Friday 6 November 2015

Shouldn't of

When is the Erin Mae adventure like a yo-yo? (Ans: when we're down on Tuesday and back up on Friday). We're going to the Boaters Christian Fellowship annual meeting tomorrow, and it made a lot of sense to split the journey over two days. So tonight we're back on board.

We moved some food around, but were out of anything substantially nutritious by yesterday so, not wanting to buy supplies just before coming back up to the boat, we went down to the local Toby restaurant for our evening meal. At £5.99 each for a huge plateful of roast meat, Yorkshire pud and as much veggies as we could manage, it was seriously good value. Our waitress was cheerful, even when she had to change what she'd charged me for a glass of wine, because she'd substituted a more expensive one for the one I'd ordered, of which they'd run out. If she'd told me in advance, I'd have probably agreed, but she didn't, so I complained.

But I digress. In the course of our conversation with her, she said they "shouldn't of" done something – I forget what. Now in my time in theological education, I got used to pointing out to students that their use in essays of "might of" or "could of" was erroneous. Common, of course, but wrong. Up until now I blamed it on that sound (I think it's the "schwa") which English speakers use all the time, mostly without realising it. So the "of" in "a sort of sound" and the abbreviated "have" in "he might 've done" typically sound identical. No surprise that students who have never been taught otherwise think that "might have" is actually "might of", and write it so.

What was different about last night was that when our waitress said "shouldn't of" she actually pronounced the "o" of the "of" as a short "o", not as a schwa. And that, for me, was a first. She was using "of" actively, not just by default. It was at that point that I realised my corrections were a lost cause. This is the language changing, and no effort by yours truly is going to affect it. King Canute and all that. I just wonder whether official books of grammar and syntax will get round to recognising it before I depart this life. I haven't seen any signs yet of those in the know accepting it, but last night's conversation (I think) showed it moving from being an error to correct to becoming a change in the language to embrace. Like the split infinitive.

To all readers who don't know what I mean by a split infinitive and haven't a clue what I'm on about, I apologise. Perhaps I shouldn't of dunnit.


  1. Nah, replacing a verb with a preposition can't be considered correct, in my view. It's just not knowing it's part of the verb that's the problem. The waitress (and others) doesn't of a job or a mobile phone, but she does have both, I bet ...
    We had an ongoing joke with our 10 year old grandson who has picked up the glottal stop (not present in the NZ accent) now he's living in Scotland, and pronounced bottle without the ts. So we started spelling bottle as b o uh uh l e. Then the race was on to find other examples. Olek no longer uses the glottal stop ...
    Cheers, Marilyn

    1. Thank you for this - it's a comfort to realise that there are others about who also shudder at grammatical faults, whether they be misplaced spoken and /or spelt errors or misunderstood constructions...
      While I understand the "language in its expression and in its structures is constantly evolving" argument, to listen to it and to read it nowadays can still make one shudder and then sigh with a sense of nostalgia for a previous linguistic era!

      And yes, ("Remember, never start a sentence with 'And' ") you should have done it. (Modern version: shouldof dunnit.!)

  2. Thank you, Marilyn and Boatwif. I think Boatwif's point about "And" is pertinent, because logically a new sentence shouldn't have a conjunction, but it's the effect that calls it. So I use it (and "so") regularly. Verb / preposition logic is already being disregarded in the common use of "of", and my conclusion is that it will come to be accepted. Marilyn, I think that "have" being here an auxiliary verb, without its "own" meaning, makes a difference to how it is all perceived. I liked your point about the glo'l stop. Essex and Edinburgh have that in common. But "of" for "'ve" seems to ignore geography – I haven't noticed any regional immunity. Do people in NZ never do this?

    1. Martin, they do it lots and it drives me nuts. (A
      Many years ago, as a teenager my sister used to do it, until David explained.) One thing I find absolutely horrible is the new 'bored of' Where did that come from? AAARRRGGGHHH!!!
      I am comfortable that language changes, but that for me is more about new words or words acquiring new adapted meanings. Laziness in language is a whole different story. I'm not fazed by starting a sentence with and or so - sometimes those are the most appropriate words to start with.

  3. Was lovely to see you both before you headed off and to share some flapjack and tales of summer adventures.We have now moved to Stafford Boat Club and it all seems a bit strange, but I suppose we will get used to it.On the subject of grammar: the thing that rattles my cage is the 'try and' instead of 'try to' . Even on news broadcasts, seasoned journalists, who should know better, use it. Call me a pedant if you like but it really annoys me!