Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Self-Hating Pedant

...or should that be "A Pedant Who Hates Himself" or "A Pedant Which Hates Himself Because He Is A Pedant" or "A Pedant That Hates Himself, Due To His Pedantry."


I am a pedant. I am not especially articulate, and I am not especially critical of others in most circumstances. However I have a verbal tic.

Every time someone is grammatically incorrect in speech, or mis-pronounces a word, I will respond with a correction.

Sometimes I manage to bite my tongue and get away with just thinking the criticism very loudly.

I am aware this is annoying and boorish and I can also bring to mind several occasions when it has got me into little social faux pas.

It is an artifact of my upbringing (and probably one that will, on balance, do more good than harm for me over the course of my life). One of my particular annoyances is when I want to use a word and suddenly realise that although I know perfectly well what it means and how it is spelt I don't know how to pronounce it.


What? Exactly! Is the "g" like the "j" in "just" or is it like the "g" in "grandma?"

Thank goodness for Wikipedia and the phonetic alphabet.

Anyway Marcel Berlins has written a stock journalistic article: "let's do something really straightforward and easy to make the world a better place."

A long time ago USAmericans, Canadians, and Australians (and New Zealanders, possibly) rationalised their versions of English by pronouncing clerk as "clerk" rather than clerk as in "Clarke" (as in Arthur C...). They also changed the spelling of "colour" to "color" and did a whole load of other sensible things.

But in the UK these words remain irrationally pronounced and spelt.

The reason for this is that there is a very strong vein of illogical, bloody-minded, stupidity in the British (the English, in particular)...

[ouch! my future self just dropped a few points in the speculative polls or whatever the hell the media uses to cripple the democratic process 20 years hence ... don't worry Future Self, you'd never make it as a Tory (you went to comprehensive school for gawd's sake). Go and try to get elected in Scotland. Bashing the English would probably win you some votes there. Go squander what remains of the oil money...]

...that results in things like this (crappy video link, SSM).

It also results in the sort of people whose sense of morality is based around the sort of trash Melanie Phillips writes in the Daily Hate Mail (she's only doing it because she gets paid more as a "right wing" blowhard than a "left wing" blowhard --- and more power to her for it!) getting shirty because something profoundly "British" like inches, pounds, ounces, and pronouncing ghoti "fish" (Google it or read Berlins) is being "attacked" by meddling bureaucrats from Brussels.

None of that was actually very clear, was it?

Essentially a key component of Britishness is doing something stupidly perverse just because you've always done it like that.

Beyond the point of being funny or endearing.


Also: the first two comments on that Marcel Berlins article have a rather lovely bit of pedantry...

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