I freely admit some of what I’m about to claim is biased, or even just my imagination.
I think there are aspects of personality that are common among people who have a respect for proper English usage.
These are intelligent people, of course. But there are other shared traits.
I believe people who value good grammar and proper punctuation have a well-defined sense of order. We like neat things. We like things to be organised. We are punctual. We are tidy. We take care. We take a pride in what we do. We value fairness.
More than most (although all Britain shares this) we respect the concept of queues, and feel a deep outrage if we suspect someone has “jumped”.
We have a fascination with stationery. All those pens, pencils, paper clips, notebooks (lined, of course) and post-it notes appeal to us as “useful”.
We have good table manners. We are disgusted by people who spit in the street. We admire hand-polished shoes and hold pens between finger and thumb, as we were taught, with the shaft of the pen pointing along our arm.
Now, there is no kind way to say this, but those who improperly use “there”, “they’re” and “their” are not the previously described type of person. Even worse are those who confuse “to”, “too” and (almost unbelievably) “two”.
This might sound like intellectual snobbery, and perhaps it is. But I am perplexed that anyone could write, “Their in agreement that there going to read the works of Solzhenitsyn, to”.
Unless there are other mitigating circumstances, how could anyone make it through primary and secondary schooling and not know the difference between “to” and “too”?
And even if the only literature you read is on the back of breakfast cereal boxes, you wouldn’t count “one, too, three”.
Why are such mistakes made? Is it the education system? Is it the fault of predictive text software when people type on phones or pads? But then, these devices have spellcheckers, don’t they?
Anyone could be forgiven for writing miniscule when they mean minuscule, or for having to consult a dictionary to ascertain the order of “s” and “ch” in fuchsia. But if you mix up “to” and “too” then you have little defence if people think you’re two stupid for words.
As for me, I wouldn’t pick you too be on my team in a quiz.
Word of the week
To mend, or to make amends. I have no wish to rescarciate my relationship with those who confuse to, too and two.
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at email@example.com