africa animal british close up
Photo by Mike on



I’m far too much busy just watching these wonderful creatures
To care for your grammar.
They’re so like the ferrets and martens in habit and features –
They drown out your clamour.
They aren’t, though, that closely related (they’re closer to panthers),
They just look the same –
For evolution converges on similar answers,
And so does their name.







My Latin may be lacking,
My Dutch may be unknown,
In Thai and Greek I cannot speak,
My English stands alone.
If I can’t win with Mandarin,
I still might cast my a spell –
I shall compete with language sweet,
And use my English well.



Pissing on the Pedants

get a life


Pissing on the Pedants

Do you remember, back in school,
When teachers, parents, busybodies,
Told us, told us, told us how
Our grammar shamed our tongues ?
They called us slovenly and coarse,
No better than the brats of squaddies –
Smacked our hands and clipped our ears
And bellowed out their lungs.

They were wrong.  So wrong.
On ev’ry single point they taught.
Wrong that we couldn’t,
And wrong that we wouldn’t
And wrong that we cared what they thought.

Sometimes we mixed up laying and lying,
Or fewer and less,
But I guess that we just didn’t care.
The meaning was clear from the context,
As clearly as there is from their is from they’re.

We thunk and we brung and we beated
The more they cared, the less we core.
And even today, they get heated,
But they can’t clip our ears no more.




John Dryden by Gary Brown



Poor poor Johnny Dryden
Thinks that English is too English –
Wishes it could be more Latin,
Than this horde that he’s combatting.
But he’s heading for a hiding
If he thinks our mongrel language
Is a synonym for Latin,
Somehow ripe for reformatting.

Poor poor Johnny Dryden
Hates those final prepositions –
Keep them out, just like in Latin,
Else we’ll really let the cat in.
Always ready for some chiding,
He polices our transmissions
Should we stray away from Latin
In our ungrammatic chatting.

Poor poor Johnny Dryden,
Hates infinitives to split –
After all, you can’t in Latin…
Oh, to truly scholar that in !
But the mobs are over-riding
All his careful rules to bits !
Ripping off their hairshirt Latin
For their English shifts of satin.



Was, Not-Was



Was, Not-Was

If I were to say today
If I was,
Would I generate a buzz
At my un-subjunctive ?
I doubt it.
Not to be presumptive,
But the world can live without it.
The less-pedantic folk
Have been dropping weres for years –
Not to provoke,
But only, it appears,
That they never learned a diff’rent way.
And who’s to say that what they say is wrong ?
Their meaning is as clear
To an ever over-fussy ear,
And all thanks to context –
That complex glue that helps us get along.
To make a counter-factual phrase,
They have no need for prissy rules
That sound like strays from olden days –
They do it fine with simple tools,
Without the fuss,
Without the spleen,
And ev’ry single one of us knows wholly they mean.

Don’t weep for changes in our speech –
It changed for you,
In all those words they wouldn’t teach
That once were dangerous and new.
They horrified your grandpapa, of course –
They made him jar, they made him hoarse.
But you knew better than your betters –
Broke the fetters on the Non-U,
Took these immigrants upon you,
Gave them voice and gave them force,
You let them all rejoice
And hoped they stung –
Rolling their illicit letters
Round and round your tongue.

So if I was to use the was
Is it because I like the buzz ?
But then again, perhaps
It’s more an unintended lapse,
And not a careless slur.
Or maybe I prefer
The ever-simple sound of was
I like the way she does,
So let her purr.
If that be all it is,
Or if that is all it be,
Let’s let the was be fancy-free –
As it were.



How to Count the Years

multicolored abacus photography
Photo by Skitterphoto on


How to Count the Years

Some folks say that the decades run
From one to oh.
You know, cos there was no Year Zero and all
Oh, how they made the wrong call.
They assume we give a toss
About the loss of a year.
Oh dear oh dear.
Listen, all you smug alecs,
Fetishising factoids from the abstract void
Of cleverer-than-you.
Speaking in italics with mouths askew,
While ignoring common sense –
Stop classifying speech by pounds and pence !
For the only thing that matters by far
Are the numbers on the calendar.