More media bloopers (with additions 25 May ’10)

Some jewels from the print media

…the day after an email exchange about liberty between Tony Blair and I was published in the Observer, …
Henry Porter, The Observer 16 May 2010

…an exhausted-looking Boulton jabbed his finger and furiously refuted Cameron’s claim that the Sky man wanted to see David Cameron in Downing Street.
James Robinson The Observer, Sunday 16 May 2010

Andrew Marr, whose Sunday morning BBC show goes out at the same time as Boulton’s Sky programme, …

Boulton’s own high standing may even mitigate against such a radical change of direction.

The Camerons, as the first new occupants of Downing Street since first lady fever began, thus find unprecedented attention focused on Samantha.
Jess Cartner-Morley, Guardian, 12 May 2010

…given Mr Cable’s occasionally coruscating attacks on Mr Osborne’s judgment in the past.
George Parker, FT, 22 May 2010

Addenda, 25 May 2010

On overhearing my husband and I discussing this….
Letter, New Statesman, 24 May 2010

Out of these pieces, my mother would sew dresses for my sister and I….
“Author” Justine Picardie, Liberty Print catalogue, May 2010

But Paul’s success dwarves even these.
Ewen MacAskill, Guardian, 19 May 2010, p.21

But, along with the principal of basic rights and freedoms, …
Seumas Milne, Guardian, 20 May 2010

9 Responses

  1. Brian says:

    Comments on the earlier version appear below:

    • From Peter Harvey
    May 17th, 2010 at 11:42 am
    For between you and I, I refer you to my own blog.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this link to an interesting discussion of “between you and I”. It hadn’t occurred to me that this could possibly be regarded as correct, anyway according to current practice. I just hope that Henry Porter, under whose byline the blooper appeared, didn’t blow a valve if and when he saw what some illiterate subeditor had done to his prose.

    • From Barrie England
    May 18th, 2010 at 8:24 am
    Further comment on this on my own blog here and here.

    Brian writes: Thanks for this, Barrie. I recommend scholarly readers to read both your linked posts. (I take the simple-minded view that “between you and I” is simply wrong, something that can be written or said only by those with stainless steel ears.)

    • From John O’Sullivan
    May 21st, 2010 at 7:26 pm
    “Between you and I”!? I wince and often swear out loud – even in company – at such illiteracy (as I see it). Whatever the historical usage I take a simple view from modern simple English:
    1. ‘Between’ is a preposition (and also an adverb in certain contexts) and takes the objective case. The objective case of ‘I’ is ‘me’.
    2. ‘And’ is a conjunction and thereby joins nouns / pronouns, phrases and sentences of like standing.
    So, between you and me, these cuckoos are just illiterate and were never taught to use their own native language properly.
    I like to keep language simple and clear.

    Brian writes: Thank you. What can I say? I agree!

    • From Barrie England
    May 21st, 2010 at 8:43 pm
    There are no grounds for supposing that a pronoun in coordination with a noun or another pronoun must behave in the same way that it does in isolation. It is quite clear that the first person singular pronoun does not.

    Brian writes: Barrie, why this itch to devise intricate reasons for questioning whether a self-evident howler (“between you and I”) is actually a howler? If it swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, indeed tastes like a duck, chances are it’s a duck, and there’s no need to dream up far-fetched technical reasons for hypothesising that it might be a navy destroyer disguised as a duck.

    • From John Miles
    May 23rd, 2010 at 10:28 pm e
    …given Mr Cable’s occasionally coruscating attacks on Mr Osborne’s judgment in the past.
    How do we know Mr Parker didn’t mean what he said?
    Or was he groping malapropishly for … crepuscular? … carunculated?
    Or what?
    Brian writes: Thanks, John. I’m sure he meant ‘excoriating’. People seem to mix the two words up regularly, and the context generally gives them away. Knowing this, a skilful writer who actually means ‘coruscating’ (sparkling, glittering) will be wise to use a different word in order to escape the suspicion of mean-minded people like me.

  2. Tim Weakley says:

    This is embarrassing.  I had to look very carefully at your ‘dwarves’ example.  For dwarf (n), Tolkien insisted on ‘dwarves’ as the plural, which Chambers allows as ‘(rare)’.  But dwarf (v): I dwarf, you dwarf, he-she-or-it dwarfs or dwarves?  There is no consistency in English which requires the third-person-singular form of the verb to be the same as the customary plural of the  noun.  I think I would have written ‘dwarfs’, but am not certain.

    Brian writes: How extraordinary. I can only say that I am!

  3. Many, many native speakers of English say ‘between you and I’. As Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey Pullum say in A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar, ‘grammar rules must ultimately be based on facts about how people speak and write. If they don’t have that basis, they have no basis at all.’ Henry Sweet said much the same thing in 1891: ‘In considering the use of grammar as a corrective of what are called ‘ungrammatical’ expressions, it must be borne in mind that the rules of grammar have no value except as statements of facts: whatever is in general use in a language is for that very reason grammatically correct.’  Similarly, John Colet writing in 1511, said, ‘In the beginning men spake not Latin because such rules were made, but, contrariwise, because men spake Latin the rules were made. That is to say, Latin speech was before the rules, and not the rules before the Latin speech.’  In other words, the rules of grammar are derived from the way in which people use language, and not the other way around, however uncomfortable some of us may find it.

  4. John Miles says:

    Like you, I found Peter Harvey’s blog about “”entre” and “io” interesting and surprising.

    It goes to confirm my opinion that. whatever may have been the case when we all spoke Anglo-Saxon, the nine or so instances where we have different forms for the different functions of our pronouns are now largely otiose; methinks that sooner or later them’ll go the way of the dinosaurs, for all the pain they cause  we geriatric pedants.

    I suppose I sometimes write this word, but I don’t think I could ever say it without a bit of a cringe.

    That’s the man whom I saw.
    That’s the man who I saw.
    That’s the man I saw.

    He ‘s the one  on who I put my money
    He ‘s the one  on whom I put my money.
    He ‘s the one  I put my money on

    That’s the man to whom I gave the money
    That;s the man to who I gave the money.
    That’s the man I gave the money to.
    That’s the man I gave the money.

    Which – if any – of these  is normal English?

    Further question:
    Apart from Latin amd classical Greek, does the “objective” case differ from the  “post-prepositional” in any known language?

    Brian writes: My answer to your first question, John, would be that each of the examples using ‘whom’ is the one that any ordinarily literate English-speaker would regard as natural and normal, and all those that use ‘who’ would make such a person flinch.

  5. Someone called Calvin Trillin said ‘Whom is a word invented to make everyone sound like a butler. Nobody who is not a butler has ever said it out loud without feeling just a little bit weird.’

  6. Your  last question, John.  Yes, in French.

  7. John Miles says:

    Thank you, Barrie.
    Also, I’ve now found out, in modern Greek and Russian.

  8. John Miles says:

    Do you really think, for instance, “any ordinarily literate English-speaker” would regard,  ”That’s the man to whom I gave the money,’ as ” natural and normal?”
    Obviously it obeys all the rules of English grammar, together with those of Latin, on which English grammar’s traditionally based.
    Yet I seem to find myself programmed to say, “That’s the man I gave the money to,” or even, ” That’s the man I gave the money.”

    What are you going to say to Barrie England?

    Brian writes: Thanks, John. My answer to your opening question is Yes. The first statement that you say would come naturally to you also seems fine. The second is horrible. So is almost anything that uses ‘who’ where ‘whom’ is required.

    Barrie England and I have said to each other many times in many places over many years (at least, that’s how it feels) that we simply don’t agree about what constitutes correct English. I of course acknowledge that what literate English-speakers regard as correct changes over time, bad usages gradually gaining acceptance as they become more common and seep into the approved canon. This means that some usages, while in transition from howler to acceptance, are in a kind of limbo and judgements about their acceptability at a specific moment of time will necessarily be in part subjective. But it seems to me that the literate have a duty to our language and to clarity to expose and resist bad English even when it’s increasingly frequently perpetrated. IOW, I think it’s intellectually lazy to argue that the only defensible definition of correctness is what people write and say. I agree with Fowler, Gowers and Burchfield, for example, that “between you and I” is simply unacceptable, wrong, bad English. (See my response to another comment below.)

  9. Oliver Miles says:

    There is endless good stuff on this in Fowler’s Modern English Usage, (my copy is the Gowers edition of 1968). I particularly enjoyed a long analysis of “Young Ferdinand, whom they suppose is drown’d” (Tempest III iii 92), reaching a climax with “Nor can Shakespeare’s authority protect the modern solecist; did not the Revisers, in an analogous case, correct the whom of a more familiar and and sacred sentence (But whom say ye that I am? — Matt. xvi 15) into conformity with modern usage?”
    After quoting a lot of examples on the lines of “Your reviewer, whom I suspect does not like this book”, the author  concludes that “the decisive influence is probably the vague impression beforehand that whom is more likely to be right; but it need hardly be said that slapdash procedure of that kind deserves no mercy when it fails.”
    The discussion of I and me is just as good, working on examples such as “All debts are cleared between you and I” (Shakespeare), “Leave Nell and I to toil and work” (Dickens) and ” Mrs Forster and me are such friends” (Jane Austen, but direct speech of Lydia Bennet).

    Brian writes: Thanks, Oliver. But you really need to complement, or even replace, your Gowers Fowler with the superb, and largely re-written, third edition, ‘edited’ by Robert Burchfield (1996). When you have bought it, please first look at the brief page of Acknowledgements, and you’ll know why I’m pressing you to up-grade to it. Burchfield also has a long and lavishly illustrated (with examples, not pictures) essay on who-whom, including many new examples since Gowers. Burchfield has a good and forthright (shorter) piece on “between you and I”, beginning:

    The regrettable type between you and I …. must be condemned at once. Anyone who uses it now belongs in a grammarless cavern in which no distinction is recognized [sic] between a grammatical object and a subject…

    etc. Gowers is almost as forthright in his condemnation, I’m glad to see, simply re-wording and extending Fowler’s First edition original. Burchfield’s unqualified condemnation is especially welcome: I regard him as unduly permissive, no doubt because of the years he spent earlier editing the massive Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, which of course is almost wholly descriptive of existing usage as distinct from Fowler which, despite its title, is or should be fiercely prescriptive, since it’s our principal source for definitions of what’s permissible in correct UK English and what’s not. (I know this use of the word ‘correct‘ is like a matador’s cape to a 12-tonne bull for some of my linguistically sophisticated and dyed-in-the-permissive-wool friends, but as they well know, I make no apology for using it, and those who deny its validity in this context seem to me to be guilty of a bad case of the trahison des clercs.