Saturday, May 06, 2006

Blogging: UK vs US

I've been cruising the blogosphere in search of grammar blogs, and I have found what seems to be a slight difference between US grammar blogs and UK grammar blogs. US blogs are often more pendantic to the point where many of them are really just courses in English grammar. UK blogs tend to be more nitpicking (in a good way) about the constructs and vocabulary of the language itself. This is only a broad generalization, and many of the exceptions on either side show up in our blogroll. It just seems like a tiny little trend in a broader theme. The American grammar blogs are most often written by teachers or writers - or writing teachers - and focus on "how to do it." Brit blogs often discuss how the language is going to hell in a handbasket, and point out how. Of course, the fun ones are the ones that rant, regardless of which side of the Atlantic the rantings originate.

I guess this means 1) that some Americans are really trying, so it's not entirely hopeless. And 2) we here at Ceely's (note the very British name) are anglophiles. Well, if you knew us, you would know that it goes without saying.*

*goes without saying: "On the face of it, this is a very foolish formulation, but it is not intended to be taken seriously.... The implication is along these lines: 'You and I are sufficiently knowledgeable that we needn't be told this. For us, it goes without saying, but there are others -- not so well informed as thee and me -- and for them we will say it."

(Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage, 2nd ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1985: p. 259.)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Lessons in Our Language I

In the first of our series of challenging items found in 19th century textbooks,

Avoid unpleasant repetitions of 's or of.
Brown and Smith, the painters' store,
NOT, The store of Brown and Smith, the painters;
NOR, Brown and Smith's, the painters', store.
The sign of possession is appended only to the latter of two nouns standing together (or in apposition, as it is called), one to explain the other.

William and Mary's reign. But one reign is referred to, William and Mary having reigned jointly. Both proper nouns denoting possession, but the latter alone takes 's.

The rose's and the violet's odor are quite different. Two odors are referred to, the rose and the violet having each it's own; and each noun denoting possession takes 's.

Now this may seem obvious to some of us, or at least it's something we look at and go, "Oh, of course!" when we see it. But it can be confusing if you think too hard about it. For instance, here is a sentence from the exercises. Correct the errors:

Have you ever seen Henry's son's wife's father?
Well, since you can't use "of" too much, the only real alternative here is to change a word or two.

Have you seen the father-in-law of Henry's son?
Ugh, that's inelegant. Better to say,

Have you seen Henry's son's father-in-law?
It only gets rid of one 's, but it may be enough. What do you think?

(Taken from Illustrated Lessons in Our Language by G.P Quackenbos, 1882. Available on CD at Lady's Maid Books.)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Pictures are Nice

Just checking out the image capabilities of Blogger. These squirrels are from Monroe's 3rd Reader, 1884.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Blog of American English

Here we will post on the English language. Whatever ticks us off, whatever we find interesting, whatever we think people need to know.