Friday, October 17, 2008

"U" Gotta be kidding

At the very core the Grumbler is, of course, little more than a loose collection of generalisations, prejudices and bizarre compulsions wrapped up in a loose bag of skin with just enough spare room for the occasional beer and curry to be added. Same as any bloke I suppose.

This doesn't automatically make for a bad fellow (my Mum told me that, so it must be true) but it does need some work to ensure a positive result. Happily, most of these attributes can be disguised as the kind of eccentricities for which 'the English' are justly famous. Of course, great care must be taken to ensure that one remains at the correct end of a scale of 'unusualness' which stretches from Peter Sellers to Peter Sutcliffe, although maintaining the tantalising promise of being prepared to operate at either extreme can give one an incredible advantage in negotiations.

In today's character defect under the microscope session, we will concentrate on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as manifested in the form of extreme grammatical pedantry. For example, my reaction to the greengrocers' apostrophe. This particular crime against humanity involve's the placement of an apostrophe where none is necessary. (Did you catch that one?) It takes its name from the fact that it's commonly seen on signs outside greengrocers' shops - such as "Potato's, twelvepence per bushel". To the disgust of the ladies in the Grumbler household who believe that there are more important things in life, I am rarely able to let one of these things pass without comment.

Of course, my high moral standing is fatally weakened by the fact that I am a little careless and thus, occasionally, I do tend to 'drop one' myself. I like to think of this as the literary equivalent of accidentally farting in church - a bit embarrassing if anyone notices. (Of course, being noticed farting in church on purpose, rather than embarrassing the offender, tends to lead to the sin of pride.) Anyway, I digress.

Now, I've never actually been one to stalk the streets with a bottle of correction fluid and a selection of marker pens, with the intention of altering apostophical atrocities. But an obsession with a related subject has recently been threatening to 'push me over the edge'...

...It's well known that English spelling differs, depending on whether one is resident in its birthplace, or the other side of the Atlantic. I've never really thought much about it before, but recently I have begun to suffer a series of agonising temptations to return the letter 'u' to its customary place in so many words in 'American English' from which it has been removed. For example, our cousins in the US have cruelly emasculated words like colour, flavour and labour in favour of alternatives that I can't bring myself to type.

This weird compulsion first manifested itself when replying to emails, but its become more frequent and harder to resist. Recently, in a bookshop in California, I was sitting skimming through an American edition of "Rogue Herries" by Hugh Walpole, and I suddenly came over all peculiar. I felt my hand creep, as if under the malevolent control of some invisible puppeteer, towards a (arguably) mis-spelled word with the clear intention of re-inserting the missing letter. Terrified, I curtailed my Walpoling activities, sallied forth, and infiltrated a place of medical practitionery to seek a diagnosis of my plight.

It turns out, much to my relief, that my malady is actually a reaction to too much 'processed' text. Apparently, if I start reading quite a bit more stuff that hasn't been messed about with - you know, words with the dirt left on, organic text, that kind of thing, it'll clear up quite nicely. Apparently, what I have is called "Irritable Vowel Syndrome" and it should clear up once I get enough literary roughage. "Why don't you try a little extra punctuation?" the doctor asked me. That, of course, was just seconds before I smacked him with one of the "Organic Cucumber's" I'd been forced to buy while arguing about grammar with the illiterate shopkeeper next-door and fled, screaming, into the night...


Anonymous said...

I have lots' of friend's, one whos' called Pal or sometime's cnt as he love's terms' of endearment bt also sffer's from problems' sch as this, bt Im sre all of s nderstand's the nderlying predicament. Well pt!

Anonymous said...

The missing 'u' does cause concern but not as much as the change in spelling of plough. If this change was adopted in the UK there would be a large town near Heathrow called Slow.
Imagine the confusion that would cause at roundabouts. Every lane would appear to go to Slough Down.

Meg Bear said...

oh this one is either completely out of my league or exactly in my league depending on your point of view. I used to suggest to a former boss (from Australia) that the reason he spelled all words that properly required a "z" with a "s" was that he was embarassed for not being able to say the letter correctly.

My personal approach to all of this is to consider all spelling/writing as jargon and to adjust to the author, attempting to find the intended meaning however I can. If the person cannot spell, has poor grammar or is obsessed with IM shorthand I just tend to sort it out and move on. Helps when you are never really sure of correct use of apostrophe and/or the letter "u" in the first place.

So you see, you really ought to be blaming your parents and/or your former teachers for doing too good of a job in educating you. That was a serious mistake.

David Haimes said...

Excellent post.

I knew something was afoot with this post when I read

"has recently been threatening to 'push me over the edge'..."

It is not that it could be argued you went over the edge a long time ago, it's that American English spelling has driven you crazy as long as I have known you.

Anonymous said...

Are we sure the letter 'u' is meant to be missing? Perhaps it was burglarized.

Codger said...

Irritable Vowel Sydrome Eh? Is that what you call it?

And there's you blaming the foul air on your dear dog (hello floppy, by the way!) when you'd already admitted in print that you quite often, "drop one".

Tish tish.

Righteous Brother said...

The Grumbler is the consumate blogger.

I admire him for his ability to tickle the funny parts of his readers.

However if the Grumbler was to come around to my house and start dropping his constantants in front of my wife and kids - I'd have him out like a shot.

I'd give him a slap : Grumbler - go back to where you come from and pratice correct grammar.


The Grumbler said...

And indeed the "Righteous Brother" is also a role model worthy of respect.

I admire his tenacity in many respects, not least of which being his dogged determination to obtain satisfactory and reliable service from a motor vehicle which many of us would have paid to have taken away.

There's also his dedication to his pet dog, travelling many miles home each lunchtime in order to take it out to do its business.

But, if he came down our road, in front of all my neighbours and kids, in his clapped out old banger. If he did that, and then wheeled out his dog and took pictures of it while it pooped in my wife's flower beds.

Well, I should say "Oi, Righteous; NO! Take your noddy-car, and man's best friend, and fertilise your own manor.", and I'd probably have to give him a slap.

Anonymous said...

"To the disgust of the ladies in the Grumbler household who believe that there are more important things in life, I am rarely able to let one of these things pass without comment."

Surprise, surprise, that El Grumbler is the only one in this household who's worked in the IT industry...