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Loving all stylish and wonderful things in life, fashion and interiors. I am English but living my life in the fabulous city of Melbourne in Australia. Welcome and please read on.... (contact me at sjstubbs19@gmail.com)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Splitting the infinitive

Why, oh why, does this annoy me? Why does it even get to me and why do I recognise it wherever and whenever I hear or read it ...? The damn split infinitive.
You are probably thinking - why is she 'going on' about this? I am watching the television, - a news programme has just finished and I have heard the news presenter use another one....
I am reasonable at grammar. Not outstanding, by any means and certainly I am not someone who has studied grammar or even (unfortunately, and a great disappointment to me) someone who has a degree.. BUT... I do recognise a split infinitive. At fifty paces. This is because of my dear, late, maternal grandfather - Montague Plascott. Just his name sounds dignified I think and it is because of him that whenever and wherever I am when I hear one I think ... OOOOH, OOOUCH.. not right! It was his absolute 'bete noire' and he taught me to recognise them as "Bad Grammar.. " - at times I really wish that I didn't. Maybe it isn't recognised anymore as 'wrong' and maybe English teachers do not attach great importance to this. I will ask my BN who teaches English to 17 - 18 year olds.
Let me give you a very famous example...
"To boldly go"....... (Star Trek style).
And some other ones.... " To blindly feel" or "To beautifully sing" .... In each one as you will see that the 'to..... do something'... i.e. in the last three examples..' to go', 'to feel', and 'to sing' is the infinitive and it has been split in the middle by (in the examples above) - boldly, blindly and beautifully.
Perhaps it doesn't sound so awful. Perhaps it is only because of my grandfather that this little point of grammar still sounds so wrong when I hear it ...In some ways that is rather nice...
At least it means that after many many years he is still very much 'alive' to me. He died in 1975.


  1. Sarah, it is so nice that you still have such wonderful memories of your grandfather. Of course, as I was reading your post I could not help but think 'Oh Dear' do I do this? What was a split infinitive again? Can I spell that? I have my little pet peeves as well...can not recall any at the moment but I know they are there somewhere! I enjoyed your post..it is good to let it all out...I bet you felt better too. Such a relief sometimes to push that POST button!
    Have a great day...tomorrow :)

  2. Am pleased you understand Jeanne.. it is not that I was criticising anyone... and sometimes I wish that I really did not recognise this probably fairly minor grammatical point but it does loom large whenever I hear it ...(and I KNOW that I make mistakes in my writing daily) Strange isn't it, the things that stay with us from our childhood and into adulthood?

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  4. Sarah - you are so funny...this made me laugh - my pet peeve is spelling & I know exactly why - I still remember my scary English teachers Mrs Fricker and Mrs Heaton handing out their ten words to learn every night and woe betide you if you got them wrong! Hope you are having a great weekend (maybe out for breakfast?!) By the way, I sent a gift to a friend in Sydney yesterday who has spent a lot of time in Paris and I wanted to give her something relevant - I found some lovely Paris map wrapping paper but it's not as lovely as your Peony Paris paper! Do you know if it's available here? Susie x

  5. Metscan...- will be right on over...

    Susie... - I know I am a bit 'odd' ! And therefore I quite understand your pet peeve too...(all those people who had influence over our formative years!) Yes, went out for brekkie this morning - very hot and windy here today. Not sure if you can get the Peony Paris Paper in UK but I will bring you back a sheet or two in April when I am back for a while if you like... have a great weekend too... S x

  6. Oh dear sweet lady, I feel your pain. Dangling participles are my bane. I make many mistakes myself! I just think one ought to at least try.

  7. Oh I am going to have to be far more careful! But, for Australians, there is a whole generation in their 30's who were not taught grammar at school, as it was felt it would disadvantage those, to whom English was not a first language!
    When Top inquired as to whether or not they taught French and, if so, did they also teach French grammar? The answer was 'of course'!! Our daughter, who then spent her entire life away from Government Schools, is now in London writing for the British Government!
    So there are a lot of delightful, creative, witty, and utterly enchanting young men and women out there writing blogs whose Government let them down severely! This is impossibly long but Susie I would be lost without spell check though I argue constantly with it about English and American spelling.

  8. I agree that proper grammar is becoming a lost art. My mother was the strict grammarian in our house, something for which I remain eternally grateful! (I sometimes will throw grammar out the window for effect, but at least it's a conscious decision.) I don't think they even teach sentence diagramming in schools anymore.

  9. Your grandfather had such a wonderful name!
    I do try to avoid splitting infinitives where possible, however, I think we're hearing so many of them in everyday use now that it's getting hard to pick up on it being wrong. I guess that's how language evolves but in the interim, it's awkward.

  10. Little things like that stick with you. It's hard to not recognize it when it happens. I'm that way with some of the local sayings here, they can make me cringe sometimes.

  11. James dear - you see - maybe I would not recognise a dangling participle per se but would I realise it 'sounds' wrong? And I frequently make mistakes, I am sure of that!

    Julienne - NO! don't be careful just enjoy your blogging! And I always use the spell checker too so you are not alone there! Your daughter's job sounds amazing - congratulations to her.

    FF - yes, sometimes it is SO GOOD to remember.

    Deja - (Une). No, I don't think that they do teach grammar in schools - is it a 'lost art' now I wonder?

    Struggler - I do agree with you - they are used daily and perhaps as you say this is just how language evolves. One day I won't recognise them anymore!

    BM - Understand what you are saying!


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