The slow death of grammar

I don't know whether any attempt is made to teach English grammar in schools these days: but even if so it can't be helped by the spread of peculiar usage by TV reporters. I suspect what happens is that one reporter makes a slip of the tongue under stress, and others hear it and think it's correct and start using it. It started with simple mispronunciations; communal instead of communal, inventory instead of inventory, and so on.

However some odder things have been cropping up over the last couple of years. Collective nouns have always been a problem - 'The Government are' instead of 'The Government is' - but I've heard a number of cases where a singular or plural verb - is/are, has/have and so on - has been applied not to the noun to which it belongs, but to the most recent noun.

I heard a particularly blatant example of this a couple of days ago:

'This is only the second time that the changes to the double jeopardy rule has been applied'.

- 'has' deriving incorrectly from 'rule' because it's the most recent, rather than the correct 'have' related to 'changes'.
The result is of course grammatical (and logical) nonsense, but it's not an isolated case. Is it a slip of the tongue? A minuscule attention span? Or does the reporter think he's speaking correct English? I suspect that nobody thinks it matters any more. They're wrong.

Posted: Sun - July 5, 2009 at 09:07 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM