4 March 2008

Alanisitis at the Gym

Given that it's National Grammar Day (in the States, at least), I have been very well behaved and, for once, have abided the linguists' maxim of "description not prescription" (although I'm sure I've got around that one in the past by describing someone's non-standard usages of the English language as "objectively flawed").

This sign I saw at the gym today tipped me over my grammatical edge, though. How do I correct thee? Let me count the ways...

1. Great use Of Random capital letters (unless, of course, Paddle Brush is a proper noun, Internet-style, in which case, my bad).

2. Conventions for spelling out numbers: let's pick one and stick with it. I prefer to spell out numbers larger than 10, as per The Economist, but this is a recent pedantic acquisition of mine so I may not have been consistent in the past. Where's the logic in "Two 1 litre Shampoos" though? I'd prefer "two one-litre shampoos" or even "2 1-litre shampoos" as it's an ad.

3. Last, but certainly not least, the ethical afterthought. "Saving you 30%, & the environment." Perhaps this advert was written by Alanis Morissette because clearly, there are some constituency issues here, namely that "you 30%" is not a valid constituent and fails all of the constituency tests. Hence, the phrase earns itself a little black star for "non-standard usage":

*Saving [you 30%] and [the environment]

The gym folk don't even have Alanis's excuse of trying to fit the lyrics into the rhythm and mood of the song (in "you held [your breath] and [the door for me]"). On the subject of Alanis, though, will someone get the woman a dictionary as well as a copy of Chomsky: Ideas and Ideals? She could really use a definition of the word ironic.

I'm not sure these criticisms would be very well received at the gym, though, so, for one day only, I'm going to be holding a grammar amnesty - gramnesty, if you will - and will refrain from linguistic pedantry for the rest of the day. Promise.

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