“English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment, and education — Sometimes it’s sheer luck, like getting across the street.”
– E. B. White
“The greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar.”
– Michel de Montaigne
from ETNI’s “Grammar Quotes“
How do we control grammar? We have to have some rules, right? Otherwise, no one would understand each other. Maybe. English is a mongrel mutt of a language, full of all sorts of odd imports and add ons and historical oddities. It’s no wonder we get it wrong so often. Have you ever wondered why nothing rhymes with orange or pajama?
One explanation is that they are both words adapted from non-European languages. Orange, according to FreeDictionary.com, “is possibly ultimately from Dravidian, a family of languages spoken in southern India and northern Sri Lank.” [http://www.tfd.com/orange]. Pajama, is from the Persian word for pants [http://www.tfd.com/pajama]
English, too, is a world language without a central governing authority. So when I lived in the Philippines people would ask me if I wanted help with my luggages, or if I thought the feedbacks were useful. In the U.S. we would consider both uncountable nouns that don’t need an s to form a plural.
So maybe there is no real way to keep this in check except via a kind of low key public humiliation. I bet Mr. Spiller was a little red-faced about his button, which says more than he meant to say. And now there are FLIKR groups (where I got the image) where you can help out the language by spreading the shame.
“Quotation Mark” Abuse: http://www.flickr.com/groups/quoteabuse/pool/
Atrocious Apostrophe’s: http://www.flickr.com/groups/apostrophes/