English Grammar in Ruins


The great statesman had no idea what he had started.

It’s that rascal Winston Churchill’s fault. When he was criticized for ending a sentence in a preposition, he called it nonsense “up with which I will not put.”  He had a point. The rule against putting a preposition at the end of a sentence was silly. But sometimes traditions should be kept, because once they’re relaxed all hell can break loose.

Which is what has happened. Crimes of grammar nowadays are everywhere. My husband thinks I’m obsessive about it and maybe he’s right. I do have a lot of idiosyncrasies he puts up with. I mean, I have a lot of idiosyncrasies up with which he puts.

I keep having to correct his grocery list entries. I write notes. “Honey, ketchup is standard spelling; catsup is no longer commonly used except in a few specified regions (which don’t include ours). And Quaker Oats is capitalized because it is a brand name. Generic “oatmeal” is lower case. Also, mayonnaise has two n’s.” And so on. I put my lists next to his Quaker Oats* at the breakfast table. (*Note initial caps.)

I can’t help myself. I have a degree in journalism with a minor in English. Frank should be glad I wasn’t an English major, it would be even worse. I have no peace. Our language is constantly being abused and misused. For example, I see “it’s” as a possessive all the time. No no no! “It’s” is a contraction of “it is.” The possessive form has no apostrophe. “It’s well known that a cat likes to lick its fur,” is a purrfect example of correct usage. (I hope someone noticed the misspelling of perfect.) No one gets “it’s” and “its” right anymore, except for women in their seventies who studied English. Who knows, maybe someday “it’s” will be changed to “its” and vice versa. God forbid.

And all because of Churchill. He saved the free world, but with one little quip he set in motion the collapse of English grammar.

P.S. Note that “no one” is two words.