Steve Cotler

Steve Cotler

The Very Model of an Amateur Grammarian

Language changes…

It does, and nothing can stop the erosion and terraforming.

Some, however, stand like King Cnut, striving to hold back the waves.

In this spirit, Brit Tom Freeman has written a brilliant parody of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Modern Major General” that places itself, like King Cnut, on the linguistic seashore as the tide inexorably advances (or declines…depending upon whether you are a descriptivist or prescriptivist.)

The piano plays…

I am the very model of an amateur grammarian
I have a little knowledge and I am authoritarian
But I make no apology for being doctrinarian
We must not plummet to the verbal depths of the barbarian

I’d sooner break my heart in two than sunder an infinitive
And I’d disown my closest family within a minute if
They dared to place a preposition at a sentence terminus
Or sully the Queen’s English with neologisms verminous

I know that ‘soon’ and not ‘right now’ is the true sense of ‘presently’
I’m happy to correct you and I do it oh so pleasantly
I’m not a grammar Nazi; I’m just a linguistic Aryan
I am the very model of an amateur grammarian

I’m sure people appreciate my pointing out their grammar gaffes
And sorting out their sentences and crossing out their paragraphs
When you crusade for good English, it’s not all doom and gloom you sow
The secret of success is: it’s not who you know; it’s whom you know

The standards of our language are declining almost every day
Down from a peak in 18– or 19– I think – well, anyway
Pop music, TV, blogs and texting are inflicting ravages
Upon English and unchecked, this will turn us into savages

I fear that sloppy language is a sign of immorality
For breaking rules of grammar is akin to criminality
So curse those trendy linguists, lexicographers and anyone
Who shuns the model English of the amateur grammarian

Conjunctions at the openings of sentences are sickening
I wish that the decline of the subjunctive were not quickening
And that more people knew the proper meaning of ‘anticipate’
Of ‘fulsome’ and ‘enormity’, ‘fortuitous’ and ‘decimate’

I learned these rules at school and of correctness they’re my surety
I cling to them for safety despite having reached maturity
Some say that language changes, but good English is immutable
And so much common usage now is deeply disreputable

My pedantry’s demanding but I try not to feel bitter at
The fact that everyone I meet is borderline illiterate
When all around are wrong then I am proud to be contrarian
I am the very model of an amateur grammarian

Lovely…

 

4 Comments

  1. Abi says:

    Oh, how I love this!

  2. Karen says:

    Dear Steve,
    Just based on this masterpiece alone I think I love you (don’t tell my husband).
    Sincerely,
    Music Major turned Author

  3. Regina Machen says:

    I love this! I catch myself wanting to “edit” other people’s Facebook posts, texts, etc. Lol At the same time, I catch myself slipping into the same hole when I text. Making and taking shortcuts is ruining me as well!

  4. Jesse says:

    Great poem-parody. As said by Mr Johnson: “To enchain syllables, and to lash the wind, are equally the undertakings of pride.”

    No two people on Earth speak the exact same language.

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