I say Pooh to all this Yanking up the Queen's English

Kelner's View


I have written before about those tell-tale signs of getting old, one of which is disapproval of grammatical errors.

I'm not talking about the greengrocer's apostrophe, or even the greengrocers' apostrophe. No, it's those solecisms which, because they weren't stamped out when they first appeared, became accepted. When did "invite" replace "invitation"? Likewise, the mutation of "heading" into "headed", as in: "Where are we headed?" I have even heard announcers on Radio 4 use this. In common with many similar corruptions, this one travelled here over the Atlantic.

Now I don't know how old Linda Weeks is, but I'd like to wager that she won't see her forties again. She works as a librarian in Maidstone and her one-woman campaign against the use of Americanisms in works of English literature moved into overdrive at the weekend when she complained to a publisher about a new edition of Winnie the Pooh.

She was near breaking point when she read that Eeyore had "gotten all spruced up for spring", and she finally snapped when he said that his tail "swishes real good".

The publisher, Parragon, responded by saying that its books sold all around the world and sometimes "had to be adapted to appeal to the widest possible audience".

Of course, they have a point, but while Americans are known to have a propensity to insularity, their children surely could cope with the odd character who doesn't talk as if created in the Disney studios. It certainly wouldn't happen the other way: can you imagine if Huckleberry Finn started talking like one of the Famous Five? "I say," said Huck, "that's a spiffing idea. And let's wash it down with lashings of tea!"

I don't care about Winnie the Pooh, but I do think that Ms Weeks is right about the primacy of an author's words. Being translated into another tongue is one thing, but corrupting a writer's work is quite another.

It's a lapse in standards and the fight must start somewhere.

I sometimes correct people when they use a split infinitive in speech or employ "hopefully" in the wrong sense (no, I'm not much fun to go down the pub with) and I'm not advocating quite that much vigilance. But I rarely get the sense that we as a nation are as fiercely protective of our language as we are of, say, our currency or our customs. So top marks to Linda Weeks. It may seem a trivial matter – after all, it's AA Milne we're talking about, not Dickens – but it's high time we rose up and declared a pedant's revolt.

Or should that be pedants' revolt?



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