We’ve all pored over the different ways in which phrases such as “Eats shoots and leaves” can be interpreted. And this blog does occasionally call out the routinely clueless for their shaky grasp of English grammar. But, once your meaning is clear, that is as far as I go: there is always the risk of letting the exercise tip over into obsession and forthright pedantry.
This last has not prevented an august panel from inaugurating the annual Bad Grammar Awards, but sadly, the idea is so clearly a farcical stitch-up that no-one should take them seriously – not least the Guardian, which has reported the award as if it were other than a vehicle for right-leaning ideologues to score some payback for one of their most venerated political heroes.
So what has won the inaugural Bad Grammar Award? Something from a Government department? A press release from a political party? Proceedings of the European Parliament? Safety instructions on children’s toys? Explanation of train or plane ticket validity? None of these. Instead, an open letter from 100 academics criticising Michael “Oiky” Gove has secured the prize.
Why should this even make the shortlist, given its limited appeal outside discussions on the subject concerned? Ah well. Let’s have a look at the judging panel, and all will become clear. Apart from Neville Gwynne, former teacher, there are two others, and both names will be familiar to Zelo Street regulars, not least the loathsome Toby Young, to whom Gwynne is indebted for recommending his services.
Making up the trio of judges is Harry Mount, like Tobes a regular at the bear pit that is Telegraph Blogs. Both of the latter have written effusively of “Oiky” Gove (see Tobes’ fawning support of his cabinet hero HERE and HERE, with Mount’s equally grovelling prose HERE and HERE). But it is over that letter – the one that has won the Bad Grammar Award – that the pass is sold.
“The idiot academics who don’t want children to learn anything” concluded Mount, after apparently reading the letter. “With enemies like these, Michael Gove doesn’t need friends” added Tobes, with one of his legendarily boring “fisks”, featuring academics carefully selected for having views in accordance with those of Himself Personally Now. Yes, two thirds of the judging panel has an axe to grind.
And the other third is in Tobes’ pocket. None of this is told in the reporting, and nor is the rationale that drove the careful selection of candidates. There will be no explanation of this process, and for one very good reason: it’s a crude stitch-up. The whole process was rigged to give the desired result. It would be more accurate to call this “The Inaugural Lame Excuse Bad ‘Oiky’ Payback Award”.
After all, if it walks like a duck, and “oiks” like a duck, you may as well call it one.