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Friday, 25 October 2013

Grumpy Granny on the Rampage - Again

Now, I know I’m being a Grumpy Granny, but I’m going to have a moan. If, like me, you are a stickler for good English then hang on, I’ve a point or two to make. If you’re not a stickler, then hang on as well, because you’re about to learn something.

Let me admit right here, my grasp of the intricacies of English is limited. What I know I seem to know instinctively; stuff learned with mother’s milk you might say, or beaten into my skull with a ruler by the nuns at the convent, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I’ve got this wrong.

My grumble is about degrees of comparison. We have adjectives that are positive, comparative and superlative. Examples: bright, brighter and brightest. Or happy, happier and happiest. Or costly, costlier and costliest. Or pale, paler, palest. And so on.

But hang on, says me. What about ‘full’? ‘Full’ is an adjective that means (OED quote)... ‘Having within its limits all it will hold’. So, can you have ‘full, fuller, fullest’? No! You flamin’ well can’t. You cannot ‘live life to the fullest’. You can only ‘live life to the full’. It really riles me when I see good writers use the word ‘fullest’. Poor writers use it sometimes and journalists, of course, use it all the time. So, let’s deface books. Let’s cross out every ‘fullest’ we can find. Let’s hang, draw and quarter people, especially writers, who use the word ‘fullest’ because, ladies, gents and all those in-between, there’s no such word.

Another pet hate is the use of ‘amount’ instead of number. You can’t say ‘the amount of people’. It’s wrong. It’s ‘the number of people’. I was always taught that if you can count something then you use the word ‘number’. You can count people so you use the word ‘number’, as in ‘number of people at the soccer match’. If you’re talking about snow on the mountain, you use the word ‘amount’ because you can’t count it. Simple? I would have thought so.

And don’t tell me because it’s in common use it’s alright. It isn’t! Don’t get sucked in by that hoi poloi, cheapskate argument. That’s an excuse used by people who don’t know any better.

Okay, now that I’ve let off all that steam, I think I’ll go and have a cup of tea.

Jenny Harrison


  1. You go, Jenny Harrison! I agree completely. And while we're at it, can we tar and feather all those who say 'very unique'? Those long-ago rulers drummed it in hard that if it's unique, THERE IS ONLY ONE. So how can it be very unique? (Boy, some of those school lessons really stick, don't they?)

  2. Keep on a grumbling there Jenny. You are so right! Language is an important part of life and worth the effort of getting right. I am always correcting my grandchildren about the 'k' on the end of something or anything etc and as for bought versus brought!! It's enough to drive me silly.