Thursday, 28 July 2011

Award for Chomsky critic

The British Academy has awarded the 2011 Wiley prize to American developmental psychologist, Professor Dr Michael Tomasello.

Professor Tomasello also works on child language development and is a strong critic of the generative grammar theory, expounded by Noam Chomsky, subscribing instead to the cognitive linguistics school of linguistic theory.

This blog is an ardent supporter of anyone who can trash Chomskian theory!

IVF children develop language skills faster than ‘unplanned’ babies

The British Medical Journal has published findings of a report:
“To investigate how pregnancy planning, time to conception, and infertility treatment influence cognitive development at ages 3 and 5.”
The results suggest that children conceived through fertility treatment start school with language skills up to 8 months more advanced than children born after unplanned pregnancies.

“Twitter Ye Not” says James Bond’s boss

Dame Stella Rimington, former head of MI5, claims that Twitter is stopping children from reading. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, she says:
“I think much of the Twittering and e-mailing and texting and all that sort of stuff that children go in for now may be taking their eyes off reading fiction. When I was young we read more than the average child reads now.”
Twitter requires users to compose messages of 140 characters or less and, arguably, this teaches people the value of succinctness - a trait I have yet to master! However, a beautifully crafted piece of prose is an art form in itself and if we wish to encourage future generations of writers, we must also encourage children to read more books.

Take note any councillor who thinks that closing libraries is a good idea. Your actions will lead to the destruction of humanity.

The South North divide

Bill Cosby has difficulty understanding a Southerner's accent, especially when she tries to explain that North is 90 miles South-East of Due West!

Mancs Go Home!

According to the Manchester Evening News, staff at Selfridges have been banned from saying “hi ya”, “see ya” and “cheers” to customers, as these phrases are considered unprofessional and too Northern.


Sunday, 24 July 2011


BBC Radio 2 DJ, Simon Mayo, discusses plurals with Dr Peter Jones, MBE, founder of the Friends of Classics website.

Friday, 15 July 2011

BBC English

An article on the BBC website states:
It comes after Neil Wallis, ex-News of the World executive editor, was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications on Thursday morning.
Presumably the BBC meant to say that Mr Wallis was arrested on Thursday morning, not that he conspired to intercept communications that day.

A simple comma after the word ‘communications’ would have obviated the need for this blogpost.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Spelling mistakes ‘cost millions’ in lost sales

In an article on the BBC website, businessman Charles Duncombe claims that poor spelling on websites can cut sales in half, and costs the UK millions in lost revenue. However, his claims are based on the analysis of the sales figures for just one web site whose revenue per customer was doubled following the correction of a spelling mistake.

Even if there is evidence to prove that it was the spelling mistake which led to the lower sales for this company, it is entirely reckless to make a statistical analysis of the entire UK on-line economy based on just one website.

How does Duncombe know that the sales were permanently lost to the UK economy? Drawing statistical conclusions from a miniscule sample size is just as heinous a crime as poor spelling.

Hat-tip to @SueWalder for the link to the You Tube clip below on the the impotence of proofreading.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

David Crystal Lecture

Professor David Crystal delivers a lecture at the English Speaking Union about the relationship between the King James Bible and evolution of the English language since 1611.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Claire’s grammar faux pas

Retail store Claire’s Accessories is currently running a ‘3 for 2’ promotion at a number of its stores. The normal convention for such offers is that you pay for the most expensive two items and the cheapest is free. Most retailers will explain this, in a very simple form of words such as “Cheapest item free”. You can’t make it any easier to understand than that.

But some clever bod in Claire's marketing department has decided to reinvent the wheel. The sign in the window says “Buy 3 items and the third lowest item is free”. Third lowest? The third lowest out of three is the most expensive. Poor punctuation and bad grammar changes the intended meaning. Fortunately for Claire’s, their average customer is unlikely to notice, given that grammar is rarely taught in schools any more, like what it used to be.