Saturday, November 30, 2013

Outwith - collected quotes

Collected outwith quotes

Some time ago I wrote a post titled 'Is outwith a word?' (link below), which continues to get quite a lot of hits. The preposition outwith is used in educated Scottish English to mean something like 'outside, not part of'. One way to look at it is as the opposite of within.
Recently there have been a couple of comments on that post which have led me to look for examples among well-known Scottish writers, and I thought it might be a good idea to collect these examples of outwith together, where possible linking to them in Google Books or other source.
I've also included a section with more historical use, often using facsimiles from the books themselves. Apart from anything else, these show what the Scottish English of the Court and the Law of these times looked like, and the sort of spellings that were then prevalent.
As it is my intention that this should be an ongoing work, and that I will be adding examples to it as and when I find them, I've made a page rather than a post for them, which can be found here.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Confusing verbs - consist, include, make up, comprise and constitute etc

We can use several verbs to talk about the parts that form or make up something (the whole). Some can be a little confusing, and with one, not everybody agrees on all its uses. Read a bit about them and do a short exercise. (Hat-tip to Peter Harvey at Lavengro, whose post gave me the idea - see links).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Random thoughts - he was sat, she was stood

Some time ago there was a rather lively discussion on the language blog, Pain in the English, about these two idiomatic expressions. Let's take a look at a couple of examples from Google Books:
He was sat there with his arms over the back of the sofa looking really upset so I thought there was something ...
Under the Rotunda - Danny Bernardi
In an instant Dave knew that he was stood on a road and that there was a vehicle coming ...
The Company - James McCann

And here's one with both

We saw him later on chatting to another bunch of bemused holidaymakers, only they were sat down and he was stood in front of them, in his Speedos ...
Thai Tales - Justin Dunn
Read a bit more about these expressions. What do they mean and are they grammatically acceptable?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Random thoughts - on the cusp

A couple of weeks ago, the Guardian ran what they called 'a fiendish language quiz', set by their 'style guru', David Marsh, author of the recently published 'For Who the Bell Tolls: One Man's Quest for Grammatical Perfection'. In one of the questions, entrants had to say what was wrong with this sentence:
'Outstanding performances include Caryl Morgan's Beatie, in bobby socks and denim, on the cusp of womanhood but still impressionable and dreamy, and Sara Harris-Davies as the mother she still looks up to.'
The answers have now been published, and the official answer to this one was:
You can't be on the cusp of one thing. Although it is often misused to mean "on the brink" or "on the verge", strictly "on the cusp" involves two things, for example "on the cusp of Taurus and Gemini" or, as it should have been here, "on the cusp of girlhood and womanhood".
While taking the point that a cusp is between two things (often two periods), I wondered whether it was really necessary to explicitly mention both; on the cusp of womanhood looked fine to me. So I decided to investigate.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Common mistakes learners make - according to me

When giving your opinion, it is quite common in some languages, for example Polish, Spanish and Italian, to use a construction which can be directly translated as according to me:
  • Polish - według mnie
  • Spanish - según yo
  • Italian - secondo me
In English, however, we don't usually use according to like this.