Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Article excerpt

WHEN my husband makes a medical mistake, you find the result in the cemetery; when I make a grammatical mistake, the consequence is in the post.

A fortnight ago I wrote that something sounded like it was in The Archers. Kind readers have pointed out in a more-sorrowful-than-angry manner that like should have been as if. One man asked if I did not find my usage ugly as well as incorrect. To be honest, I do not. I probably would not have written it if I did not habitually say it, which only goes to show that I often speak ungrammatically. I shall still continue to say, `It looks like it's going to rain.' I shall try not to write it.

Quite frankly, grammar frightens me. Did you see that piece in the Daily Telegraph this week on the gerund? Too clever by half for me.

Another clever suggestion comes from a reader, Barbara Segal, who suggests an etymology for the phrase plum in the mouth. She suggests it might come from the 18th-century word plumper, a ball of cotton or cork that women once used to plump out their sunken cheeks.

A nice, or rather an unpleasant, thought. No one who has read Swift's `On a Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed' can forget what puss did with her plumpers while she lay asleep. …

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