR language, verbal and body, far better than we do, theirs. But that’s another matter, for another time.

  77. LogicalPhilosophical

    Um… Anne, that paragraph I wrote on spell checkers and whatnot was not my opinion, it was my correction of this:

    donwrefordJuly 26, 2014 at 8:00 pm
    “Spelling is arbitrary, I have a spell check and use it a lot, some do not have or decide they are not using it, so spelling is a waste of time to correct what is important is where spelling mystifies the idea or concept, as has already been quoted, I have seen on TV subtitles spelling mistakes, what’s the point of using energy to point this out, surely we have more important things to do? such as give peace a chance!”

    I wrote it to point out how much clearer points can be made when correct spelling and punctuation is used, and I don’t necessarily agree with the point he made about spell checkers. Sorry Don, I don’t mean to hammer you personally, I’m just using your post as an example.

    ======================================

    I think it all boils down to this:

    We have dictionaries containing the agreed-upon spelling and meanings of words used in the English language, as well as rules of common usage of grammar and punctuation. There’s a reason we have these rules: they allow people to communicate their ideas to a large audience clearly and logically so that each reader explicitly understands the author’s original meaning without room for interpretation.

    Of course, as people have already stated above, rules are meant to be broken and language changes. Sometimes intentionally breaking a rule adds emphasis, or even humour. But we shouldn’t break them too much, or our meaning can be lost or given to interpretation (yes, that ‘But’ at the start of the sentence was intentional).

    We should strive to communicate as clearly and concisely as possible. That said, if you don’t know all the rules of the language it does not preclude you from having or forming an opinion, or your right to attempt to communicate that opinion. Try your best to make it as clear as possible. Have conversations. Discuss ideas. But do always try your best to not break the rules of written language too badly, or people might not understand you.

    Let me add, it is arrogant and disrespectful to dispute an author’s writing in the comments of an article, unless the writing is so poor that meaning is lost. In this case only should one respectfully ask for clarification, or offer a correction should it patently be needed. This goes for comments also. Ask for clarification if you cannot understand a comment, but don’t deign to state that just because a person does not write well they are not entitled to their opinion.

  78. donwreford

    What? logic, I am to old to get into basic structures of writing, I have no idea on full stops and commas, I just sprinkle them around and hope for the best, I have looked at what makes language and the written word correct, like pronouns, adjectives and simple stuff, I just do not get it, I have to fight a rear guard action and just dismiss all of the grammar experts as a write off or at least marginalize them, I am sorry, and do not mean it but this is all I can say in my defense.

  79. Anne Byam

    Again @ donwreford : Your comment ” Can someone comment on grammatical correctness and social repression as similar to how or what is said is immediately understood as to what club you are to be designated to? ”

    Can’t really comment !! Am wondering though, if you are having an “Alice in Wonderland” moment there ?? Methinks you are opening a new line altogether – for thread and commentary. hmmm. I take your comment in the spirit it was intended.

    p.s. you forgot to punctuate !! 😉

  80. LogicalPhilosophical

    Don, no problem, I didn’t mean any disrespect.

    Can I offer advice on dealing with full-stops and commas? Speak what you want to write out loud. If you take a short pause, or a quick breath, it’s a comma in that spot. If you get to the end of an idea and take a big pause, or a bigger breath, put a full-stop there. That’s all they’re there for – to tell your reader where to pause to add emphasis, and when to breathe.

  81. Dan Rowden

    Ask for clarification if you cannot understand a comment, but don’t deign to state that just because a person does not write well they are not entitled to their opinion.

    I have to say this expresses what I hate most about this whole “article” and subsequent discussion; namely, the implication that critique of a writer in some way implies that they should “shut up” or not express their opinion. It’s nonsense and amounts to a kind of emotional blackmailing of their readership into silence regarding their constant linguistic transgressions (some of which are non-trivial). It’s analogous to people who complain that you’re transgressing their right to freedom of speech just because you’re disagreeing with them.

    If an author cannot publicly respect their readers by making a proper effort to ensure their work is reasonably sound before going to print, then there is zero reason for that readership to show respect to the author. Disrespect your readers publicly – expect that in return. That’s my view.

    John writes to a commendably good standard given his autodidactic history, but he also needs to accept that he’ll be subject to criticism given his considerable egotistical attachment to his identity as a scribe. It’s the territory.

  82. Dan Rowden

    LogicalPhilosophical,

    Speak what you want to write out loud.

    Yes! This is a brilliant piece of advice. It’s particularly useful in writing dialogue. If it doesn’t sound natural when you say it out loud, it isn’t natural.

  83. donwreford

    Anne Byam, are you a linguistic snob? do you know how to spell all words? yes or no? would you know how to spell autochthonous? if asked? I use a spell check because of what you say, this language is not what I was trained in as much as the visual arts, however I now have no interest in the visual arts or at least I am over it, the visual language ended as a result of anything is art, I have a interest now in language, history, politics, psychology, colonization, war, corruption, infinity, health, surgery, religion, geography, quantum physics, ecology, finance, physics, animals, and little interest in sport, art, music, holidays, fun, gambling, drugs, hedonism, small talk, women, men,consumption.
    I have no doubt this is only a preview, just a glimpse into complexity and simplicity.

  84. donwreford

    Dear Anne, if only the lonely.

  85. donwreford

    Thanks logic, that makes sense, will always remember what you say.

  86. Dan Rowden

    Spelling is arguably one of the least important facets of the written word, and unless it impedes the communication of meaning, it ought be ignored (i.e. where trivial errors occur). I always use a spell checker (they actually help with spelling and usage). I, frankly, can’t spell all that well at all. Reading lots of stuffs helps.

    Usage, punctuation and syntax issues are ordinarily what gets in the way of quality expression of meaning in the written word. If one appreciates cadence in communication, then one appreciates punctuation, for example.

  87. donwreford

    I agree Dan even monumental. As insight.

  88. mikestasse

    Spotted a howler on the ABC’s news website today……… Genital Mutilation spelled Gental Mutilation. Can you call that a Freudian typo…?

    And who can forget Ross Garnaut’s name spelled Garnut. Not once but more than six times. In a single article. On this very site.

    I rest my case.

  89. aravis1

    Agreed to all of that, Anne Byam! I think that with me, it’s a very personal thing; a sort of love for language that makes me protective of it, and wanting to keep it lovely. Not using obscure grammatical rules is the least important, and I will use a split infinitive whenever i wish; but not using punctuation and not caring whether one’s output is clear to readers, is a capital sin for me. I read donwreford’s first comment with, almost, disbelief that it was serious. Apparently it was; and this illustrates my points, I think. Clarity of language is more important always, than spelling or grammar. My favourite author, C S Lewis, said once that a test of a speaker’s knowledge of his subject was the ability to say it in simple terms and be accurate and still understood by non-academics. After all, to know if you understand a subject, making a precis of it is a wonderful test…

  90. Lee

    “Hope everyone was paying attention and that no more shall infinitives be unnecessarily split and doomed to the great grammar faux in the sky. Or have I just commited another one?”

    You naughty girl! “be split unnecessarily” 😉

    I think of ad-verbs adding on after the verb if that helps.

  91. Anne Byam

    @ donwreford. Oh dear !! You asked if I am a linguistic snob ? Me ? Hell no mate. No way. I did however, learn a word today – “autochthonous” … had to look it up, would never have known how to spell it – even though I’d have given it a darned good try !! I am actually reasonably good at spelling, however I am no whiz kid.

    Of COURSE I don’t know how to spell absolutely ALL words – any more than YOU do. I was also thinking ( when writing here ) about the use of Microsoft Offices’ Word Document when writing a poem, or an article, letter – whatever. I ignore spell check there and elsewhere, for one good reason … and it IS a good one. Don’t know about your computer, but mine decides for me that the AMERICAN way of spelling is the ONLY way. I repeatedly tick / choose “EN” English Australia on the task bar, and it always reverts back to “English American”. I have no idea how to fix that. !!! I type, e.g. the word “humour” – the computer changes it back to “humor” … and so I change it back again. It is very annoying.

    I was rather surprised at your admonishment of me, and hope that this thread does not descend into some kind of a slanging match. So far here, there has been some really excellent input … agreements to disagree etc.

    Your interests these days are so numerous I wonder how you do it. I too have had some success with the arts – having sold some of my oil landscapes in the past, created a variety of complicated images using graphics programmes etc., created powerpoint shows for newly-weds of their weddings etc. and photography. Most people have interests that vary across time … yours have gone ahead in leaps and bounds. Well done …. you live a very full life I would imagine.

    And Don …. I will let you know somehow, the day I achieve that loftiest ( or lowliest ) of positions – of achieving linguistic snob status 😉

  92. Dan Rowden

    One of my favourite groups of words in Microsoft Word (or any other context in which a pop-up dictionary is available) is: “Add to dictionary”.

  93. Anne Byam

    Your advice Logical, on speaking out loud, what a person wants to write, is EXCELLENT. Pausing, stopping, and transferring that to punctuation in the written word.

    I have had to, on rare occasions, deliver a speech – eulogies at funerals, a wee bit of public debating ( ages ago ) … and a variety of other reasons to speak to a group of persons. IF one writes the speech, in very large font ( I use large fonts AND my glasses ) … the pauses MUST go into the written version, otherwise the speech could become a mish-mash of words strung together, with the possibility of making no sense whatsoever. I admit to having typed the word ‘ PAUSE ‘ in the speech … when I have wanted to make a very strong point.

    Heaven forbid ( I am ‘older’ now and it COULD happen !!! ) … that I might actually utter the word ‘pause’ when speaking to a group.

    I tend to try to avoid public speaking these days, wherever possible.

    Depending on the occasion, the wrong emphasis on a sentence could bring the entire thing to a screaming halt – from shock reaction and mutterings of the audience, or by having them all convulsed with laughter.

  94. TechinBris

    Should people, who do not have a masterful knowledge of the language at hand to convey their thoughts to others, refrain from doing so till they can do it faultlessly? Never! No. Absolutely not.
    As I discovered, when I went to Germany for a year, I was dreadful in my German when I arrived (still nowhere near wonderful when I left), but luckily I had good friends who welcomed the enthusiasm I had and worked with me to polish it up, which is no mean feat when you are for the most part, deaf. I still abhore imperfect verbs!
    Having experienced what it like is to have to work and live in that, which is not the tongue you grew up with, it opened my eyes to the intolerance metered out to those who are trying their best, only to be slapped down for trying their best attempts at another language.
    Is it not best to share and impart the knowledge which we have the privilege of having and creating a richer and more helpful Society? I know I received such in Germany, and we had some good laughs at my faux pas along the way. It also opened my eyes to the difficulty for many immigrants, especially the older aged ones, which find themselves in an alien culture to what they lived in for most of their lives. Be brave, for your acceptance is just waiting for you to try and enrich us with your voice or words.
    Communication, our ability to convey thoughts and ideas, is what sets us apart and enriches us all. Someone who is denied the right to communicate their thoughts is robbed of what is an essential human right. So no matter how we say it, in the full richness of the diversity of language, seek, learn, and embrace that which we use, whatever way we can, in sharing ourselves with each other. Otherwise it will be a very sad lonely world demanding perfection or nothing.
    I hope this is not your last post, for I will miss your words wise Sage.

  95. Dan Rowden

    We read with our ears as well as our eyes. Cadence and sound can be the difference between a good sentence and a crap one. Strive for euphony! That’s my motto. Well, it would be if I did mottos. Maybe it’s my slogan. Hmm…

  96. Anne Byam

    Dan – – – I have just gone into Word Document, briefly – and can find no reference to a Dictionary under any tab, HOWEVER, in seeking ‘help’ .. apparently a dictionary can be created, or imported. There are quite a few options. I will look further into that … when I get more than the little time I have left on here today. Am about to go out, visiting family.

    Thank you for your advice.

  97. Dan Rowden

    Anne,

    When you get back and see this post – if your version of Word has a functioning spell check it will have an “Add to dictionary” option. Just do a full spell check and when it finds a misspelled word a dialogue box concerning that word should appear. It appears, based on a previous post, that you do have a functional spell check so you should be ok. Note: if you right click on an individual word that’s misspelled all you’ll get is a couple of options. You have to activate the spell check itself to run over the document. It would be a bit odd, to me, if you have a spell check that works but not an “Add” option.

    Sorry if I’ve said stuff you’re already aware of.

  98. Vicki

    Lee, I read that several times and still missed the split infinitive. No wonder my uni lecturers gave me away as a lost cause. Oh well, here’s mud in your eye – all infinitives that brave my intellect are doomed to be split.

  99. Anne Byam

    Thank you Dan … I will certainly follow your advice here …. I do however, have only a 2003 version of Word … came with the XP I had reinstalled – old stuff I wanted and could only have after the time my previous XP system blew itself to kingdom come !! ( electrical uproar ) I am trying to avoid Windows 8 point xxxx as long as humanly possible … but not wishing to start another thread of activity with THAT comment !!! )

    … will definitely look into it further. Thank you again for your advice and input. It is much appreciated, and I will look for what you have specifically mentioned here. Will particularly start with a right click on a word …

    There is certainly ‘spell check’ activated on my Word Doc. How to manage it – I have yet to find out, but with your help, tku. AB.

  100. Anne Byam

    Good stuff Dan … we certainly DO read with our ears as well as our eyes. I think the gentler of the two is simply reading. But that doesn’t mean I don’t interact with people, one on one ( or more ). I am not a hermit – ( not that you have inferred any such thing ). Sometimes, however, I wish that I WERE a little hermit in a cave, with my computer, my beautiful dog, and loads of books to study / read – and a bit of tucker. Might keep me away from people yelling at me !!! 🙂

    And that’s my point … it is the WAY something is delivered verbally that can make such a huge difference – to the meaning and reception by the listener. It is all largely subjective, sad to say. I do not exonerate myself from yelling – from time to time, ( so – I am an emotional kind of person ) but find it largely ( in retrospect) non productive. Delivering a comment verbally, can be either positive – or devisive. Depends on how it’s done. Euphonic delivery is by far the better way, being pleasing to the ear, therefore most likely listened to properly. Rather than contribute to a shriek of abuse that gets the listeners hackles up … and then it’s “on”. !! Doesn’t get too many people anywhere.

    Briefly, getting back to the subject in hand here in the first place … I think John Lord delivers his writings and thoughts in a non-confronting way, and I applaud him for that. There are many who wouldn’t and couldn’t do that.

  101. Totaram

    As one whose mother tongue is not English, but one who also finds it easy to learn languages (3 for read write and speak, 2 more for smatterings), I will study the various hints given above for better writing. As for grammar, I leave you to contemplate the “Gerunds and Infinitives” – good exercise.

    I disagree with John Lord about education. An uneducated person is one who had no formal education and also believes he has no need to learn anything more. Those who self-learn are probably more educated than those learned formally but don’t really care much for what they learned. Perfect examples of these are easy to find on the front benches of the present government. Having clarified that, I agree that uneducated persons are indeed dangerous. There is no shortage of examples.

    I think you also need to check about Einstein. You give the impression he had nothing more than a school education. This is not true. I’m pretty sure he went to “University” (ETH in Zurich) but dropped out to work as a patent clerk, before getting a Ph.D from the University of Zurich. . Wikipedia has the details.

    Aside from that, I think John Lord has been doing a great job. Please do carry on.

    Cheers.

  102. donwreford

    Those who are involved with academic study are often retarded, they are able to achieve passes in exams,and so on, they have often maintained study that are so specialized that outside their field are limited, or the become linear, this is not true with all who study nevertheless what makes them dangerous is the assumption they are of a superior breed.
    I am suggesting that many human beings do not specialize in on a subject or a limited range of subjects, some have a broad knowledge that is not to say a pass in the examination room, those who have intuition or insight are not graduation stock, from my point of view often these people are overlooked as not being suitable say as leader of politics, if we look at those who are politicians many are lawyers, accountants, and so on most are conniving in their rhetoric, learnt in the university debating society.
    I have friends who are university lectures, from my point of view outside their discipline I find they are fairly crippled in their ideas and choices, of course having a limited circle of friends I do not challenge what most of these people think, one lecturer said to me you should challenge people and their views, I disputed this saying that they are culturally embedded in their views and would fundamentally not change essentially what they are.
    I believe Socrates had a certain satisfaction with winning language ideology, my point is that is I won philosophic treatise’s this would give me no satisfaction, it would increase my loneliness.
    With reference to Faraday, on electromagnetism, I suggest the British academy ostracized Faraday as he was not up to the class of academic standards, as such treated as the tea boy, Faraday who had insight on the field of magnetism, became depressed as no theories would apply to his insight, Maxwell, the scientist that came up with mathematics of equations such as vectors, that saved Faraday.

  103. John.R.

    The writers who post articles on these and similar websites do so first and foremost to make the readers aware,and express a view,that you will not find elsewhere.
    If you come to this site and the thing that annoys you most is that the style of grammar in an article is not up to a level you have your expectations set at,then you have missed the point completely. Criticism is a form of judgement based upon a limited number of known facts,as you will never know everything that goes on to make anything happen
    If a reader is incapable of understanding an authors message in an article and feels the grammar does not convey the message clearly enough,then this is no more then a reflection of the narrow mindedness of the person making the criticism
    Yes grammar is important as the english language can provide many subtle variances to words and phrases but it is not as important as an open mind
    There is also a difference between a criticism and an observation which should be made clear when it is expressed

  104. Anne Byam

    Well said John R. Applause for your insight, especially your point that ” you ( we ) will never know everything that goes on to make anything happen”. It is an utter impossibility for anyone to know exactly what is in anyone elses’ mind at any given time. That makes privacy a precious gift to us all. We are all entitled to our private thoughts, and innermost sanctity and should appreciate that gift. I totally agree with your observation about the narrowmindedness of a person who cannot read something, and understand it, unless it is ( basically ) perfect – in grammar, punctuation etc. I do believe it is important to try and use good grammar, correct spelling etc., but if it doesn’t please me for some reason, that is strictly my own reaction to what is, or is not, in a written passage – and I must own that as my particular grievance. Personally, while I lean towards good grammar etc., it does not in any way hinder my understanding of what is written. I might have to struggle a bit to understand it without commas, full stops etc., but I try and ultimately DO get the points being made.

    I have a friend who writes emails that are one long long paragraph, with not a hint of commas, full stops or other form of punctuation. She uses lots of ‘ands’ to join up her points. It is quite a chore to read, BUT she does get her message across clearly enough.

    An open mind is paramount for us all … something we should all cultivate if possible.

    Your post is great.

  105. Anne Byam

    @ donwreford …

    I really do NOT think that ‘those involved in academic study are retarded’. That is a very unsuitable thing to say about anyone … and would you actually KNOW who is and who is not ‘retarded’ in the general and accepted meaning of the word ? It basically means ” less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one’s age” …. and / or …… ” very foolish or stupid “. If you don’t believe me, please look it up for yourself.

    What I hear you saying is that students can become closeted, unable to function outside their sphere of study. BUT there are many factors to what might cause this to happen, IF it happens. Partly ( and only partly in each ) it could have to do with the way a student was raised as a child, what type of schooling he/she had initially, what type of personality that person is, whether much or little has been expected of them throughout their young lives, and experiences they’ve had, or been subjected to.

    I suggest with respect, that you do not judge so harshly in the future – whatever the background to academic endeavours.

    As for politicians, we can only ‘judge’ them ( as we are CALLED upon to judge them in an Election ) …. on what they do, or don’t do, as opposed or in concert with what they say or don’t say. They are great at rhetoric and avoiding answers to difficult questions. It is a learned procedure, simply by being a politician. Someone apparently, somewhere in Parliament, started ( I have no idea how long ago it began ) to repeat a sentence, immediately after it was delivered. Now they ALL do it. It’s the ‘jargon’ … associated with a politicians’ public and Parliamentary speeches, these days. If we were to walk into an office full of IT specialists, we would most likely not understand half of what they were saying. Because they have their own ‘jargon’ … and use it between themselves. I don’t berate them for that. It’s just the way it is. However, despite what your lecturer once told you, I think it is imperative to challenge a person on their views, in the most diplomatic way possible, because that way we may learn something new …. and so might the challenged person.

    The only people who ( I think ) consider themselves to be of superior breed, are those who have been raised to believe that – to think that way about themselves – and yes a few who consider themselves above the rest because of superior learning and education, prizes and plaudits for their studies etc. They are the most difficult to get through to. I could give a few well known public names to support this, but will decline, in the interests of not bringing this discussion down to garbage level.

    But as always, Don … your comments are interesting.

  106. Douglas Evans

    Hi John
    Don’t read much online commentary any more but I always read your pieces.
    Don’t always agree with them but I’m always engaged by them.
    Don’t give a damn about grammatical glitches.
    Don’t let the bastards get you down. Keep punching.

  107. John.R.

    P.S.
    Very Important
    It is in childhood that we learn many of the things which formulate us into becoming the adult ? that the world sees.In that time there is also wisdoms presented to us to carry through life……….such as

    THOSE WHO MIND…………. ” DON`T MATTER ”

    THOSE WHO MATTER……. ” DON`T MIND “

  108. Vicki

    John, haven’t heard that coupling for a while. My husband used a similar one years back – if I don’t mind, you don’t matter. Perfect put down.

  109. donwreford

    Salient and intelligent.

  110. donwreford

    Is the mind made of matter? if so how much on average would it weigh? if it is not matter what is it?

  111. Lee

    @ donwreford

    “Those who are involved with academic study are often retarded”

    Bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit.

  112. Kaye Makovec

    I thank you for those kind words Dan Dark.

    I apologise for not replying sooner but I didn’t see it and have only just been told how bad mannered I was in not replying, it’s ok though, was said by a friend 🙂

    You know, one of those annoying people who dare to criticise after passing the master in tutelage 🙂

  113. donwreford

    Sounds to me Lee, is you are a typical product of what I mean, often those who pursue education have a deep inferiority about their self worth, I have had this same disease, as a result of parental damaged people having a family that put down their children, it is not that difficult to comprehend, unless you have not had this type of background or you are in denial.
    I have pointed out a case of the Faraday and Maxwell saga, either you do not know the story or if you do, have not got the meaning? the disturbing thing about Lee is her authoritarian force of dismissal, presumable because she is guilty of what the meaning is that I infer.

  114. Matters Not

    donwreford, I suggest you ‘give it a rest’ re your comments about ‘education’ and those who pursue same. And I’m being kind.

    Just sayin …

    As for the concept of ‘mind” perhaps you might Google.

  115. Lee

    “Sounds to me Lee, is you are a typical product of what I mean, often those who pursue education have a deep inferiority about their self worth,”

    you must have two dicks donwreford. You couldn’t get that stupid playing with one.

  116. Dan Rowden

    Ah, you know what, if people are too lazy and arrogant to care about the difference between imply/infer, who cares about their opinion.

  117. Dan Rowden

    you must have two dicks donwreford. You couldn’t get that stupid playing with one.

    It’s probably a bit cheeky to repeat this, but it’s the best thing I’ve read all day. I simply have to acknowledge it …

  118. Anne Byam

    @ donwreford —- Before this day, I was not going to reply to your comments any further. But this, your comment at Lee, takes the cake. IF – as you have said, ” those who pursue education have a deep inferiority about their self worth ” ( which is a comment of condemnation to begin with ) … I would ask why YOU are pursuing the study of the myriad of subjects you are currently involved with
    ( 17 ongoing interests, which you listed in one of your previous posts as learning / studying / interested in ?? }

    You quickly claim to have the ‘same disease’ ( in your reply to Lee ) …. but I suspect there is a lot more to it than that.

    The people who post here, have a right to express themselves any way they like. I think it’s called ” freedom of speech ” ? You have the same freedom as do I, which I am exercising here. But I would ask, with respect, that you leave off with the sarcasm, the innuendo, and the superiority bit … it is not doing you any favours – either here, or I suspect personally for yourself.

    Just – leave it alone for a while huh ? unless you can come up with something positive to contribute, and not lambast to heck, those you don’t agree with. There are two ways to agree and / or disagree – nicely, or with rancour. Think about it – for your own sake.

  119. aravis1

    Time to stop the personal attacks, donwreford. You are projecting.

  120. Matters Not

    Dan you often refer to the ‘incorrect’ use of words and in many ways I share your concerns. For example, the use of ‘decimate’ to suggest a complete ‘wipe out’, or something similar, grates, given that ‘historically’ it applied to the practice of killing one in ten “was a form of military discipline used by senior commanders in the Roman Army to punish units or large groups guilty of capital offences such as mutiny or desertion”.

    One could go on and provide any number of examples. But it seems to me that ‘words’ in themselves don’t have meanings that are devoid of human attribution, mediated by social, cultural, historical and whatever contexts.

    I don’t accept that words change their meanings. That would be the height of stupidity. The notion that a human creation of different alphabetical arrangements creates a life of its own is a ‘magical’ view of reality. What I do accept is that people created ‘words’ in an attempt to convey meaning and over time other people used those same words (in different contexts) to convey different meaning(s).

    Last year, for example, I had several ‘haircuts’, but my finances avoided same. Same word but given different meaning(s) I hope.

    Do you accept that people give different meanings over time to different words and how do you explain your claim re ‘incorrect’ usage? Or are you a ‘conservative’?

    Just askin …

  121. Don Winther

    Words are important but I think someone is stealing our country!

  122. Dan Rowden

    Matters Not,

    Do you accept that people give different meanings over time to different words and how do you explain your claim re ‘incorrect’ usage? Or are you a ‘conservative’?

    I accept the evolution of language. I have always said so. But I have always argued, and argued strongly, and will ceaselessly argue so, that language evolves primarily on the basis of misuse and abuse – and the acceptance of such. I would also argue that not only is that evolution, based on sloth and abuse, evolving at a faster rate, but that our acceptance of it is increasing. I find that disturbing.

    I would also argue there’s a direct relationship between the quality of what you have to say and the way in which you intend to say it.

  123. Matters Not

    Dan, I don’t disagree with what you say re the way people use and perhaps misuse words/language. Not sure I agree with the concept of ‘language evolving’ as though it has a life of its own. (Truth is I don’t.) As for:

    evolving at a faster rate, but that our acceptance of it is increasing

    Again I agree, but isn’t that just a characteristic of the increasingly rapid, accelerating change that Jacques Ellul, Alvin Toffler and others such as Barry Jones spoke about decades ago? I’m not sure that bemoaning this ‘reality’ is the best way to go, mainly because it seems like a form of intellectual masturbation.

    Fact is, it’s happening (and increasingly so), and I don’t know whether it’s worthwhile ‘resisting’ or simply it’s better to lie back and enjoy it? Or not.

  124. Dan Rowden

    I choose to resist. I see us as facing the end of a national and generational linguistic incoherence far beyond the idiomatic playground of the 70s. I see us an entering a language Planet of the Apes.

  125. aravis1

    I have to align myself with Dan Rowden on the matter of language. Yes, it must evolve, but degradation is not the same as evolution. I think both are existing alongside each other at the present time. And it is more than “just” language; language is the medium we use to communicate, and as such a degraded language degrades our communication and thus our understanding of each other. We could probably use our unesteemed and hopefully temporary PM as an example. The worst abuse of language is to use it to lie; but carelessness with it is akin, on a wider plane, to carelessness while driving a car. Perhaps the root cause of language degradation is the failure to teach the young to THINK. The two are inextricably entwined.
    That said, poor spelling or grammar is not the deepest problem. Annoying to us pedants, but not thinking while speaking or writing is the real problem. Perhaps it comes back, as always, to real education – and that is not always found in school. I left school with a huge thirst for knowledge, and have never stopped slaking it. School had very little to do with my real education.

  126. Kaye Lee

    Our move to online communication has accelerated both the degradation and the evolution of language. It also lacks the benefit of tone of voice, facial expression, body language – all of which add crucial nuance to the meaning or intention of our communication. I wonder whether our children will suffer from this if face-to-face people skills decline.

    And I agree that school had little to do with my real education other than giving me a thirst for knowledge. Teacher training in no way prepared us for the job where experience was the greatest teacher for those who were suited to the job in the first place. Not enough emphasis has ever been placed on that.

  127. Lee

    “I wonder whether our children will suffer from this if face-to-face people skills decline.”

    I have read (somewhere online he he!) that they already are. Not that it makes any difference to me since I can’t read a lot of body language anyway.

  128. Lee

    “And I agree that school had little to do with my real education other than giving me a thirst for knowledge. ”

    That is a fundamental component of your education. Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire. Education is not limited to the classroom and school never intends for it to be that way. School has served you well.

    One of the biggest crimes parents can commit against their children is not encouraging and nurturing a love of learning.

  129. Kaye Lee

    That is true Lee. And I sell my school short because they did indeed teach me many things aside from a love of learning. They taught me how to research so I can, to a degree, teach myself about things.

    They also, in a way, did not prepare me for the real world because boys and girls were treated very equally by both staff and students at my school. I was very good at maths and that wasn’t considered unusual until I went to University. I remember in my first economics tute where we were asked to introduce ourselves. Those before me had all gone to private schools. When I mentioned my western suburbs state high school the tutor said “Well you have done well to get here”. I responded “You think so? My high school was selective on intelligence rather than wealth.”

    I had to learn to temper my reaction to the discrimination I had been sheltered from.

  130. Lee

    “When I mentioned my western suburbs state high school the tutor said “Well you have done well to get here”. I responded “You think so? My high school was selective on intelligence rather than wealth.” ”

    Ha ha ha. When I was at uni the students who were absolutely clueless about researching a topic to complete an assignment came from the private schools. They were frequently also unreliable for group work. As a person with Asperger’s I’m supposed to be bad at group work, but I did a much better job than them, and frequently found myself carrying them so my own grades were not adversely affected. Some of them admitted that their teachers spoon fed them and as a result they floundered in the first year of uni.

    I have some teacher friends who have worked in both public and private systems. All of them admit that the spoon feeding of students takes place. They have to achieve a certain pass rate or they lose their jobs. Private schools also weed out by year 10 the students who don’t look like achieving at least 90% in their final year 12 exams. The school wants to be able to brag about the average score of their students. So what are parents actually paying for apart from a fancy name? They don’t set the kids up for lifelong learning, they don’t help those with a learning disability to overcome it and realise their full potential, and if the LNP is any indication, they send the kids out into the world with an appalling attitude towards most of humanity.

  131. donwreford

    Just saying what? I suggest if you are not able to be more constructive, butt out. Also when you see my name do not use your precious energy in writing your nebulous comment. I am not writing to give you comfort or solace, on the contrary, I am asking you to question the basis of what you assume as your identity via the written word.
    Question your own identity: “Matters Not”. It seems to me as if a lot matters to you. One more suggestion, to a self opinionated Matters Notter, keep your kindness for yourself, (you need it). In particular when you’re questioning linguistics, your own skills having self doubt. It is your inflated ego that can’t get you through the gate of higher consciousness.

  132. donwreford

    I am not following your meaning of two dicks? what and how is sexuality at work here? have you some problem in your sexuality? that has connection with linguistics? if so what?

  133. donwreford

    If you find the two dick saga, the best linguistic you have read? for the day, what are you saying about your level of reading? Linguistics?.

  134. Lee

    @ donwreford

    95% of the population have an IQ in the range 70-130. That range is two standard deviations from the mean. Retardation is considered to be an IQ less than 70. No one with an IQ that low would even get a foot through a university door. My IQ is 138. Call me retarded if you makes you feel better about yourself. My care factor = zero. I’m quite happy with who I am and have no desire to be anyone different. Don’t presume that you know anything about my parents (two people who would never dream of insulting you in the manner in which you insulted me and them), my upbringing or why I choose to be educated. Deal with your own issues instead of projecting them onto other people.

  135. donwreford

    Thanks Anne, for your constructive insight, yes you are right with regard to myself having a inferiority complex, I have had this most of my life and when I retired from my craft around nine years ago I started another chapter in my life that is from, working with a physical and exhausting work that did not produce what I had thought would, this existential crises enabled me as having more time to devote to dismantling my inner self.
    What became disturbing to , as example I sat at Satch Sai BaBa’s feet, in India circa 1971, I had been perplexed by his ability to produce verbooti or holy ash, from thin air so to speak, and also materialization of objects, I stayed at this ashram for 4 months, his reply to why he did this is, we live in a material age and the only way people understand I am the returned Messiah, or if not the Messiah close to being the light of the age, if you check out this guru he had some million followers.
    However one day when I wrapped blown glass in a Age newspaper, I glimpsed this headline saying Sai BaBa, a fraud! I was dumbfounded, I will not go into what this is about as it is another story, that you will find on Wiki, this began doubt on a huge amount of what I thought is? I did not terminate my blown glass business when I read this story but the story had made a deep impression on me, I retired later as a result of health problems due in part to furnace fumes and so on, as you can see I am not within the discipline of the written word as much as the visual arts.
    I am dealing with the problem of what is reality? so the 17 subjects I have a interest in, is to gain knowledge to work out what is reality? the list is arbitrary in the sense of my interest in virtually every thing that is what ever, to know, the retirement I am in, enabling one to look at a lot of info, has cured me of my inferiority from approximately 8-9 years ago, I am deeply indebted to the internet, as I regard this as the most democratic ideology known to me.
    The comment of retard, directed to academic study, I suggest that some professors, and such like, would be known as having problems outside their discipline, such as simple things as a result of self absorption, I am modifying this word retard to omission as a possibility.
    As example, Einstein’s comment on “his biggest blunder”, may elucidate, what I mean, for some.

  136. Kaye Lee

    My husband and I often have a conversation about the dangers of excellence. To become a great achiever in one area usually means neglecting other areas of knowledge or skill or life experience. This is also a justification for our mediocrity – it’s all in the pursuit of being well-balanced 🙂

  137. donwreford

    I suggest you look at Lee’s comment, the words bullshit and total bullshit” may remind someone who attacks without being constructive, what I am refer to is the dismissal of ideas and a reaction of those who are shocked by a word used by me, which is as Jean Paul Sartre, is prone to do, is modify his idea’s of change.
    A friend of mine said to me but you were this person some years ago? the problem with the statement is I am no longer what they think I am, as a result of experience, what many fail to uderstand is I do not have to be right nor perfect, I am what I am, that is in a state of constant existential flux.

  138. Kaye Lee

    As are we all

  139. Lee

    “My husband and I often have a conversation about the dangers of excellence. To become a great achiever in one area usually means neglecting other areas of knowledge or skill or life experience.”

    The world would miss out on a lot of useful and greatly needed inventions and discoveries if we didn’t have people who are motivated to excel in their chosen field.

    Some people may consider that an academic or nerd who demonstrates little aptitude for socialising is not well balanced, or as donwreford would have us believe, retarded. Have any of you ever considered that such a person who immerses his or herself in a narrow field of interest often has little interest in socialising and games that involve hitting or kicking a ball? If they wanted to be social butterflies, they would be. These people are often comfortable with their own company. They cannot understand the fascination of the majority of the population with football, cricket, Big Brother and other assorted garbage in the form of reality tv shows and gossip magazines like No Idea. Do you think that these people cannot possibly be happy because their life and their priorities don’t imitate yours?

  140. Lee

    “I suggest you look at Lee’s comment, the words bullshit and total bullshit” may remind someone who attacks without being constructive, ”

    Whereas your assertion that I am retarded, damaged by my parents, and pursue education because I have an inferiority complex, when you have never met any of us, was extremely constructive.

  141. francescaagosti

    Grammar: the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit.

  142. donwreford

    I am extremely flattered that you should bestow upon me your grace and time, having a IQ of 138, I believe my IQ is approximately 60, or may be to be truthful 40, I do not think I am defining who you are, I am interested in the two dick saga you have mentioned, I do not know how your parents came into this blog? did I mention them?
    As a result of LSD, with the courtesy of the CIA, in a experiment called MKUltra, this may well of hampered my learning in linguistics, I do not know if I have recovered but suspect that their is some residue of peculiar aberration, however within the form of my present situation I regard myself as lucky in the sense of survival, as you recall Syd Barrett, of The Pink Floyd, had much the same history, meaning the same source of supply of this drug, and I believe Syd, did not recover.
    As I find these puzzles on the internet informative and useful in the sense of reconstructing my brain, so I would not like you to take any thing I say as personal, bearing in mind language is in part a game that has no meaning or is what ever you think it is.

  143. donwreford

    I am closing down I can feel it coming on as for being a dickhead, I take this as a compliment, as some names are really hurtful, I am pleased your parents were so good to you, it is a claim I am not able to make on the contrary, my parents were extremely damaging,

  144. aravis1

    Someone with an IQ of 40 would not be able to speak, or dress himself. I think you are simply trying for attention here; might be a good idea to seek it elsewhere now. We are frankly tired of your nonsense.

  145. francescaagosti

    With all the pain and suffering in the world right now could we be showing a little more compassion toward each other here? Really, what do we have to complain about in this country? We are so blessed in every respect.

    Is it really worth getting so worked up over this, whatever this discussion is about? I have no idea as I switched off long ago.

    I don’t believe this type of mud slinging is what John Lord had in mind when he posted this article.

  146. randalstella

    francesca says it right.
    Donwreford, there’s no one who has posted on public websites who has not suffered insult and abuse. Please do not let it worry you. It is only really a problem if you let it be. It means nothing.
    This site is better in that regard than just about any non-professional site I know.
    Charity is very important; and has its crucial place in intelligence.
    It is even more important than grammar. Even more instructional than self-taught ‘grammar’ that’s so keen to tell others their errors..

  147. corvus boreus

    Thank you francescaagosti and randalstella.
    Your clarity and charity temporarily restore my sanity.

  148. Anne Byam

    My thanks too, for the last 3 posts here. The thread was in danger of becoming similar to Facebook comments [ which can be very callous and abusive ]…. for a while there. I have abandoned Facebook commentary …. it gets way too nasty many times, and encourages a voyeurism which frankly I don’t like to think I might entertain !! ( but I have – I admit it ). If you want to see a mish-mash of the written word, with all it’s delightful (?} acronyms, – go there, find a post that is pro or against a Political Partys’ proposals or activity, and watch the feathers fly, as ‘speakin proper’ has mostly done a disappearing act from dear old Facebook.

    p.s. “Speakin’ Proper” is a poem I wrote about 10 years ago. I have been prompted to republish it on my website, because of this thread.

  149. Anne Byam

    @ Lee – – – Meant to reply to this before – sorry about that. Ref your comment Lee …. ” The world would miss out on a lot of useful and greatly needed inventions and discoveries if we didn’t have people who are motivated to excel in their chosen field. ”

    I agree with everything you have said there. Something we should all try to remember. We are who we are … and if happy in that state, so be it. It is not for anyone else to try to subtly ( or not so subtly ) change anybody else’s way of living, of being, or their chosen pursuits, just because they think ‘their way’ is the only way.

    Also agree that many academics, in the pursuit of their research and study, do occasionally flunk the social skills bit. But what the heck … if they contribute to society through their brilliance, who would want to change that ? If they are happy with their work which more often than not, benefits us all – one way or another, then so much the better.

    We should be eternally grateful.

  150. John.R.

    @Kaye Lee
    This is also a justification for our mediocrity – it’s all in the pursuit of being well-balanced

    There is never any mediocrity in balance. In balance you have taken what you “need” and discarded that which does not serve you because in balance you can see much more of a bigger picture than striving for excellence which will give you a mass of details which make little or no difference to the end result.

  151. Kaye Lee

    My comment about excellence and mediocrity was more a throwaway line as it is something my husband and I laugh about a lot in the context of “I could have been a contender” type conversation. I admire excellence in others and delight in learning from them or watching them perform. I recognise the dedication it takes to achieve the pinnacle and in no way want to denigrate people who pursue their skills in preference to socialising.

    I am however concerned at the number of high level athletes that suffer from depression or related conditions. I am concerned about the pressure we put on them. I am also concerned about our artists, particularly popular musicians. Huge money and adoration send so many of them off the rails. Just look at the Beiber train wreck in motion.

    Life would be so much the poorer without those who strive for excellence but are we doing our job in protecting them or do we ask too much from them?

  152. Lee

    “My comment about excellence and mediocrity was more a throwaway line as it is something my husband and I laugh about a lot in the context of “I could have been a contender” type conversation. ”

    I understood that to be a joke, Kaye, and I do not regard you as mediocre. You do a wonderful job of highlighting important issues here that impact upon all of our lives and educating others.

    Re: high level athletes – I didn’t think about them in my reply to you yesterday. I was thinking more about researchers and nerd/geek types of people. Elite athletes do what they do for their own satisfaction and their own search for glory. They are often pushing themselves beyond what their body is designed to do. Some of them do go on to provide major support for charities because they earn an obscene amount of money, but I’ve yet to encounter one who has this in mind when they start out. First and foremost it is all about their own achievement that has no benefit to anyone else. So when these people become plagued with injuries because they have pushed their bodies beyond what they are designed to do, and when those injuries strike at the worst possible times – right before a big competition, and the media pumps them up while they’re doing well but discards them like old trash when they fail, is it any wonder that they have problems with depression and other mental illnesses?

    Compare this with a researcher who has an intense interest in some scientific field, loves learning and discovering new things and at the same time has the opportunity to help hundreds of thousands or even millions of people with some new discovery or development. They’re not usually in the field first and foremost for their own glory. It’s something they really love doing and it has the potential to help others in need. They’re only known within their own field.

    I think when we look at intense focus on a narrow field of interest and whether it is helpful or harmful, we need to look at the reasons for that intense focus. What are their motivators? What are they giving up for the chance of success? Do they mind giving it up? A science nerd may not be interested in socialising and so doesn’t feel that he/she is giving up anything. An athlete may be making big sacrifices to deprive him- or herself from socialisation, parties, chocolate, etc for several years and they have to try to fit in their education around their sporting commitments.

    Are mediocre people always well balanced? We’ve got plenty of victims of domestic violence and those inflict it upon them, people who get themselves into trouble because they can’t manage their money very well and have to keep up with everyone else and the latest gadgets, people who are dysfunctional in their relationships or who will remain in toxic relationships because they cannot cope with being single, people who are very disorganised, unreliable and live in a proverbial pigsty. The list goes on. Doesn’t everyone have some shortcomings of one kind or another?

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