Wednesday, February 18, 2009

THE 10 MOST ANNOYING ENGLISH GRAMMAR ERRORS by Jose A. Carillo

I was itching to read this book because there are very few English grammar books written by Filipinos and primarily for Filipinos.

Why are such books important? Because a list of common grammar mistakes among Filipinos would differ from a list of common grammar mistakes committed by Americans. It has to do with the Filipino language's nuances that affect how we translate Filipino to English. Our misuse of prepositions, for example, owes itself to our having very few, hardworking, multi-tasking prepositions; the Filipino preposition sa, for example, takes the role of to, from, in, on.

Americans tend to make a big deal of the difference between lay and lie, when that does not bother us as much as matching subjects with verbs. Subject-verb agreement is very tricky for us because our verb conjugations are rarely affected by the number of the subject. (Si Juan ay pumunta sa palengke. Kaming lahat ay pumunta sa palengke.)

I like that Carillo focuses on the 10 Most Annoying Grammar Mistakes instead of attacking every grammar rule.

The blurb on the front cover says that this is a highly instructive book. It is. Carillo knows his stuff. I have learned, or at least been reminded of, a few things from this book.

I also like that the book is very slim. It makes it a handy guide that can occupy prime work station realty; you can keep this beside the computer.

The 120 peso price tag is one of the best things about this book. I want a book like this to be readily available to as many Filipinos as possible.

I’m with Carillo when he talks about squinting modifiers.

I share his passionate annoyance with the mixing of the pronoun their together with the indefinite pronoun everybody. I once saw a TV ad that used the tag line “Everyone has their own story.” And I wanted to write a vehement letter to the company. That is wrong because everyone, even though in its sense is plural (similar to all), grammatically it is singular. Everyone is welcome. Everyone has been informed of the latest rules. Everyone who attends the workshop must bring her own tools.

There are a couple of points that don’t sit well with me, the use of semi-colons for instance . Which is not to question the author's stand. It’s just proof that grammar is not necessarily an exact science. There is a great degree of subjectivity where the ear of the listener serves as a biased judge as to what sounds right.

Because this book is very focused, very concise, it is not for everybody. It’s very instructive, yes. But it is also very pedantic. This is not for the grammatically clueless. It seems to address highly educated readers who are already well versed in English but just need reminders or guidance in clarifying a few minor points of confusion. My observation can be substantiated by some of the reader responses. Those who read Carillo’s language guidelines are people who actually enjoy using and learning more about the language. People who consider it pleasantly challenging to debate Carillo’s language usage.

It is not for everybody. It is not for the truly annoying grammar criminals who have no idea that there is a difference between it’s and its. Not for those who fog up at hearing the phrase subject-verb agreement. Not for people who will be scared by the book’s impassioned debate about transitive verbs and intransitive verbs. Nor readers who might get turned off or intimidated by some of the complex grammar rules explained in the book. People who just want to be able to speak English with minimum embarrassment and would live and die without having to be illuminated on the thin-line difference between the verbs take and bring. Those who really annoy you with their unique and “creative” interpretation of the English language. The ones who truly need a grammar book.

What I'm trying to say is that the book's size, price, and coarse newsprint pages may have made the book accessible, but the language still does not.

I’m also bewildered by the Endnotes chapter. A last minute addition to a book that was already done, blueprints and all? I think it would have been better to insert them into the appropriate chapters, instead of having that postscript chapter. Seemed anti-climactic to me after its previous chapter, Summing it Up, well, summed it up.

Another thing I didn’t like about this book is that it is almost purely instructional. Maybe it’s just me, but I think entertainment value matters as well if one really wants to reach out to an audience of disinterested readers who might benefit from this book. Dr. Dups Reyes is one who attempts to do this and succeeds to a certain degree. Many other American books inject wit into their grammar lessons. June Casagrande’s Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies, Laurie Rozaki’s Comma Sutra, Steven Frank’s The Pen Commandments, and Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots, Leaves educate as well as entertain. It’s a good thing the book was short. Or else The 10 Most Annoying English Grammar Errors would be one of the most annoyingly boring books I’ve read.

Available at National Book Store.

4 comments:

czar said...

hu dis carillo guy niweys?

gege said...

It's the pen name of a writer for the Manila Times.

artseblis said...

hi! regarding the use of semicolons, carillo's points make sense to me. but i'd love to know your stand about it.

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