My attention was caught watching the news the other day when a rugby player said to an interviewer that ‘it’s hard to come from behind’. My first thought was ‘Why would he find that hard?’
Evidently the physical inadequacies of rugby players are not necessarily limited to their missing necks. I could start feeling sorry for them.
Recently a linguist said to me that ‘You are complicit in the factitious enshrinement of an ensemble of rules-for-their-own-sake’. It was because I wasn’t willing to write the word abientot without the circumflex it requires.
Yet the fact is that I find myself regularly confused by incorrect use of language. Proper usage – if I may use two words which will get me into no end of trouble – always (should that be in inverted commas?) avoids this happening.
I’m reading Annie Proulx at the moment and came upon the following sentence (Bad Dirt p. 21):
He adjusted his Stetson, which like a Texas sheriff, he always wore in the office.
The picture which spontaneously came to mind for me was a person wearing a Texas sheriff in the office. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what this sentence means? Replace ‘Texas sheriff’ with, for example, ‘scarf’.
I spend way too much time trying to understand badly constructed sentences which don’t actually say what the author intended.
It’s all very well to say that a squiggly bit on top of the word abientot is a rule for its own sake, but at which point is the line drawn?