Syntax


or, On the Grammar Wars

Over the weekend, and extending into the week thus far, a debate has been steadily growing in the blogosphere, both here and in the US, about a controversial set of guidelines for teaching English published last year by the English Teacher’s Association of Queensland (ETAQ).

Before I go on, I might say that the breadth of this debate is such that I barely know where to begin, so logically, I might try beginning at the start.

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Maybe it’s my less-than-prime cognitive state right now, but I’m beginning to notice little grammatical quirks and ambiguities that I’d normally have overseen completely.

This web page popped up when I opted out of a frankly unsolicited email advertising list:

You have been opted out.

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Earlier on this afternoon, I heard a cricket commentator, having heard about someone whose name he didn’t immediately recall, promise that he’d google him up. This would not be a natural usage for me, although it’s unequivocally clear what he means; it’s completely synonymous with (in my view) the more natural version to google someone, i.e. to search for them on Google.

Anyway, I started wondering how common the construction google up is, so I went and googled it… up, and here’s a breakdown of the returned hits on all permutations:

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Late last week on the bus I was having a conversation with a friend that, after a while, broke off on a tangent about the Roman Empire’s acronym SPQR.

It’s the sort of thing that young Roman men have tattooed on their arms, as if they were imperial Roman Gladiators, or Russell Crowe or something. Mussolini was similarly patriotic about it, as is my understanding, and put it on government buildings and manhole covers across the city.

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