Are you conscious of the language you use? Do you mind your Ps and Qs or do you let rip like a headless chook? The English language has been undergoing changes for hundreds of years and it's now happening faster than ever before. Is this a good or a bad thing? Are the older generations right when they complain that language is going to the dogs? Or are the younger generations forging a new path and forcing its evolution?
Linguistic royalty, Michael Swan, highlights a few of these changes and examines the reasons for them in the following article: What is happening in English?
Have you long thought that English is the official language in the United States of America? Think again! The USA is a culturally and linguistically diverse land. Enlighten yourself by checking out some of the interesting facts below.
Does the average Briton actually mean what he or she says or is there a something hidden in the language used? To save yourself time, trouble and effort, consult this handy Anglo-EU Translation Guide.
Does Spanish get your tongue in a twist? Are you at the end of your wits with German grammar? Are you wondering why the French bother with the last letter on every word when they don't even pronounce it?
If you think you are having a tough time learning the above languages, then have some sympathy for those learning the ten mentioned in this article. It considers the most mind-boggling and tongue-tying languages that we, as English-speakers, could attempt to learn. Whether it's the alien vocabulary of Basque, the tonal nature of Mandarin, or Estonian's fourteen cases that does it, you may find yourself thanking your deity that English is the world-language, and not one of these challenging tongues. All of them are, however, beautiful in their own way.
Click here to view the article "10 Hardest Languages To Learn For English Speakers"
Here are some tongue-in-cheek rules for writers, as written by Frank L Visco and published in the June 1986 issue of Readers' digest.
My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules:
1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
4. Employ the vernacular.
5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
8. Contractions aren't necessary.
9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
10. One should never generalize.
11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know”.”
12. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
13. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
14. Profanity sucks.
15. Be more or less specific.
16. Understatement is always best.
17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
18. One word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
23. Who needs rhetorical questions?
The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausage, and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British and Americans.
CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. It's speaking English that kills you.
No one likes to be harassed about their grammar, but you will be judged by your misuse of it. There is no other forum in which you'll be so severely punished as the internet. This, however, should be secondary to the fact that you are hindering the effectiveness of your own communication. Have a look at the below guide, put together by copyblogger, which details 15 of the commonest grammatical errors and explains how to get it right!
'10 items or fewer' (countable noun) would be correct
While some signs are simply erroneous, yet still understandable - like the one pictured on the right - others can take on a completely different meaning when language is misused or key elements, such as punctuation or common-sense, are lacking. The following examples are some humorous real-life ones, which would result in some interesting consequences were they taken seriously.
In an office:
TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW.
In a laundromat:
AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT
In a London department store:
BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS
In an office:
WOULD THE PERSON WHO TOOK THE STEP LADDER YESTERDAY PLEASE BRING IT BACK OR FURTHER STEPS WILL BE TAKEN
In an office:
AFTER TEA BREAK STAFF SHOULD EMPTY THE TEAPOT AND STAND UPSIDE DOWN ON THE DRAINING BOARD
Outside a second-hand shop:
WE EXCHANGE ANYTHING - BICYCLES, WASHING MACHINES, ETC. WHY NOT BRING YOUR WIFE ALONG AND GET A WONDERFUL BARGAIN?
Notice in health food shop window:
CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS
Spotted in a safari park:
ELEPHANTS PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR
Seen during a conference:
FOR ANYONE WHO HAS CHILDREN AND DOESN'T KNOW IT, THERE IS A DAY CARE ON THE 1ST FLOOR
Notice in a farmer's field:
THE FARMER ALLOWS WALKERS TO CROSS THE FIELD FOR FREE, BUT THE BULL CHARGES.
On a repair shop door:
WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR - THE BELL DOESN'T WORK).
'To put your foot in your mouth' means saying something, often stupid, that offends, upsets or embarrasses somebody. In most cases, you should also be embarrassed yourself.
A very passionate young man addresses several such language-related foot-in-mouth moments quite humorously in the following Youtube video.