Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Article excerpt

`RUBBISH,' said my husband, tossing aside the newspaper folded in four with the completed crossword upmost, decorated with a few whisky-glass stains. Well, I didn't ask him to do the thing in the first place.

Rubbish or not, crosswords, although they command a language of their own, sometimes indicate changes in English. I have just been shown a couple, as it happens. One piece of evidence that English syntax is breaking down, or at least becoming simpler, is trouble with pronouns. A few weeks ago, the Times crossword had an answer: `Everything comes to he who waits.' Someone at the Times was kind enough to draw it to my attention. It should have been him, `to him who waits'. But even if that were realised, him would not have fitted in the lights available for the solution.

A similar obstacle to amendment could not be blamed by a Daily Telegraph compiler who was caught last year giving the clue, `Common sense for we French.' The solution was meant to be nous, meaning both 'mind' or `common sense' and, in French, 'we'. But if the clue had been couched grammatically in its literal sense, the play on words would still have worked: `Common sense for us French', since nous means 'us' too.

I think there are two forces working to produce these pronouns in the wrong grammatical case. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.