Grammar schooling

I’m about to be dreadfully cruel, I’m afraid.

So, the Express today has an opinion piece from Brian Sewell in which he bemoans the lax grammar of modern English.

Now, however, [the English language] is losing both its poetry and its precision. Grammar has been abandoned, construction is confused and any word will do.

Sewell also says:

the rot began with Mrs  thatcher’s abuse of the adjective “vocational”


though the statistics indicate that we have never been so well- educated, experience suggests that never worse is the true case.


If any- thing is written by hand it is not longhand but separate letters in imitation of the printed page, even in capitals, the greeting “hi,” and following the word “signed” the  signature is either an absurd calli- graphic display or the writer’s printed name – indications of little common sense and less education.


But who now has far the truer understanding of the political problems of Palestine, Iraq, Iran and afghanistan […] ?

Isn’t modern grammar and syntax dreadful?

Now, to be fair, it’s entirely possible that the appalling capitalisation and sentence construction on display here was introduced by a sub-editor trying to squash the article into its tiny column in the paper, or by the poor work experience student who was roped in to type up Sewell’s handwritten article for free. Still, you’d think they’d at least try to make sure a piece bemoaning slipping standards didn’t end up exemplifying them.

The rest of the piece, in case you’re wondering, is mostly made up of the type of narrow minded English exceptionalism and “things were better in my day” thinking that Express readers surely lap up.

[English] is the most beautiful of tongues, with a word for almost every shade of meaning, nourished by its roots in innumerable ancient languages, thus lending them an afterlife. at every stage in its development it has been as poetic as it is precise. Spoken, it is  capable of cadences subtle enough to move a man to tears.

As we all know, foreigners simply bark random made-up nouns to each other. No other language could ever come close to approximating the beauty and precision of whatever language Brian Sewell speaks.


  1. #1 by ukenagashi on Thursday, 2nd September 2010 - 12:09 GMT+0100

    I much prefer the Pratchett view of English as the back-alley mugger of languages.

    And what the hell, learn another language and read a book! I defy anyone to read Une Long Dimanche de Fiançailles and get to that last bit without a lump in the throat.

    And yeah, English is full of words for everything in the universe. Like “schadenfreude”.

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