Why care for grammar so long as we are good?
Whoever you are, it is most unlikely that you will go through this or any other day without hearing someone - it may even be you - mention the word stress. The notion that all of us are under more or less constant pressure has come to dominate our culture; indeed, to hear some people talk you'd think we invented
… the heartache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to.
Not so, of course. Those words are spoken by perhaps the most stressedout character in all literature - Shakespeare's Hamlet - and they are a timeless reminder that 'the stresses and strains of modern living' have applied to every generation since Homo sapiens evolved.
Nevertheless, a case could still be made for stress as the defining word of our time. One consequence - or maybe index - of that is the profusion of surveys tabulating the most common causes of stress and/or their degree of severity. If my sampling of such items has been reliable, the two greatest would appear to be moving house and speaking in public. The latter topped a fairly recent poll addressing people's worst fears, weighing in at an impressive 40 per cent; dying could do no better than third place, which I find, in the legendary words of David Coleman, 'really quite remarkable'.
It would be idle to suggest that grammar competes with domestic transformation, speechifying or death as a cause of stress or fear, but try this simple game anyway. Take a piece of paper and at the top of it write the word