Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Pronouns again

I've written about pronoun errors before, particularly when the writer erroneously uses the subjective rather than the objective form, thinking it's more genteel:

Come to dinner with Merle and I.

This error occurs because the pronoun is separated from the preposition which governs it: the ear would not allow,

Come to dinner with I.

I can find no such explanation for this morning's error in the Globe. Perhaps the writer was a little off centre in his relief that sanity had prevailed in the Alberta election. He writes about how the PC campaign managers realised a few days before the election that they were going to win:

It was that day that Ms. Elliot became confident, once again, they'd win. Neither her nor Mr. Carter predicted, however, they'd win so commandingly.

"She", of course, is the correct pronoun to use, as the subject of the verb "predicted". Was he thrown off by the conjunction "neither", thinking it was a preposition requiring the objective case? More likely, I suspect, it was a mere aberration, a one-off error, an unconscious reversion to his "her and I will clean the blackboard" school-slang days, made in the heady aftermath of a fortunate victory.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Shakespeare's birthday

That time of year thou mayst in me behold,
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

It is the wont of those of us no longer in our salad days to lament the past. There are certainly some things to be sad about.

Today was a happy day and a sad day. Happy, because we were celebrating the birthday of the greatest poet the world has ever known. To whit, I was sent to the local teachers' supply store find a poster to display at a little gathering we were having this evening in honour of the Bard. Sadly, they didn't have it. "I'm afraid we just don't have much demand for that anymore," she said. We commiserated on the sad state of an education that doesn't include Shakespeare.

Shakespeare isn't taught much anymore. Kids are no longer exposed to the magic of the poet who has been the single greatest influence on the language that we all speak.

I wonder why. Has Shakespeare somehow become politically incorrect? A dead white male poet? Or are his themes considered inappropriate? Or is it a reluctance to force kids to read something that may not be immediately relevant in today's world? Is it too hard?

I know that some teachers, given the choice, teach Shakespeare with a passion. But I also know that it's possible to go through school without reading a Shakespearian play or a Canadian novel. So much for the beauty of our language and the culture of our land!

Surely Shakespeare is more important than ever in a world that is becoming more and more materialistic and utilitarian, where governments are moving to the right, where funding for the arts is being cut, and our language is deteriorating into textspeak. 

Our generation had Shakespeare thrust upon us. We had to read it aloud in class. We had to recite soliloquies. And I for one am eternally grateful. I can think of nothing I learnt at school that has meant so much to me. What is life without beauty?

Tonight, at our gathering, as we sang songs, recited soliloquies, and read sonnets, every one of us gave silent thanks to a teacher who many years ago introduced us to Shakespeare.

Customer service

This post is an addendum to a previous post that you'll find on the link below:

I have long been interested in how some businesses can see the benefits of creating long-term good will in their customers, and others just don't get it.

MEC gets it. I recently spent a few days in Vancouver, and of course it rained. It rained so hard that the water came right through the MEC jacket I was wearing. Vancouver rain would penetrate anything.

(By the way, for those of you on the prairies who might lump Victoria and Vancouver together as soggy cities on the Wet Coast, note that Victoria has exactly half the annual rainfall of Vancouver.)

Anyway, I popped into MEC and pointed out to the man at the Customer Service counter that rain was coming through my rain jacket. "Ah," he said, "we don't make that jacket anymore. I think it's well past it's normal lifespan. This is not a warranty issue." Yes, I know, I was about to say. I quite understand. Thank you.

"Hang on," he said." Let's check it out." He looked at my purchase record. "You bought it in 2005." Fair enough, I was about to say. I've had good use out of it. Thank you.

"Wait," he said. "I see that you paid $110 for it. It cost us about half that. I can offer you a store credit of $40. Then we've still made a slight profit and you're happy."

So that's why I shop at MEC. I like to support local businesses and I do, but when it comes to buying anything that I might want to take back in the future, I shop at MEC.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The terminus is the end of the line.

The terminus is the end of the line. You have to get off the train. And where do you get off? At the station, of course. Where else?

Why then does the Vancouver sky train keep saying, verbally and visually, "Terminus station, Waterfront"? Why not simply, "Terminus, Waterfront." It gets especially annoying when Waterfront is the next station. Then it says, "The next station is Waterfront, terminus station."

Perhaps they think that we need to be reminded that there is a station at the terminus. So that we know we can get off and don't have to stay on the train and go back to where we got on.

(I won’t even rant about why they have to say YVR airport instead of Vancouver Airport.)

Either the people who run these new public transport systems take us for fools, or they themselves belong to a new breed who don't have trams and trains in their blood as I do. I suspect it it's a bit of both.

I remember that when a new electric train service began in Perth, Western Australia, the announcement would say, "The next station stop is Karrakatta." But a station is a stop, I wanted to shout. That's what the word means!

At the time, I tried to think like public transport officialdom. Perhaps the next stop might be at an unexpected halt along the line and they were worried that we might try to get off in mid track. Or that the train might not be stopping at the next station and that we might try to alight as it rushed through at 45 mph.

Eventually common sense prevailed. On my last visit to Perth, I heard to my great satisfaction that the next station was Karrakatta. So I'm hoping that on my next trip into Vancouver on the sky train, Waterfront will be the terminus, not the terminus station.