I have had a message from someone called Amy Kelly on my post on Captain Grammar Pants. You may remember that the Captain (a.k.a. Seán Williams) is a blogger on matters of grammar who happened to endorse a large number of Cassidy’s idiotic claims in a book she wrote on Irish traditional music. She later contacted this blog and said that she had got it wrong about Cassidy but since then she has published several silly claims about the Irish origins of English words on her blog. Anyway, here is the message from Amy Kelly:
You made some errors of your own.
…not one of the morons who insist [one who insists, not morons who insist]
You do not seem to make use of the Oxford comma, which I understand is a matter of choice, but it is almost always needed and I am of the opinion that it is needed in the following, as well as a colon after opinions:
to express all kinds of opinions: true, false, benign, or repugnant
What Amy Kelly seems to be saying here is that I make mistakes. This is not news to me. It is impossible not to make mistakes and what pedants tend to ignore is that it really doesn’t matter, because language is a tool, not an ornament, and it is quite robust. While grammar bores tend to pretend that they are trying to improve people’s powers of expression and stop the rot, the fact is that there is no evidence that any civilisation ever collapsed because people got sloppy about their accusatives and to the best of my knowledge, nobody was ever murdered by a psychotic panda because they misused the odd comma.
So, what is it really all about? Well, call me an old cynic, but it seems to me that what it’s really about is condescension, ego-tripping, snobbery and nit-picking. Which is why, if you’re the kind of person who likes that kind of thing, you need to do your homework and make sure your ‘corrections’ are themselves correct.
Amy Kelly is trying to say that I am wrong to say that Captain Grammar Pants ‘is not one of the morons who insist that a prestigious institution is one which practices illusion and deception’ because one insists. This is plainly nonsense. If this were a sentence like ‘one of the children was sick’ then she would be right, because ‘were’ would be inappropriate. However, the two structures are not the same. In this case, ‘insists’ would be wrong, because I am talking about the morons who insist that a prestigious institution is one which practices deception and as I say, Captain Grammar Pants is not one of them. If Ms Kelly can’t spot the flaws in her own argument without my assistance, she is obviously not as clever as she thinks she is. In my experience, grammar bores usually aren’t.
As for the Oxford comma, it is very kind of her to enlighten me on her opinions about punctuation. They have been duly noted and will be studiously ignored because … well … because I think my punctuation is clear and comprehensible enough and I really couldn’t give a rat’s arse if Amy Kelly disagrees.