96: President Trump’s contribution to the Grammar Day: to tapp or not to tapp?

Just in time for today’s Grammar Day, Donald Trump fired off the following tweet:

How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phone during the very sacred election process.

In order to help President Trump out a wee bit, I’ve decided to post the relevant extract from my recently published Grammar and Punctuation for Key Stages 3 & 4 with Handy Usage Notes. The extract deals with the doubling of consonants at the end of verbs (such as ‘tap’). But the President also used the wrong tense and, if his pronouncement was meant to be a question, failed to deploy the question mark, of which more further on.

6.10                  Spelling verb inflections

6.10.1 The doubling of consonants

Before endings -ing and -ed are added to base forms ending with a single consonant letter (except x), those bases double the consonant letter if the preceding vowel is stressed and spelt with a single letter. This is exemplified below.

  • Bar ends with a single r preceded by a stressed a spelt with a single letter. Thus, bar – barring – barred. Similarly, permit ends with a single t preceded by a stressed iI spelt with a single letter. Thus, permit – permitting – permitted.

By contrast, when the vowel is either unstressed or written with two letters, there is no doubling of the final consonant.

  • Enter also ends with a single r preceded by e spelt with a single letter, but this vowel e is unstressed. This is why the doubling of the final r does not occur: enter – entering – entered. Similarly, although moan ends with a single n preceded by a stressed sound oa, this sound is represented not by one but by two letters: oa (sequences of two vowel letters representing a single sound, such as oa, ai or ea, are called diphthongs). Again then, the doubling of the final n does not occur: moan – moaning – moaned.

Exceptions to the consonant-doubling rule

The rule is broken with bases ending in g and c: those consonants are doubled despite being preceded by single unstressed vowels: zigzag – zigzagging – zigzagged; traffic – trafficking – trafficked.

Unlike American English, British English also breaks the rule in bases ending in l, m and, in a few verbs, p coming after single unstressed vowels: signal – signalling – signalled;  trial – trialling – trialled;  travel – travelling – travelled;  telegram – telegramming – telegrammed; worship – worshipping – worshipped. However, most verbs ending in p have regular spellings: develop – developing – developed; gossip – gossiping – gossiped.

END OF EXTRACT FROM MY TEXTBOOK

As for the wrong tense, the Present Perfect (here, has gone) may not be used to refer to events which took place at a defined time in the past (such as last year’s American presidential election), this being the job of the past tense – the Simple Past, in this case. And while the structure of this part of the presidential tweet is typical of a question, no question mark is used. It is possible, however, that this pronouncement was meant to be exclamatory, but the writer’s command of English tripped him up. If a question was indeed intended, what President Trump should have written is this (stylistic and content-related considerations aside):

How low did President Obama go to tap my phone during the very sacred election process?

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95: Venimently perplexed

Some of you might have heard about a recent by-election in my parliamentary constituency, Copeland. Propelled by the sense of civic responsibility, I duly attended a local hustings, at which our independent candidate revealed his impeccable Europhobic credentials with the rhetorical question “A million Poles enough for you?” No sooner had I regained composure than I was assaulted with his campaign leaflet, in which the wannabe MP regaled us with the following pronouncement:

The Green Party are being venimently [sic] against nuclear energy.

Are they really? In an obvious attempt to be even-handed, the leaflet proceeded to castigate other political parties:

The farming community has been hit by this present governments [sic] stopping of subsidies.

Predictably, the Labour Party, currently presided over by Jeremy Corbyn, did not escape unscathed either.

The same can be said of Labour supporters who vote for Jeremy Corbyns [sic] Labour Party.

In an attempt to hit us hard with his anti-global-warming message, the campaigner chided us thus:

How many times does Keswick have to flood before the resident’s [sic] get the message. [sic]

The environmental theme needed to be reinforced, so the leaflet contained the following imploration:

We all need to change our behaviour now to slow down global warming to ensure our ancestors [sic] have a planet to inhabit.

But of course! It also appeared as if our independent candidate felt that a wee threat could go a long way.

To the people who disagree with me, I have bad news for you, but you will dislike global warming and increased sea levels even less [sic]!

Will we really? And the campaigner had other gripes:

Recent cost cutting decisions such as the demolition of the public toilets in Whitehaven is [sic] disgraceful.

But, hearteningly, the leaflet wasn’t all negative:

Land based wind turbines can produce energy much cheaper and more accessible [sic] than their off-shore counterparts.

The publication finished on an uncharacteristically literate, if a tad contradictory, note:

We have the 27th best education system in the world and every year it seems to get worse. The state education system has failed to produce results, so a drastic rethink is required to improve results.

It was rather hard to resist the conclusion that the leaflet had been produced by the very embodiment of this failure.

 

93 – Mini-rant: Dead survivors?

Having been greatly distracted by two momentous events, Brexit and the American election, I’ve been very remiss with this blog. And, let’s face it, language misdemeanours, however diverting, pale into insignificance with what’s going on in the world. But having stumbled across this snippet, widely broadcast by the British media, I’m unable to resist a mini-rant. The revelation came courtesy of an eminent foreign correspondent, who commented on a catastrophic plane crash thus.

There is little hope of finding survivors alive.

Although overcome with an overwhelming sadness, I nevertheless wondered whether there might be some dead survivors – an obvious (to me, at least) interpretation of this tautological statement. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, tautology – saying the same thing twice in different words – is a stylistic fault which is quite common, but the venerable BBC and its reporters might be expected to be above such lapses. What the correspondent should have said is, of course, this.

 There is little hope of finding anybody alive.

Or this.

 There is little hope of finding any survivors.

88 – Some little light relief with spelling (From my satirical book: Who’s Put Rat into Bureaucrat?)

This is also from my political – and linguistic – satire, Who’s Put Rat into Bureaucrat?

 

Chapter 14

ET

It had been a hectic time since our ill-fated team-building event, with all the SPs busily working on their priority deliverables. Having got over my concussion, I immersed myself in FART’s policies, procedures, standards, visions, priorities, tenets, agendas, regulations, principles, doctrines, prescriptions, proscriptions, instructions, rules, precepts, commands, conventions, codes, protocols, directives, decrees, orders, schedules, exclusions, guidelines, recommendations, suggestions and advice. Oh, and process maps and process flow charts, of course. Among all this spiritual nourishment were also the writings of my more established colleagues.

Imagine the extent of my discombobulation when I discovered that I couldn’t rely on my powers of comprehension as reliably as I had – undoubtedly naively – assumed I would. My perplexity desperately needed an outlet, but there was only Crystal around, for our Cluster was having another action-packed day: Greg was attending a meeting of the Current Government Thinking Committee, Morag was attending a meeting of the Shared Vision Committee, Duncan was attending a meeting of the Common Purpose Committee, Ant was attending a meeting of the Information Technology Advisory Forum, Violet was attending a meeting of the Inter-Divisional Liaison Group and Trace was attending a meeting of the House, Lift and Stairwell Committee.

By now, I had been through my own baptism of committee fire, having attended my very first meeting of the Big CORPSE. Before the meeting, Morag had e-mailed us the agenda accompanied by the following message: “Blackberries will be needed”.

“Won’t the hotel supply them? That’s what usually happens.”

“Too expensive, Ali.”

“You mean because they are out of season?”

“Uh? Rewind.”

“Well, blackberries usually ripen in September.”

By now, Crystal, who had been giggling fairly quietly, was laughing so hard she could barely draw breath for all the gasps. “She … ha, ha, ha … she means … our … ha, ha, ha … smartphones … ha, ha, ha.”

“O-o-o-o.”

“‘Course I’m meaning our smartphones – what else did you think I was meaning?”

“But that’s not how you spell BlackBerrys.”

“‘Course it is, Ali.”

“No, no: you use ‘y’ – not ‘i’. Cross my heart and hope to die.”

“Look, Ali, I know for a fact – for a fact – that you write ‘two ladies, three baddies, four ditties’, eksetera, eksetera, eksetera – with an ‘i’. The ET have told us that you have to change ‘y’ to ‘i’.”

“Absolutely, Morag, but proper nouns are an exception.”

“No offence, Ali, but all our words are proper, aren’t they, Greg?”

“Indeed they are, indeed they are. You might have some improper ones in Polish, Ali, but, in English, everything is proper.”

“No, no, no, proper nouns are names of people, places, organisations, gadgets, things like that – it’s a grammatical term.”

“Not your grammar again – go and get a life!”

“But Morag’s rule does not apply to names, Greg. For example, if you had more than one person called Kerry or Perry, you’d write Kerrys and Perrys – with a ‘y’ – not Kerries and Perries – with an ‘i’. Where you do have to use ‘i’ is with plural forms of common nouns.”

Greg and Morag exchanged their usual look, to which I have, by now, become quite accustomed, and Greg terminated the exchange with a stern, “Basically, we don’t do common, you know what I’m saying.”

Daily Frolic 1: Homophone hilarity

NOTE: I have accepted the challenge of posting daily blog entries throughout November. Not wanting to test your patience, I have decided to make my posts, which I’m calling Daily Frolics, as brief as the subject allows. Here comes the first one.

 

Homophones are words which, although spelt differently, sound the same, and it is this sameness that creates no end of problems in the spelling department. The homophones notable for the havoc they wreak (NOT reek, by the way) – at least in Britain – are it’s and its, closely followed by their and there. Other commonly misspelt homophones, or near-homophones, include: principal/ principle, loose/ lose, flair/ flare, practice/ practise, dependent/ dependant, stationery/ stationary, rational/ rationale, site/ cite/ sight, complement/ compliment, the complete list being far too long for this post. At the other end of the spectrum sit homophones the confusion of which is so unexpected that it packs an even mightier punch, causing hilarity when none was intended. Having raided my collection of funnies, I have selected eight for your delectation.

“An application to build a single story (sic) shed went before council planners this week.” (My local newspaper)

Building a single-storey shed seems to me to be a non-story.

“The ability to martial (sic) ideas at speed is important.” (The Times Educational Supplement)

Reading such stuff, I feel an overwhelming martial impulse to court-martial those writers who are unable to marshal their words without blundering.

 

“They are in the throws (sic) of planning the next charity ball.” (My local newspaper)

Are they being thrown by being in the throes, by any chance?

“But the popularity of ICT dwarves (sic) the rest [of the subjects studied by pupils].” (The Times Educational Supplement)

Does ICT dwarf other subjects also among dwarves? This author seems to have thrown himself recklessly on the mercy of the spell-checker – never a good idea.

“I look foreword (sic) to you joining us.” (Book publisher, author and director of a digital marketing college)

But I’m not looking forward to joining them – not after such a welcome.

“Maybe there will be a notice saying No Riffraff Travellers, Bone (sic) Fide Shoppers Only.” (The Independent)

Bona fide shoppers should make no bones about their thoughts on notices such as this.

 

“A number of individuals have been given warnings about the manor (sic) of their driving.” (My local newspaper)

Presumably, in an appropriate manner

Finally, a marketing expert has recently sent me a newsletter ending with an earnest imploration to “bare with him”. Tempted though I was, I decided to decline on that occasion – would you have been more daring?