As a new year dawns, or possibly just a new day, I struggle to find a new and inspiring subject for this month's article, so it looks like a ramble through the uncharted backwaters of the English language might be in order. My main aim in writing these articles is to alert speakers to the things they might say and later regret, but I am aware that the internet is more often a medium of the written word. So it is easy to find examples of written poppycock, but harder to find examples of spoken rot.
Unfortunately, I haven't heard many speeches in the last couple of months which have offered me material for this month's article. The speeches I hear come from many sources, some from Toastmasters meeting, some from meetings at work and too many from television programmes from those who are supposed to be among New Zealand's brightest and best.
Over and over again I hear people who do not know when to use "I" and when to use "me", which was one of the first inspirations for this series of articles. In writing, I still come across more examples of confusion between "it's" and "its" than I would choose, while just recently I stumbled across a plot summary on the case of a videotape:
Unfortunately, the two children who free Alan from Jumanji's spell, also unwittingly unleash a group of wild and exotic creatures who begin reeking havoc.
Something smells. In this case, it's the fact that the writers can't tell the difference between "reek" and "wreak". However, that's not the only error.
You wouldn't write Mary, had a little lamb with a comma between subject and verb. You might write Mary, a young shepherdess, had a little lamb with commas indicating a description of Mary. In the example above, depending on the interpretation, we need either no comma after spell or else commas round the whole of "who free Alan from Jumanji's spell".
Sadly, I have again lapsed into criticism of written work. I'll be listening carefully as the month progresses, hopefully hearing stuff that's worthy of comment. Yes, many of these articles could rightly be described as pedantry, but there are key points in most of these articles. I expect shortly to start a parallel series of articles expressing some of my views outside of the realm of grammar. I will be interested to see which series of articles gains the greater following.
A rich man died and left $1,000,000 to be shared between his sons. How much did each receive? Answer next month, if I remember. Bear in mind that this is a grammatical column, not a mathematical one.