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Grammatical Gripes

We are often being told these days that it is wimpish (or Blimpish) to complain about grammatical and linguistic errors. Language changes, the argument goes, and it is futile and pointless to complain about it or try to resist it. I can see the force of this but it doesn't stop me from gritting my teeth in anger when I hear certain solecisms, usually on the radio.

Here are my top two current dislikes.

1. "Between you and I." This is annoying, not just because it is ungrammatical but because it is genteel. It's the linguistic equivalent of crooking your little finger when you drink tea.

2. Confusion of "may" and "might". These are NOT equivalent, and if they are treated as if they were, the result is a loss of precision and subtlety. For example, you can say: "You might have won £5000 pounds if only you had entered the lottery." However, it is ungrammatical to say: "You may have won £5000 if only you had entered the lottery." The implied continuation is "but you didn't." And there is no uncertainty about your entry; you didn't enter.

However, you could say: "You may have won £5000 if you entered the lottery." In this last case, there is an element of uncertainty about whether you entered it or not.


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