Archive for the 'Grammar' Category

The Web and Churchill’s mutating wit

A curious footnote to my last post….You may be familiar with Churchill’s famous response to the grammatical rule on never ending a sentence with a preposition: “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”Ha, ha and hear, hear. But not so fast. Professor Paul Brians, Washington State University, reports no fewer than 13 different versions of the above-mentioned quote now in circulation on the internet, ranging from: “‘This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put,'” to “‘This is insubordination, up with which I will not put!'”

In this era of copy-and-paste it’s truly unusual to find such rich variety. The narrative context varies too: sometimes the person rebuked by Churchill is a correspondent, a speech editor, a bureaucrat, or an audience member at a speech and sometimes it is a man, sometimes a woman, and sometimes even a young student. Sometimes Churchill writes a note, sometimes he scribbles the note on the corrected manuscript, and often he is said to have spoken the rebuke aloud. The text concerned was variously a book manuscript, a speech, an article, or a government document. 

And maybe, just maybe, he didn’t say it at all. You can read the full article here. Incidentally, Prof. Brians has also created a great grammar resource.  

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