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View Full Version : Here's one for Gillianren: The grammar vigilante



WaxRubiks
2017-Apr-03, 05:33 PM
Meet the 'Grammar Vigilante' of Bristol

3 April 2017 Last updated at 00:29 BST
For years, it has been rumoured that somebody has been going out late at night, correcting bad punctuation on Bristol shop fronts.
The self-proclaimed "grammar vigilante" goes out undercover in the dead of night correcting street signs and shop fronts where the apostrophes are in the wrong place.
Jon Kay meets grammar's answer to Banksy and reveals the extent of his one man mission to improve standards.



http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39459831


:D

Edit: he might have been wrong about the "Hilber's" one; it could be a family business in which case it could be "Hilbers' "

Solfe
2017-Apr-03, 10:22 PM
That is pretty funny. Especially because he is using stickers, so the owner can just remove it if they disapprove. They didn't say he would return after fixing a problem once.

Jens
2017-Apr-03, 11:07 PM
I'm sure that Starbucks and Barclays would be delighted to have their signs "corrected" by a vigilante. I'm sure that Toys R Us would also be delighted to that glaring misspelling corrected. Sometimes it's an aesthetic choice.

grant hutchison
2017-Apr-03, 11:55 PM
I'm sure that Starbucks and Barclays would be delighted to have their signs "corrected" by a vigilante. I'm sure that Toys R Us would also be delighted to that glaring misspelling corrected. Sometimes it's an aesthetic choice.Well, it's a choice, certainly.
(People apparently do still go into Toys "R" Us shops to let them know the R in the sign is the wrong way round.)

Grant Hutchison

Trebuchet
2017-Apr-04, 12:11 AM
I saw something about a similar "vigilante" a few years ago in the USA. They "corrected" a 100-year-old sign in a national park, damaging it permanently. I'm all in favor of severe reeducation for abuser's of apostrophe's, but its not acceptable to damage someone elses property's.

Solfe
2017-Apr-04, 01:24 AM
Well, it's a choice, certainly.
(People apparently do still go into Toys "R" Us shops to let them know the R in the sign is the wrong way round.)

Grant Hutchison

The backwards R is an homage. "ChildЯen's Discount SupeЯmarЯ" was the prior name and that was preceded by a story called Bargain Town. The giraffe logo and backwards R was a common ad in the 1960s.

Oddly, I worked at TRU as bicycle assembler back in the 1990s. The owner loved the bicycle crew because his dad owned a bicycle shop. Never met him, but boy the company was good to us. We had every tool and supply under the sun and if we needed more, we just had to ask.

Strange
2017-Apr-04, 07:59 AM
It is ironic that this is applauded by grammatical pedants even though spelling is not grammar.

grant hutchison
2017-Apr-04, 10:34 AM
It is ironic that this is applauded by grammatical pedants even though spelling is not grammar.Marking the possessive is grammar, though. (Just to be pedantic.)

The students at St Andrews University, in Scotland, occasionally put apostrophes on the campus signs. This counts as "grammar idiocy" rather than grammar pedantry:
1) The town of St Andrews doesn't take an apostrophe - although it refers to St Andrew, it was named (like most towns in the UK) long before the apostrophe came into use for possessives. Some towns put in the apostrophe later, some didn't.
2) The students can't decide whether the University is St Andrew's (belonging to St Andrew) or St Andrews' (belonging to the town of St Andrews). A friend tells me he once spotted a sign "corrected" to University of St Andrew's'. We're hoping that was a joke at the expensive of the grammar idiots, but fear not.

ETA: For American readers, there's no period after the "St", either. In British English, contractions don't take a period unless the last letter has been omitted: so it's "St" and "Dr" but "Prof." and "Rev."

Grant Hutchison

Heid the Ba'
2017-Apr-04, 12:01 PM
I saw something about a similar "vigilante" a few years ago in the USA. They "corrected" a 100-year-old sign in a national park, damaging it permanently. I'm all in favor of severe reeducation for abuser's of apostrophe's, but its not acceptable to damage someone elses property's.

I'm disappointed by the lack of love for this post, well played Trebuchet.

Strange
2017-Apr-04, 12:54 PM
1) The town of St Andrews doesn't take an apostrophe - although it refers to St Andrew, it was named (like most towns in the UK) long before the apostrophe came into use for possessives.

Exactly, it is an orthographic convention to mark the passive with an apostrophe (and not mark the plural in the same way). So the signs are grammatically correct but written unconventionally.

Strange
2017-Apr-04, 12:55 PM
I saw something about a similar "vigilante" a few years ago in the USA. They "corrected" a 100-year-old sign in a national park, damaging it permanently. I'm all in favor of severe reeducation for abuser's of apostrophe's, but its not acceptable to damage someone elses property's.

And, of course, these vigilantes are attacking a symptom not the problem (which is presumably one of education).

Jim
2017-Apr-04, 12:58 PM
There is a sign on a door down the hall.

THIS IS NOT A EXIT.

It was "hand corrected" to

THIS IS NOT AN EXIT

It now reads

THIS IS NOT ANN'S EXIT

grant hutchison
2017-Apr-04, 01:34 PM
Exactly, it is an orthographic convention to mark the passive with an apostrophe (and not mark the plural in the same way). So the signs are grammatically correct but written unconventionally.Or, the "unconventional" choice of written form has rendered them grammatically incorrect - because they're using the plural instead of the possessive (I assume you meant to write "possessive" and not "passive" :)). That's clear in situations where plural and possessive are two different words (children / child's, for example). The child's are going to school is grammatically incorrect, not just spelled unconventionally.

So I think you can parse the problem both ways, as a spelling error or a grammar error. (Or, of course, as an aesthetic choice, or even a rather hapless statement of individuality.)

Grant Hutchison

Strange
2017-Apr-04, 02:29 PM
I assume you meant to write "possessive" and not "passive" :)

Indeed. That's a whole other kettle of worms.
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Gillianren
2017-Apr-04, 02:55 PM
Someone, I can't imagine who, may have occasionally taken a red pen to the political tirades people posted on campus at my alma mater when I was a student. In fact, my first year there, the freshman dorm across the way decided they had a rivalry with the building I was in. (My building housed predominantly but not exclusively freshmen, but we were alcohol/drug free housing, so we also had more than a few returning students.) One night, a handful of their residents broke in and vandalized our building, the least objectionable part of which was leaving signs all over the place detailing our alleged crimes. The one they posted on our door said, "We have proof that C-Dorm vote [redacted]." I wrote on it, "We have proof that A-Dorm doesn't understand subject-verb agreement" and left it there.

Trebuchet
2017-Apr-04, 07:26 PM
The one they posted on our door said, "We have proof that C-Dorm vote [redacted]." I wrote on it, "We have proof that A-Dorm doesn't understand subject-verb agreement" and left it there.
Or perhaps they are just British.

grant hutchison
2017-Apr-04, 07:47 PM
Or perhaps they are just British.Well, in British English the rule is that an organization is treated as singular unless you wish to emphasize the fact that it's made up of individuals. (And you apply that choice consistently within a piece of writing.)
So we'd say that the sign was correct, assuming it referred to C-Dorm as a group of individual voters, rather than a group entity. We'd find it strange if they'd written "C-Dorm votes" unless there was some issue on which an entire dormitory had a single vote.

Does it work differently in American English?

Grant Hutchison

Jens
2017-Apr-04, 11:00 PM
The one they posted on our door said, "We have proof that C-Dorm vote [redacted]." I wrote on it, "We have proof that A-Dorm doesn't understand subject-verb agreement" and left it there.

To be honest, I would disagree with you on that. Since they weren't talking about the dorm but rather the people in the dorm, it seems pretty clear to me that they were using it as a collective noun, and my understanding is that choice of singular or plural is basically up to the speaker, based on whether they are seeing the collective as a group or as individuals. So though your correction itself is OK, I don't see a problem with the original either.

Amber Robot
2017-Apr-04, 11:14 PM
ETA: For American readers, there's no period after the "St", either. In British English, contractions don't take a period unless the last letter has been omitted: so it's "St" and "Dr" but "Prof." and "Rev."

Grant Hutchison

Maybe you should put the period where the omitted letters are, like S.t and D.r. What do you think?

PetersCreek
2017-Apr-04, 11:21 PM
Maybe you should put the period where the omitted letters are, like S.t and D.r. What do you think?

I think not. The multiple periods would suggest they are initialisms or acronyms...at least in the good ol' U.S.A. Now that I think of it, that usage seems to have all but disappeared in US writing. (<--- see???)

Jens
2017-Apr-05, 12:01 AM
Maybe you should put the period where the omitted letters are, like S.t and D.r. What do you think?

It seems that you're suggesting a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

Jens
2017-Apr-05, 12:15 AM
Well, in British English the rule is that an organization is treated as singular unless you wish to emphasize the fact that it's made up of individuals. (And you apply that choice consistently within a piece of writing.)
So we'd say that the sign was correct, assuming it referred to C-Dorm as a group of individual voters, rather than a group entity. We'd find it strange if they'd written "C-Dorm votes" unless there was some issue on which an entire dormitory had a single vote.

Does it work differently in American English?


Well, according to this explanation (on a British site), in the UK both are used fairly equally, while in the US it is much more common to say "the family was killed" than "the family were killed." So Gillianren was acted in accordance with common US practice, but she's not correct in saying that they were making a mistake with regard to subject-verb agreement.

grant hutchison
2017-Apr-05, 12:34 AM
Well, according to this explanation (on a British site), in the UK both are used fairly equally, while in the US it is much more common to say "the family was killed" than "the family were killed." So Gillianren was acted in accordance with common US practice, but she's not correct in saying that they were making a mistake with regard to subject-verb agreement.Style guides on both sides of the Atlantic seem to make the distinction I mentioned - use a singular if you want to emphasize the collectivity of the group, and a plural if you want to emphasize the individualities within the group. There are some examples from British and American style guides assembled here (http://www.dailywritingtips.com/collective-nouns-singular-or-plural/) (as well as a quote from the Chicago Manual) which seem to show that the guidance is the same in British and American English.

So what's puzzling (to me at least) is that after the explanation and examples given from American style guides, the page goes on to say: "... most American speakers recoil from using a plural verb or plural pronouns with a collective noun ..." Seems like there's a mismatch, there.

Grant Hutchison

Jens
2017-Apr-05, 12:55 AM
So what's puzzling (to me at least) is that after the explanation and examples given from American style guides, the page goes on to say: "... most American speakers recoil from using a plural verb or plural pronouns with a collective noun ..." Seems like there's a mismatch, there.


I am also a bit puzzled by it. Gillianren's recoil also seems symptomatic of a disagreement with the style guides. Perhaps it's a regional thing. I'm not really the right person to go on about it, though, because I lived in France when I was a kid and have lived in Japan for more than two decades, and end up talking with people from all sides of the Atlantic and the Pacific, so I suspect my English is pretty mixed up. But my impression is that Americans do tend to use the singular (with the exception of "the police").

Maybe Americans tend to be incapable of distinguishing the individuals within a group, so there's no contradiction! :)

Jens
2017-Apr-05, 01:20 AM
To be honest, I would disagree with you on that. Since they weren't talking about the dorm but rather the people in the dorm, it seems pretty clear to me that they were using it as a collective noun, and my understanding is that choice of singular or plural is basically up to the speaker, based on whether they are seeing the collective as a group or as individuals. So though your correction itself is OK, I don't see a problem with the original either.

Just to be clear, I should qualify that by saying that my point is premised on the they are using "dorm" as a collective noun. You can of course argue that it is improper to use "dorm" as a collective noun, but it seems pretty clear to me that they are doing it since a dorm cannot vote, and I don't think it's improper because you can say, "Orange County voted for..." as in here (http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/trailguide/la-na-election-aftermath-updates-trail-orange-county-turns-1478716018-htmlstory.html).

Gillianren
2017-Apr-05, 04:30 PM
Yes, I would also find it jarring to see "Thurston County vote [redacted]." However, in this instance, it was clear that we were being referred to as a monolithic entity, which is funny given the only thing we were united in was not caring about them except inasmuch as we wished we had to call in fewer noise complaints and were made that someone had written on the mural in our stairwell. The blank walls they'd written on, we cared less.

profloater
2017-Apr-05, 05:08 PM
I R ember a debate about none, as in there were 100 people on board but none was killed as opposed none were killed. In this example the none can mean no one, therefore singular but also none refers to all the 100 people so none is a plural.

grant hutchison
2017-Apr-05, 07:12 PM
I R ember a debate about none, as in there were 100 people on board but none was killed as opposed none were killed. In this example the none can mean no one, therefore singular but also none refers to all the 100 people so none is a plural.The "none is singular" thing has never been true in English - it's just another of those grammarian flights of fancy like the split infinitive.

Grant Hutchison

Amber Robot
2017-Apr-05, 11:42 PM
It seems that you're suggesting a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

I was just trying to be cheeky. :D

spare part
2017-Apr-06, 12:59 AM
So do A-dorm understand subject-verb agreement, or not?

DonM435
2017-Apr-06, 01:00 AM
"A-dorm don't know doody!" might have been simpler.