I am not Lynne Truss

But I do tend to notice examples of spelling and grammar that might make the likes of her add another couple of zeros to the sales figures of their smugly hectoring books. Unlike the prescriptivist grammar mavens, I don’t have a knee jerk sense of outrage at the abominations committed on our language, but like David Mitchell, I’ve got to admit that the temptation to judge – if only inwardly – is there.

When I was listening to Radio Five Live yesterday, they were inviting people to send in texts about things that really annoy them. The overwhelming majority of responses were about points of grammar and English usage. One of those was a complaint about shops using ‘in store’ rather than ‘in the store’, which reminded me of this that I spotted the other week that takes that example one stage further:

11/03/2009

I can’t be sure whether that is merely a running together of the preposition in and the noun store (in a manner similar to an example recently blogged about by Carla Beard) or whether it is really being thought of as a single adverb like inside or a noun like interior.

Whatever the answer I find it difficult to think badly of a usage like this in language terms, though I have to say it did nothing to tempt me instore.

A little further along in the same shopping mall (a word I wouldn’t have used as a child incidentally, but I’m not about to get all snooty about creeping Americanisation given the apparent origin of the term in St James’s Park) I came across a rather vibrant example of a favourite issue of grammar pedants:

11/03/2009

The battle for the count/non-count noun distinction is usually fought on the ground of less vs fewer , so this amount/number faux pas (if such it be) was an interesting curiosity. I bet that hardly anyone would register that there might be an issue with that one, even it were pointed out to them. Yet still there are people who can get quite stroppy about such matters (see item 16 here, for example: and note that the editor felt the need to rush to Fowler to explain why it’s a ‘problem’). It’s the less vs fewer problem that gets people really exercised, though, leading Britain’s top supermarket, Tesco, to cop out completely (and sensibly in my view) by opting for ‘up to 10 items’ at its checkouts rather than having to choose between ’10 items or less/fewer’. Still, you can’t win with some people. The splendid Language Log has some discussion here and here about the great supermarket grammar wars, referring to up(ish)market store Marks and Spencer who offered a refund on a product whose only fault was a misplaced apostrophe (see this Guardian article). In a previous blog life I noted Marks and Spencers’ apparent ambivalence on the less/fewer point after seeing a rather remarkable example of signage hedging at their Chester branch. It seems that hedging their linguistic bets is a characteristic of the Marks & Spencer strategy if my most recent find is anything to go by:

18/03/2009

4 thoughts on “I am not Lynne Truss

  1. I’m much the same way… I once surreptitiously took an apostrophe out of “omelettes” on a Welsh pub menu, but Stephen Fry made some excellent observations about the (d)evolution of language on one of his podcasts: http://www.stephenfry.com/media/audio/109/series-2-episode-3–language/ – it made me look at it from another angle altogether.

    I actually used the section where he compared style of language to style of dress (“You wouldn’t turn up to a job interview in your pyjamas, so why fill out the application form in textspeak? They might be more comfortable, but are they really suitable?”) to stop my darling year 10s putting screenshots of emails they sent to me saying “wag1, sir” into their coursework.

  2. I’ve noticed the fashion for creating new verbs over the past twelve months. Certain Olympic athletes, for instance “were hoping to medal”

  3. i never thought it was incorrect to use the word “instore” before, because i’ve seen/heard it used so often.
    i do wonder about the words “any more” and “anymore” quite a lot though – which is the correct one to use?

  4. Thanks for your comment. It’s just reminded me that I’ve actually got a blog and maybe need to get round to writing some more posts on it.

    I wouldn’t say it is necessarily ‘incorrect’ to use “instore”, it’s just not standard usage (yet) and therefore some people would regard it as incorrect.

    You’d use the words “any more” separately in a sentence like, “I haven’t got any more biscuits”. the single word “anymore” is an adverb that indicates a time period from now onwards (usually only used in negative sentences) -“I don’t buy biscuits anymore.”

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