If I pass a building, have I past it or passed it by? Almost daily, the area of my brain responsible for spelling and grammar, crashes. It temporarily goes off-line and I am unable to distinguish between past and passed. It happens momentarily and I am usually back on-line after a few searches on Google.
Similarly, many people struggle between your and you’re. I’d like to be able to say that this particular grammatical faux-pas does not annoy me intensely, but that would be a lie. I’m not really sure why my blood pressure spikes dramatically when I see this and I’m not sure what that says about me as a person. Not a very tolerant one, perhaps.
Maybe it frustrates me so much because I see this irritating debasement of the English language every day and instead of politely telling someone, they’ve made a mistake, I bite my lip and explode inside. But why? Why I am ready to hit someone when they say: “Get off of the floor?” ‘Off of!’ What the hell does that mean. Surely, you just need to get off the floor, who invited of along?
Radio One has much to answer for. Every day Scott Mills tells listeners: “Johnny off of Hollyoaks is going to be on later.’’ Off of? Off of? Fuck off, of!
I admit to being spectacularly uptight about this matter and part of me thinks it really shouldn’t matter. In our final moments, I’m sure God will judge us all on how virtuous we’ve been as human beings, not whether we confess we ‘should of’ been more patient with our parents or we tell the Lord, “Your the best.”
I once worked in a primary school and the daily incidents of crap English horrified me. Observing from the back of the classroom, I often witnessed misspellings. Camra instead of camera; oragatan instead of orang-utan; wierd instead of weird. Literacy books were marked with ‘You could of written more here’ or ‘This should of been longer.’ Staff regularly asked pupils to: ‘Get off of the floor’ or ‘Take the photos off of the wall.’
Does this matter? I believe so. My daughter is four and already knows whether to say ‘could have’ instead of ‘could of.’ Yet, how will she feel when a teacher tells her the exact opposite is correct.
Alarmingly, turning a blind eye to incorrect spelling is positively encouraged. Apparently, highlighting a child’s mistake during literacy can damage their self-esteem and stifle their creativity. Ah, in the same way Rudyard Kipling’s creativity was stifled or Jonathan Swift’s or the millions of others writers the world has known who received the cane for dubious spellings.
Woe betide the person who dares to damage a 7 year old’s self-esteem by suggesting the stormy whether he is so accurately describing in his story needs to be weather. Would that seriously be enough to make him throw down his pencil and exclaim: ‘I’m never writing a story again! You’ve killed my creativity!” Personally, I like to know when I make mistakes. I may be embarrassed if someone points them out, but I’m always pleased that they do. Jeez, I’m hoping there aren’t any in this post!
Whilst I adore Christopher Robin’s charming misspelt letters to his best friend, Winnie the Pooh, I do not want my children to learn it’s ok to spell incorrectly, as long as their message is understood. Forgivable, if they’re texting their buddies, less so, when they’re applying for their first job.
I imagine, “Deer Sir. Eye’ve got your advurt off of my teechur and eye like the sownd of you’re cumpanee’ is not going to go down very well at all. Although, as none of the other candidates will be able to spell either, it may not make any difference anyway.