hells_half_acre: (OfficeDean)
[personal profile] hells_half_acre
I'm bored at work, so here's another installment of Pet Peeves (because I'm always in the mood to complain when I'm bored at work).

The Subjunctive!

For those that don't know, the subjunctive occurs in English most commonly when you are presenting a hypothetical situation. The prime example is any sentence that begins with "If I were you...." 

Now, I fully recognize that language evolves. I'm a huge supporter for language evolving. A language that ceases to evolve, ceases to truly live. For instance, I really think that "alright" should be the standard and accepted spelling, rather than "all right"...and eventually it will be. Already people are starting to forget that it's a misspelling...the spell-checkers all accept it, and no one has ever commented on a piece of my fanfiction and said "you spelt 'all right' wrong." (I'm also a firm believer that dreamt and spelt are still legitimate spellings as well, even though spell-checkers hate them,)
Anyway, that's just a long way of saying that the subjunctive case is dying out, and I KNOW this. As more and more time goes by people are using "was" instead of "were" more and more. "If I was you..." is slowly becoming the new norm even though it grates on my nerves. Hell, it's even passed my own lips from time to time, much to my horror. 
In Supernatural fiction (and the show) I forgive it constantly, because Dean with his GED and Sam being raised by a mechanic and a brother with a GED - well, even 3.5 years of college couldn't save him from colloquialisms. So, yeah, it makes sense that Sam and Dean (and Bobby) don't use the subjunctive properly, that's fine.
But...in Sherlock fic...that's another story. In Sherlock, you have Sherlock IN CANON  using words like 'meretricious' and correcting a murderer's grammar for a solid 3 minutes straight. Sherlock, my friends, would not say "If I was you..." 
Of course, this all being said, I realize that one of reasons language evolves is because people stop realizing that what they are saying is wrong and start believing it is right - so, this is just one of the many death-throes of Subjunctive Case, where some of us look at it and think "Oh, that sentence is fine," and others look at it and think "that sentence is horrific" because we still have the capability of seeing the part of the language that is being butchered. Hmm...random Harry Potter analogy: It's like a Thestral being murdered in front of a crowd.

ETA: Speak of the devil - I was just reading Wil Wheaton's very touching blog about his recent incomplete Stand By Me reunion, and he ends it with a sentence that should be in the subjunctive, but is not. Oh Wil, I forgive you, because language evolves, but I admit that I did yell "B'AH!" when I read that.
Completely unrelated note: I've started spelling favorite the American way and I HATE myself for it. It's favourite, goddamn it. I've got to retrain my fingers. 


Date: 2011-03-21 11:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whistler-wren.livejournal.com
At least is still survives in the distinction between "We insist he does his homework" and "we insist he do his homework". Because that one gives a meaning difference, I think it's unlikely to fade soon.

But, yeah, that quoted clause is horrid.

Date: 2011-03-22 12:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hells-half-acre.livejournal.com
Ooo, good point! *hugs alive and well subjunctive case*

I love your icon, by the way! Brilliant.

Date: 2011-03-22 01:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yourkidney.livejournal.com
I regret to not possess in-depth understanding of the subjunctive tense. I have a good intuitive sense for grammar, but some aspects of it escape me. Anyways, it's weird but cool to watch evolution of languages, I agree :)

OMG I've been bouncing back and forth between spelling 'litre' and 'liter' wtfff self haha.

Date: 2011-03-22 01:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hells-half-acre.livejournal.com
I am not an all-knowing grammarian either, as I'm sure some of my readers can attest :P But I do try...and I mean, if I were writing a highly intelligent pompous character, I would attempt to use highly intelligent pompous sounding language, whether or not I knew why it sounded that way. ;)

My "re" verbs are pretty safe - centre, theatre - all very Canadian. I use Zs like an American though....which, I suppose is also a Canadian thing to do. We're all very confused up here in Canada.
Edited Date: 2011-03-22 01:27 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-03-22 01:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yourkidney.livejournal.com
Eh I've yet to notice any garish mistakes so I'm sure you're fine enough :) But omg yes, I know! Maybe people aren't familiar enough with that kind of writing? I grew up occasionally reading pompous writing and read stuff like that in English class, but not everyone is comfortable using grammar that they don't really teach as much anymore. idk ~hypotheses~

Date: 2011-03-22 01:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hells-half-acre.livejournal.com
Yeah, I guess I'm kind of a weird case, because not only did I go to a school that taught me grammar every chance it got from Grade 3 to Grade 5...but I also have taken foreign language courses, and once you learn grammar in another language, you start to see it in your own.

So, for instance, although I've been using the subjunctive correctly since I first began to speak, I really didn't know what it was called until I learned the German version of it.

But, yeah, I really can't get too up in arms about stories that I read for free on the internet :P

Date: 2011-03-22 01:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yourkidney.livejournal.com
Haha my school halfheartedly taught us, and I was self-taught from reading so much, but very much in the same ways as you my grammar-intensive education didn't start until I took French. It helped define exactly what different word tenses mean and how they work in sentences, so *hands* I'm not complaining. :)

Date: 2011-03-22 01:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mymuseandi.livejournal.com
I remember having an argument with myself about the "If I were you" or "If I was you", because both sounds correct. LOL

Date: 2011-03-22 01:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hells-half-acre.livejournal.com
And that's evolution of language - when wrong things stop sounding wrong and start sounding right...

Eventually we're all going to sound ESL students, and I don't mean that as a slight on ESL students - English is rather stupidly complicated and SHOULD be simplified a bit (I mean, we have 14 verb cases! 14!)

Date: 2011-03-22 08:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baruchan.livejournal.com
English is rather stupidly complicated and SHOULD be simplified a bit (I mean, we have 14 verb cases! 14!)

Sorry to butt in, but I just have to agree with you re: English's 14 verb cases. The other language I speak only has FIVE verb aspects, which is why I always mess up my verb tenses whenever I speak/write in English. D:

Date: 2011-03-22 05:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hells-half-acre.livejournal.com
And I don't blame you for it! The only reason I get my verb aspects correct is because it's my mother tongue and the only language I speak these days - if it weren't, I'd be just as confused as everyone else. It's a very ridiculous language.

Date: 2011-03-22 02:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cordelia-gray.livejournal.com
Excellent points re: the subjunctive :) Sherlock would probably rather die than say "If I was you..."

The language does evolve, though - got into a lengthy argument recently about the use of "they" as a gender-neutral singular pronoun. Personally, I'm for it: English needs one, and "they" seems willing to serve, so why not? But other people get VERY UPSET about the idea.

Also, I think you may have fallen victim to a very specific instance of Murphy's Law, which states that any time you call someone out on grammatical/spelling errors, you will inevitably make one yourself. I know it ALWAYS happens to me :) Anyway, I think it should be death-throes, not death-throws.

Thanks for the Wil Wheaton link - I always mean to read his blog, and forget. And now I'm a little sad. Stand By Me was TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO. Jeebus.

Date: 2011-03-22 02:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hells-half-acre.livejournal.com
Ah haha, I knew that would happen...now, should I be honest and leave it, or quickly go edit it? Maybe I'll compromise and edit it, but leave this comment to point out my own imperfections. :P

Near-homonyms get me every damn time. They are my Achilles-heel. My fic is always riddled with them in the first draft (and sometimes every subsequent draft until someone points them out.)

Stand By Me was TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO. Jeebus.

This was also my reaction.

... and "they" seems willing to serve, so why not? But other people get VERY UPSET about the idea.

I did not realize this was a contentious issue! I use "they" all the time as a gender-neutral pronoun, because we really DO need one. Chinese has "ta" (at least spoken) and it makes life a lot easier (for people who speak Chinese).

Date: 2011-03-22 07:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cordelia-gray.livejournal.com
DRATTED HOMONYMS! I have trouble with it's/its. I can usually figure it out if I think about it, but if I don't think I usually get it wrong :(

Death-throws make me think of small decorative cushions Death keeps on his sofa :)

I think "they" as a singular pronoun is more contentious in the US. Here in Canada and other English-speaking parts of the world, it seems to be more common.

Do you speak Chinese? I took Mandarin for two terms in college. I sucked at it, but it was totally fascinating.

Date: 2011-03-22 07:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hells-half-acre.livejournal.com
I also mess up it's/its, if I don't think about it. Mainly because my fingers always default to "it's".

Haha, I like your definition of death-throws :)

Yeah, I've never had anyone complain about "they" so it must just be a US thing.

I don't speak Chinese, but my best friend does. Also, my mum worked with a bunch of Chinese people, and eventually she ended up using "ta"at work because it was easier and everyone else was using it.

Date: 2011-03-22 07:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cordelia-gray.livejournal.com
"Ta" makes sense. Maybe we could just import it! That's what English is best at, after all.

You're in Vancouver too, aren't you? I recently discovered a couple of other people on my friends-list who are also in Vancouver and area. Maybe we should have a meet-up sometime?

Date: 2011-03-22 05:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hells-half-acre.livejournal.com
I used to have an icon that I really liked that said, "English: the language that lurks in dark alleys, beats up other languages, and rifles through their pockets for spare vocabulary."

I am indeed in Vancouver. It'd be great to meet up with some people. I only moved here a year and a half ago, so I don't actually know that many people in the city.

Date: 2011-03-22 02:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] harsens-rob.livejournal.com
Completely unrelated note: I've started spelling favorite the American way and I HATE myself for it. It's favourite, goddamn it. I've got to retrain my fingers.


We still RULE the world!

(lol) [But semi-seriously, all of those 'u's are so unnecessary] *grin*

Date: 2011-03-22 03:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hells-half-acre.livejournal.com
But they are BEAUTIFUL! And the words seem so incomplete without them. Colour, Valour, Honour...Voyageur...SO PRETTY LOOKING!

You can have the victor of "realize" and "civilization", but I'm still saying Zed, not Zee. ;)

Date: 2011-03-22 03:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] harsens-rob.livejournal.com
Welllll... I guess I'll give you Zed, just because I kinda like the way it sounds more than Zee. On that, we can agree.

But I'm adamant about not using the extraneous 'u'.

*crosses arms and glares*

(Also, civiliZation and realiZe are the way we pronounce it, so it's just right... *superior and smug smile*)

Date: 2011-03-22 04:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hells-half-acre.livejournal.com
Ah well, I suppose it is a good thing we live in the countries we live in then ;)

Date: 2011-03-22 06:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] purple-carpets.livejournal.com
In Sherlock, you have Sherlock IN CANON [...}correcting a murderer's grammar for a solid 3 minutes straight.
Okay, that settles it. I need to start watching Sherlock.

Also, you are so right about only really getting your own language once you've been taught a foreign language's grammar. I've always been confused by the 'If I were you/if I was you thing' and then you mentioned the German subjunctive clause and it just clicked. I would never in a million years say "wenn ich du war" oO

Date: 2011-03-22 07:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hells-half-acre.livejournal.com
and then you mentioned the German subjunctive clause and it just clicked. I would never in a million years say "wenn ich du war"

Genau ;)

And you should totally watch Sherlock. The Grammar correcting scene is epic.

Date: 2011-03-24 02:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] focaccina.livejournal.com
[...]some of us look at it and think "Oh, that sentence is fine," and others look at it and think "that sentence is horrific" because we still have the capability of seeing the part of the language that is being butchered.
Oooh, I know how you feel!
Can I just say, I love that Harry Potter analogy :)

I do agree that the language is evolving, but I find it hard to let things go at times, having been taught the correct usages since I was a small child. English is a fascinating language.

On a personal level, I speak English, Mandarin Chinese and Malay, and I know some dialects of Chinese. Now I'm learning Japanese and I'm on the level which I'm able speak to and understand a native speaker, so things do sometimes tend to get a bit jumbled up in my head.

Date: 2011-03-24 07:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hells-half-acre.livejournal.com
All language is pretty fascinating.

And thanks for liking my Harry Potter analogy ;)

I learned German, but I haven't used it for nearly 7 years, so it's extremely rusty now. I tried learning French multiple times, but have failed each time. My best friend speaks Chinese, so I know a few phrases and a little bit of the language through him...other than that though, I'm just your standard monolingual English-speaker, who likes to read about other languages but doesn't actually speak them.


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