Grammar Schooling



Grammar Schooling

Don’t be a grammar poser,
That’s my advice,
Don’t be the prig who is overly-precise.
If it ain’t confusing,
Or clumsy in its choosing,
Then best to keep your counsel, and to keep your comments nice.
We hardly need a mentor
Who’s sticking in his snout –
You really ain’t the centre
That our language spins about.

You know, there’s words I cannot stand:
Like ethics-speak and business-bland,
Or phrases strained until they break…
But here’s the thing: that’s just my take !
There’s words I cannot stand to use,
There’s words that gag and words that bruise,
And words I hoped were dead and gone…
But here’s the thing: I don’t let on !

But I suppose
If language is the topic of the day,
Then gentle comments on our prose
May help in what we wish to say.
But here’s the crux:
They should be just suggestions, never rules;
For language is a lively flux
That shouldn’t be our master, but our tools.

And as for double negatives,
Those twice-as-minus negatives,
We don’t need regs to balance negs,
Ain’t never not no-way misunderstood.
Do we need to cite some Chaucer
Just to make them seem legit ?
I bet you glean their meaning good –
And so you should, if only you’d admit.

Language is adaptive and pragmatic,
Always looking for the new.
Language is a melting-pot schematic,
Always stirring up the stew.
And yes, it’s often needlessly erratic
And ambiguous, it’s true –
But also it’s the one thing democratic
That we each of us can do.

Its beauty, you see,
Is in its redundancy:
Multiple ways of saying the same.
It may not be logical,
Or pedagogical;
Boy, though, it’s prodigal – always aflame !

Language is free to use,
Language is hard to lose,
Language is yours and is mine and is theirs.
Conflicting, resolving,
Mutating, evolving –
We each are its authors, its subjects, its heirs.

So don’t be a grammar poser,
That’s my advice,
Don’t be the prig who will always tell us twice.
These rules you keep imploring
Are rules we keep ignoring –
And if we’re fine without them, well, they’re hardly worth the price.
These errors you detect
Are as dry as they are long –
You may be quite correct,
But you’re so so wrong.



Second-Hand Words

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Second-Hand Words

English has many a-loanword;
Absurd a-name, as if to suggest
(Despite how much they’ve grown so blurred
And settled-in, so you’d never have guessed)
The day may come when they must pack
And once and for all be all given back.

French, please take the biscuit,
And Persian, fetch your cash,
Norse, collect your brisket
And Arabic, your sash.
Chinese, we have to unravel your silk,
And German, it’s time please to drink up your milk.

Greek, fly out your planet,
And Spanish, kill your roach,
Italian, shift granite,
And Hungarian, take coach.
Tongan, please, release taboo,
(Though we’ll never shift Tahitian tattoo).

So Hebrew, take Israeli, then,
And Dutch, stop pushing foist.
And Latin – now an alien
With all your words unvoiced.
We hand them back all bent-up and slurred,
And full of…thingy…you know…oh, what’s the word ?



Cattle Prattle

large bison
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Cattle Prattle

Are Water- and Cape- the more closely related ?
Who knows ?
Why are those ‘true’ while the Bison are ‘false’ ?
I say they all are true buffaloes !
You label the grouping as polyphyletic,
Like ‘shrew’ –
But what does it matter their genes, when we’re talking
Of big things with horns that go moo ?

So pedants and cladists may mutter and sleight,
But Buffalo Gals, won’t you come out tonight ?

And did you know twenty-five cities and towns
Disagree ?
And how many towns in the States are called Bison ?
Well well, only three !
So don’t try and tell me I can’t call the bison
All ‘buffaloes’, mate !
Cos Buffalo Soldiers and Buffalo Bill,
And Buffalo Springfield and Buffalo Twill,
And the Buffalo Wings at the Buffalo Grill,
Tell me you’re way way too late.

So pedants and cladists may grumble and snide,
But Buffalo Gals go round the outside.



Just-So Grammar

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Just-So Grammar

If you ever stumble on pronouncing a tricky word,
Or if you’ve often seen it written, but it’s one you’ve never heard,
Or if you find this language arbitrarily absurd,
Well, that’s because it really rather is.
The thing about this English, and the reason why it’s so,
Is just to show who’s truly in the know, oh doncha know,
And that’s why there’s still esses in debris and apropos,
It’s often less a language, more a quiz.
The spellings show the origin – the past, not present tense.
And even if the origin is wrong, that’s no defence –
For if we change the spelling, they will hate our common sense –
We’re punished with the snigger and the snub.
Well, pedants gotta pedant, and scolds gotta scold,
They make up all the rules, and the rules they then withhold,
And if we have to ask them, well, it’s too late to be told –
They’ll never let us join their little club.



Each Word is a Species

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Each Word is a Species

Un·in·ter·es·ted – so dictionaries claim
Has meaning specific, restricted by rules;
Dis·in·ter·es·ted – it now means the same
To ev’ryday users of linguistic tools.
So Dis has migrated to Un’s patch of speak;
Is language more poverished ?  Meaning dis-hanced ?
Nat’ral selection defavours the weak,
But look how im·par·tial is grabbing its chance.


For ‘Whom’, the Bell Tolls


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For ‘Whom’, the Bell Tolls

Bid goodbye to ‘whom’ – her days are numbered.
She falls out of our usage, and she goes the way of ‘thee’ and ‘thou’.
And slowly shall our speech be disencumbered.
(It’s down to our subconscious, really, what we do and don’t say now.)
It’s not a case of messier or purer,
It’s more a case of slowly just forgetting her and losing her.
I don’t believe our language ends up poorer,
For if we had a use for her then surely we’d be using her.

So let us bid goodbye to ‘whom’,
She softly slips away to make some room for ‘who’ instead.
He makes his meaning just as well –
So sorry, pedants, but it’s time to tell you ‘whom’ is dead.
He comes to fill her role, as he
Has done for many years informally, and kept his thread.
He’s coming – look !  Our future syntax bursting free –
So do you see whom I see ?, (as is never ever said).