Bad grammar is a hard tendency to ObV8

'Can we have a question that does not arise from my new book, available at all good bookshops?'
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The Independent Online

It has been over a month since we had a visit from the leading expert on modern English, Dr Wordsmith, and I am glad to hand over the column to him today. He has recently published a new book, called These Sort of Things, and has only just recovered from the launch party, which went on for at least two weeks; so, welcome back, Doc - and the first question, please!

It has been over a month since we had a visit from the leading expert on modern English, Dr Wordsmith, and I am glad to hand over the column to him today. He has recently published a new book, called These Sort of Things, and has only just recovered from the launch party, which went on for at least two weeks; so, welcome back, Doc - and the first question, please!

Dear Dr Wordsmith: Why is your book called 'These Sort of Things'? Isn't that rather ungrammatical?

Dr Wordsmith writes: Of course it is. That is the whole point, dummkopf. I have written this book to point out that the way we speak English is drifting further and further from what we think of as correct grammatical English. I had to sum that up in the title, and the best idea I had was to use the most common ungrammatical expression used by the highest in the land, which is "these sort of things". Grammatically, it should be "these sorts of thing", but who ever says that? Very often the grammatical usage sounds wrong and the ungrammatical usage sounds right. Actually, "this sort of thing" would probably be better, but a lot of people start a sentence with the word "these", then look for somewhere to go next and never find it. Hence "these sort of things".

Dear Dr Wordsmith: I see...

Dr Wordsmith writes: I haven't finished yet. Another construction that is changing shape in English at the moment is "as far as that is concerned". Now, when that expression is short and neat, nothing changes; but I have noticed that if someone starts a sentence with a long construction, such as "As far as the new arrangements for recently arrived immigrants and more long-term residents are concerned, we have issued guidelines... ", well, it is more than likely that the speaker will lose sight of the shape of the sentence, forget the "are concerned" and end up saying: "As far as the new arrangements for recently arrived immigrants and more long-term residents, we have issued guidelines..." - so "are concerned" and "is concerned" are vanishing from the language. And we are left with only:"As far as...".

Dear Dr Wordsmith: What other changes have you noticed?

Dr Wordsmith writes: Go read the book! Hey, that is another change! That slightly Yiddish use of the command form of a verb, as in "Go read the book!" In the same way, we sometimes hear people say "Enjoy!"

Dear Dr Wordsmith: And sometimes hear them say "Bless!"?

Dr Wordsmith writes: No, that is just contemptible sentimentality. Now, can we have a question that does not arise from my new book These Sort of Things, available at all good bookshops and many bad ones, too?

Dear Dr Wordsmith: Glad to oblige. Have you noticed a new development in abbreviations? For a long time we have had names that played around with letters, such as "Esso", which was another form of "SO" or "Standard Oil". And there used to be a chain of cinemas called "Jacey", which was just "JC" in another form. But recently people have started mixing up letters and numbers to get clever names. Is there a word for that?

Dr Wordsmith writes: I'm not with you. Could you possibly give me an example of it?

Dear Dr Wordsmith: Well, I was thinking of the dance group called DV8. It's a sort of pun on "Deviate". And you often see filling-stations with a big sign saying "Q8"...

Dr Wordsmith writes: I'm still not with you: "Q8" ..?

Dear Dr Wordsmith: Well, I suppose it's a clever way of writing "Kuwait"...

Dr Wordsmith writes: That's rather good! I do like that! So in other words, a drug company could be called "OP8" - meaning "Opiate"?

Dear Dr Wordsmith: Very good!

Dr Wordsmith writes: Would you mind if I used that in my new book These Sort of Things?

Dear Dr Wordsmith: Not at all. But I thought it had already been published.

Dr Wordsmith writes: Damn, so it has. Still, there's always the second edition...

* Dr Wordsmith's new book These Sort of Things is available in bookshops at £39.99, but, if you send a blank cheque to this column, you can get the same book at the special price of £100.

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