Thursday, 29 July 2010

must of

Found an old (1989) paper about "must of". Interestingly, the author says he had trouble finding examples in print, but those were pre-internet days! (Here it is in Steinbeck, and here's a virtual tome called "Must of Got Lost".)

Coates suggests that since "of" is a preposition, speakers who use it in this construction have to somehow make sense of a preposition being in this position, but I doubt it. Language is full of idiom: phrases which don't make much sense if broken down into their component parts, and it could be argued not only that "must of" is simply accepted by its users as having that function, but also that "must have" is itself by way of being an idiom.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

How old?

Recent discussion about the expressions "one-year anniversary" and "one-month anniversary" (neither of which is particularly exceptionable despite their registering on many newspaper readers' peevemeters) reminded me of a much weirder case: the expressions "one month year-old" and "one year year-old". These were first brought to my attention by Philip Eden in 2007, in a thread on alt.usage.english. Although the examples to be found on the BBC News website have changed, this usage is still going strong.

Here's some of what I wrote at the time:

"Week year-old", "day year-old", "hour year-old" and even "year year-old" are all out there, in all combinations of singular and plural:

Google unique hits, May 2007, UK hits in brackets
year year-old 742 (78)
month year-old 725 (149)
week year-old 167 (20)
day year-old 80 (6)
hour year-old 5 (0)

Here are some early(ish) Usenet examples. The first YYO is 2 June 1988, quoting from the Washington Post:
"Donald Gene Burleson, a 39-year-year-old Fort Worth programmer, has pleaded innocent to charges of computer sabotage and burglary..."

The first non-media example is by "JJ" on 23 February 1993: "I would envision a much more deeper feeling of loss for my 10 year year old."

The first MYO is by Hitoshi Doi on 11 June 1990: "My 8 month year old son reprogrammed ... the VCR!"

It appears that some people think that "-year(s)-old" is a set term to which the age must be added.

The current Google hit tallies for the expressions are: YYO 772, MYO 626, WYO 405, DYO 199, HYO 34. These totals don't include variants like "months year-old". There are also 513 hits for "century year-old".

Go figure.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Home found for lost apostrophe

You can't quite see it, but in line with council policy, the street sign in the distance says "St Marys Row". The missing apostrophe has found its way across the road to the sign outside this bar.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Have we stopped teaching people to write properly?

Iain Dale asks "Why is it that so many people in their twenties have v little understanding of English grammar or basic sentence construction? Aaaaaaagh."

He blames the education they received at school and wonders what the new government will do about it.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

A local newspaper reader is angry...

What is it with local-newspaper journalists? Are the courses that churn them out really so bad? Or should we blame their editors? I'm sure they must know how irritating their style is, but they won't give up. You know what I mean; take our local paper the Great Barr Observer: it can never get straight to the point. It's never "Khalid Mahmood did X", it's always "A local MP did X". It's never "Great Barr School pupils have done Y", it's always "Pupils at a local school have done Y." It's at its most farcical when there is only one possibility. So Asda becomes "a local superstore" even though Asda is the only local superstore.

Are there any local papers that eschew this indefinitism? If there are, their readers are truly blessed.