Saturday, June 23, 2007


Hyper-correct and pretentious

A headline in today's Guardian:
Chancellor insists prime minister resists move to drop free market clause
That should have been a warning but this second headline still threw me:
Chancellor insists Sarkozy move is watered down
Of course if you go on and read the piece it's clear what is meant. But why make it unclear in the first place?

From the Guardian Style Guide:
The author Somerset Maugham noted more than 50 years ago: "The subjunctive mood is in its death throes, and the best thing to do is put it out of its misery as soon as possible." Would that that were so.Most commonly, it is a third person singular form of the verb expressing hypothesis, typically something demanded, proposed, imagined: he demanded that she resign at once, I proposed that she be sacked, she insisted Jane sit down.
The subjunctive is particularly common in American English and in formal or poetic contexts: If I were a rich man, etc. It can sound hyper-correct or pretentious, so use common sense; Fowler notes that it is "seldom obligatory"
Since 'insist' can be followed by either the indicative or the subjunctive, but with very different meanings, perhaps style (as they call it) could have yielded to substance in this case.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?