Saturday, June 21, 2008

Good Moaning

I was shocked to find that at my local library the rantings of Jeremy Clarkson rub shoulders with the non-fiction works of Alan Bennett, the writings of John Betjeman and even a biography of Shakespeare.
That Clarkson has produced books at all would seem to lend credence to that old theory that if you left a monkey with a typewriter for long enough it would produce the works of Shakespeare. The timescale for this has never been specified. But if the monkey fronted an infantile and irresponsible motoring programme, it could probably produce a slim bestseller once a year.
The Dewey Decimal System has served us well but, if it results in Clarkson being on the same shelf as Betjeman and Bennett, maybe it's time for a new system of classification.
In the meantime, I think I'll have to surreptitiously move the Clarkson ephemera into the children's section.


Why does no-one today seem to know the difference between 'latter' and 'last'?
I base this criticism mainly on articles in the Guardian where even some of their highly-paid, Oxbridge-educated columnists put a list of four things and then say "the latter....".
I'm sure I learned this basic rule at primary school.

I suggested to them a long time ago that this rule should be included in their Style Guide but the error continues to appear at least once a week. I thought sub-editors where supposed to correct that kind of thing.
Some style guides recommend that 'latter' and 'last' never be used at all, suggesting it's less confusing to the reader to repeat the name or noun in question. Personally, I think every case has to be judged individually. If you think the reader will be forced to return to the previous sentence to find out what you mean when you say 'latter' or 'last' (or 'former' or 'first') then it's probably best avoided. It depends on the length of the sentence and how far back the reader has to look.
Like most grammar and punctuation rules it's about courtesy to your readers.


On the subject of courtesy, or lack of it, an article in today's Guardian reveals Ronaldo's disruption of a press conference that was held to commemorate the Munich disaster.
Reading this, I thought how unfair it is for people to continue attacking Beckham who, whatever his faults, would never behave in such a way.

Marina Hyde was at it again in the Guardian this week, deriding Beckham for opening one of his soccer academies in Brazil. She implied that Brazilian boys are doing world-class keepy-uppy within moments of emerging from the womb.
Next she'll be telling us that all black men have a great sense of rhythm and that all gay men are a great source of fashion advice.
Sneer by all means, Marina, but engage your brain first.


EURO 2008:

All I will say about last night's quarter final between Croatia and Turkey is that it provides a good explanation for football being the only sport to have conquered the world.
For here was a scrappy, tedious match with only occasional flashes of genuine skill.
Yet in the final minute of extra time Croatia broke the stalemate and scored what was surely the winning goal. Then, in the final seconds of injury time, Turkey equalized with almost the last kick of the match. Then followed the tension of the penalty shoot-out.
Nobody will remember the first 119 minutes. But nobody will forget the last 15 minutes either.

There was some surprise when Melvyn Bragg included the rules of Association Football in his list of the world's most influential books. Yet there is something of genius in the way that those rules - and the time-limited nature of a game - can often produce sudden drama and excitement from disappointment and tedium.


At 3:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Turkish delight.


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