I think television channels should carry a warning about how watching certain programs can be injurious to one’s health just like cigarette packets do about smoking. Because certain programs get me so riled up that I am convinced they can’t be good for my health or that of my husband’s who is then subjected to my rants on grammar.

I watch a bunch of Indian television journalists endlessly debate the headlines of the day and can barely pay attention to what they are going on about, distracted as I am by the sign behind them: Editors Roundtable. Editors. Not Editors’. And these are some of the highest-paid journalists in India. Rajdeep Sardesai, who occupies pride of place at the table, earns 8.5 million rupees per month, according to some websites. Now that information may be outdated, he may earn a lot more or less, but there’s no denying he’s among India’s top five. And he can’t be bothered to pick up his pen and place an apostrophe after the S?

On an awards show organized by a hugely successful radio program in India – successful enough to gather all the movers and shakers in the film industry at the event – there they were, announcing awards for the most “upcoming” music director, “upcoming” lyricist, “upcoming” male singer, “upcoming” female singer... You get the point. The person who wrote the script, the various anchors who read from it, not one of them said, wait a minute, upcoming? Surely we want to say up and coming? But no, an entire segment was devoted to this so-called “upcoming” talent.

Perhaps my response is a factor of age? Having had Miss Sudha Murthy drill the rules into us while brandishing a copy of Wren & Martin, do I wish to see everyone else follow the same rules?

Lilly Singh’s take on grammar police would certainly indicate that. The young YouTube sensation does a hilarious “arrest” complete with you-have-the-right-to-remain silent. But no. Laugh out loud as I do while watching it, I hold fast to my belief that one shouldn’t mess with language. Yes, languages evolve, they change over time, but there’s a beauty to good sentence construction and that comes with following some basic rules.

When school teachers send home report cards in which they use sentences like the ones below, we are on a slippery slope.

“X’s knowledge and confidence surrounding his literacy skills has (have) continued to grow...He counts and understands the purpose of counting by 2’s and 5’s (2s and 5s)... During outdoor learning we created our own world’s (worlds).”

All from a single paragraph in a junior kindergarten report card. The sad thing is that this card is from a school in Canada, where English is one of the official languages.

You could worry about the kids heading back to school this month, or you could hand out copies of The Joy of Syntax by June Casagrande (see Bookworm).


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