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My English teacher always taught me to never begin a sentence with "it" or "this."

Sadly all too many people believe that the rules they were taught by their English teachers are both sacrosanct and accurate. They are rarely either and probably never both.

Many English teachers' grasp of English is less complete and accurate than it might be, as recent postings on the OEDILF forum will show.

And, to quote an example, the rules that state that it wrong to ever split an infinitive or start a sentence with a conjunction are not rules at all.

Moreover, a preposition is something that one can end a sentence with. And one-word sentences, without vowels, can be used. Frequently.

But I am not suggesting that a knowledge of rules and principles is wrong; it is needed so that effective writers know when, and where, they may bend or break the rules.

And when I decide, for my own reasons, to take liberies with the "rules" - should I, for eample, decide to use a cliche - I will fight tooth and nail to keep my moral high ground.


Richard English
 
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Originally posted by Richard English:
And one-word sentences, without vowels, can be used.


Hmmm. Wink

I suspect you meant verbs.


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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I live near Charlton Athletic Football ground. Today I saw two young girls, aged about 8 and 10, who were obviously on their way to the game with their father. Both were wearing identical pink sweatshirts with the words "ME AND MY DAD SUPPORT CHARLTON ATHLETIC" emblazoned on their chests.

Oh dear.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Originally posted by arnie:
I live near Charlton Athletic Football ground. Today I saw two young girls, aged about 8 and 10, who were obviously on their way to the game with their father. Both were wearing identical pink sweatshirts with the words "ME AND MY DAD SUPPORT CHARLTON ATHLETIC" emblazoned on their chests.

Oh dear.


Strangely I have no problem with that.

What would you use instead?
MY DAD AND I... sounds faintly ridiculous.
MY FATHER AND I.. sounds incredibly pompous for a football shirt.

Nope, ME AND MY DAD is colloquial English and while perhaps technically wrong seems to me to be the right register for a football supporter's shirt.


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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I suspect you meant verbs.

Whoops. Me and my big mouth!

Of course I meant verbs - but single-word sentences, innocent of both verbs and vowels are also possible.

Your own comment about CJ's limerick "...But, oh boy... people had trouble with the rhythm in my limericks?..." could have been written, quite understandably, "...CJ. CJ. Rhythm!..."

Three consecutive single-word sentences, containing neither verbs nor vowels!


Richard English
 
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MY DAD AND I... sounds faintly ridiculous.

It sounds fine to me - but then I don't move in football circles. I have, though, noticed a general lack of good articulation on the part of most supporters and players who pontificate on the topic on TV, so I suppose illiteracy is probably also common.


Richard English
 
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Me and my slogan writers agree that we can't all be good athletes, but we CAN be good athletic supporters.
 
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Originally posted by jerry thomas:
Me and my slogan writers agree that we can't all be good athletes, but we CAN be good athletic supporters.
Is there a championship cup for that?
 
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Many English teachers' grasp of English is less complete and accurate than it might be, as recent postings on the OEDILF forum will show.

Richard, since many of us don't read the OEDILF forum, would you (or Bob) mind bringing some the more interesting posts about the use of English to wordcraft? Thanks!

"Me and my dad"? I don't know. That may be going to far for me. However, I will start a sentence with it or this every so often! Wink I wonder if my colleague has a problem with starting a sentence with that; it surely isn't much different from this.
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
[color:BLUE]"Me and my dad"? I don't know. That may be going to far for me. However, I will start a sentence with it or this every so often! Wink I wonder if my colleague has a problem with starting a sentence with that; it surely isn't much different from this.


Me and my dad are... is certainly ungrammatical. My point is that it's also a very common colloquial usage and I can't imagine many people on their way to the football match are going to say "My father and I support ...".

As for starting a sentence with "it" or "this", the advice not to was such patent nonsense I haven't commented on it.

Here, for you to cut out and send to whoever suggested it with a note that it should be forwarded to their so called teacher is my reply.

"It" is a pronoun. It can be used as both a subject and object pronoun. It is no more wrong to start a sentence with "it" than it is to start one with "I", "you", "we" or "they". This much should be clear. "This" when not followed by a noun or noun phrase is also a pronoun referring to a specific antecedent. This shows that it is not wrong to start a sentence with "this". This advice is utter codswallop. It is also piffle and balderdash.

I have never heard of anyone, anywhere suggesting that you can't start a sentence with a pronoun. It's just nonsense.

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"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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'Me and my dad' is definitely grammatical for almost everyone, and is almost certainly the most grammatical of the four possibilities, since it's the usual way of saying it.

The only one that's definitely ungrammatical is 'I and my dad'. I thought 'my dad and me' was too, then learnt that quite a few people say it.
 
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Neither "me and my dad" or "my dad and me" is grammatical unless the phrase is used as an object, as in "he gave me and my dad a signed bat." Additionally, "me and my dad" violates the noun/pronoun rule which calls for noun first.

However, both are in common use and so often as to render them accepted (if not yet acceptable to the grammatically anal) usage in informal conversation.

"I and my dad" is not a proper grammatical construction in that word order rules put the personal pronoun second in a noun/pronoun phrase. It has not achieved popular or common usage either and sounds awkward to most native speakers.
 
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Originally posted by aput:
'Me and my dad' is definitely grammatical for almost everyone, and is almost certainly the most grammatical of the four possibilities, since it's the usual way of saying it.


I, of course, meant that it is certainly ungrammatical if on insists on the "traditional" rules of subject and object pronouns. As I said, it is a very common colloquial usage, and as aput said it is the usual way of saying it. Whichever side of the pond you happen to live. In itself that does of course make it grammatical.


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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Here I am, the one who started this conversation, and now I am becoming the grammar police! Sorry! However, I wonder if "me and my dad" is more accepted in England than here. Most parents and teachers will correct a child who uses that phrase, and you don't really hear it all that often...though I suspect if I surveyed an elementary school playground for a few days, I'd hear it a fair amount. Still, teachers and adults would correct it, just as they would correct, "My teacher he is going to give me a test." Perhaps the times are a-changin' for "me and my dad."

Bob, I love your paragraph reply about this and it...and I am so tempted to send it to this pain-in-the-you-know-what who seems to think her comments on every third word in a 20-page document are actually appreciated! Fortunately, the rest of the committee members are reasonable and will reign her in every so often.

I blame Strunk and White!
 
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Taking out the "piffle" and "balderdash" and "codswallop," I did send that committee member Bob's comment about "this" and "it." Thanks, Bob!
 
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If teachers "correct" children who say it, then it's grammatical for the children, because it's what they say: it's their natural language. Children create the language anew each generation. What teachers do after the critical period is irrelevant. The grammar of the children's language contains "me and my dad": it doesn't contain "I and my dad", nor "my teacher he". No-one says the ungrammatical ones.
 
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Taking out the "piffle" and "balderdash" and "codswallop," I did send that committee member Bob's comment about "this" and "it." Thanks, Bob!
You're so much more diplomatic than I am!

I'd have left it in and added also "tosh", "twaddle", "nonsense", "rot", "tripe", "bilge" and "bullshit". And maybe also asked what godforsaken backwater of a supposed educational establishment had the gall and efrontery to call itself a school.


Richard English
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
Taking out the "piffle" and "balderdash" and "codswallop," I did send that committee member Bob's comment about "this" and "it." Thanks, Bob!


Are you entirely sure that was wise? I'd hate to be responsible for you losing your job.


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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Are you entirely sure that was wise?

No.

Still, when I took out those words, it seemed a pretty good explanation. I had mentioned to the chair of our committee that I had questioned that proclamation and that I had posted the question on a language board. I further explained that I had received communication from an expert in England (I knew that would be impressive!) that our committee member was not entirely accurate. He encouraged me to send it to her.

I may be coming to England soon...looking for a job. Wink
 
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I may be coming to England soon...looking for a job.

I'm sure that some of our London teaching hospitals would value your expertise and our pubs your custom :-)

But, of course, that would remove my excuse for travelling to Chicago so maybe that's not such a good idea!


Richard English
 
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I may be coming to England soon...looking for a job.


Let's ALL move to England!


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~Dalai Lama
 
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Well, her reply was fairly benign, so I am not planning the move in the near future Wink:

A graduate professor that I had at the University of Colorado was notorious for her constructive criticism about "anticipatory its" and "indefinite referents"--(I believe this is what she called sentences beginning with "It" or "This".) At any rate, when she retired, we honored her with a party, and had the following written on her cake: "This is it!" If Dr. Faye Spring was still alive, I imagine she would engage in a lively discussion with the English teacher in London. Faye defended her position with students by informing us that she earned her master's degree in English prior to her doctoral studies. All in good humor.
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
Well, her reply was fairly benign, so I am not planning the move in the near future Wink:



I refer you to Macbeth Act 1 Scene V and similarly (very similarly in fact) to Hamlet Act 1 Scene V.

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"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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If Dr. Faye Spring was still alive

Or even if she were...


Richard English
 
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refer you to Macbeth Act 1 Scene V and similarly (very similarly in fact) to Hamelet Act 1 Scene V.


I haven't read those scenes in awhile. The Hamlet scene even talks about Hic. Wink

Or even if she were...

See, that's the problem about being a pedant. You have to be perfect if you are to be respected.
 
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You have to be perfect if you are to be respected.

And certainly if you choose to criticise others' work as, apparently, does she.


Richard English
 
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Mr. Bierma, in his language column, talks about our dear old friend...grammar! He mentions a book that some of you may find interesting because it is about some the grammatical issues we have discussed. Bierma cites this from the book: "There is a long tradition of prescriptive [books] that are deeply flawed: They simply don't represent things correctly or coherently, and some of their advice is bad advice," write Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey Pullum in their new book "A Student's Introduction to English Grammar" (Oxford University Press, $70).

Bierma says they talk about our old favorites, like "which" and "that," and they quote from FDR on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack when he said it was "a date which will live in infamy." Can't you just see Word changing that "which" to "that?!" Roll Eyes

Apparently Huddleston and Pullum are on our wavelength, with saying that grammar is about how people write and speak, not about pedantic rules. For example, since most say "it's me," it should be acceptable.

Bierma adds that they aren't "language lightweights" in this book, discussing "non-verbal clausal negation," "the partitive subtype" and "fused determiner-heads," none of which I understand!

Has anyone seen it? I'm certainly going to review it.

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OK, so I'm not a grammarian. And if you want to say that grammar describes how people speak, then fine. And I just started two sentences with And.

But you can't just do away with grammar like that. The point of grammar is to have internally consistent rules, right? That way, words and punctuation have meaning.

So if you take a sample of casual speech that doesn't respect any rules, just uses one word here and another there, with no particular rule about what goes where, then that's not grammar, it's just sloppiness.
 
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The point of grammar is to have internally consistent rules, right?

Not really. I'd say the point of grammar is to specify whether a given text is grammatical or not.

Starting a sentence with a conjunction (e.g., and, but) is not a rule of grammar, but one of usage or style. There are grammar rules and then there are grammar rules. If you look at a descriptive grammar of the English language (e.g., Otto Jespersen's Modern English Grammar or Huddleston and Pullum's The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language), you'll see that many of the injunctions that people learned in grammar school and which get retreaded every decade or so by pop grammarians have been in the language for centuries. Don't split an infinitive. Why? Don't end a sentence with a preposition. Why? Don't use which to introduce a restrictive relative clause. Why? Here's a few facts about language:

1. All languages have grammar. (Some are just subtlely different from others.)

2. By age seven, a child has internalized the grammar of their native language without even being aware of it. And that is why grammar schools teach style and not grammar.

So if you take a sample of casual speech that doesn't respect any rules, just uses one word here and another there, with no particular rule about what goes where, then that's not grammar, it's just sloppiness.

Compare the two sentences:

a. Went churned the on fast.

b. And she goes "For sure."

I'd say that (a) is pretty ungrammatical, though if you try hard enough any random sequence of words can be interpreted. On the other hand, sentence (b) is grammatical in my dialect, though I wouldn't use it in serious written Standard English. Yet, there's a difference between these two. Most prescriptivist would probably agree that both (a) and (b) are ungrammatical. Now what about (c)?

c. "Certes," quotha.

What is the difference between (b) and (c)? Not grammar; both are grammatical. Perhaps register. If I uttered one or the other in casual conversation, which would be the best (NB, not correct) usage? Unless I'm visiting some SCA friends, probably only (b).


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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The point of grammar is to have internally consistent rules, right?

Not really. I'd say the point of grammar is to specify whether a given text is grammatical or not.


I don't think these two statements are contradictory. But maybe they both miss the point a bit. Let me start again.

The point of grammar is to define with precision how to say a given thing, and what a given statement says. This naturally involves rules about what given words/punctuation signify. Insofar as casual speech ignores rules governing a particular set of words or punctuation marks, it has no grammar governing those particular alternatives. Fair enough?
 
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I can be quite precise and ungrammatical at the same time:

a. Those there car ain't run rightly.

Sentence (a) is not grammatical in my spoken dialect (nor in any other I know of), but it is perfectly understandable and quite precise, given that the car is visible. There are all kinds of grammatical sentences which are vague or ambiguous, but that does not make them ungrammatical.

What I meant by consistency not being important in grammar is that there are all sorts of inconsistencies and illogicalities in language in general. Compare:

(b) I programme the VCR.
(c) I programmed the VCR.
(d)*I goed to London.
(e) I went to London.

All the irregular (or strong) verbs in English are inconsistent. We don't say goed but went because the latter is the normal usage in many dialects of English and grammatical.

And:

(f) I'm writin' a book.
(g) I am writing a book.

Both sentences are grammatical. One is more colloquial than the other. Casual speech is not ungrammatical. If a given utterance is ungrammatical, we could not even understand it to correct it. Here's an experiment: find a speaker of a dialect which is different from yours. Try speaking their dialect. Wait (a short time) to be corrected. It will happen sooner than later. We tend to perceive different rules as incorrect rather than different.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Reviving a thread...

I know we've, spiritedly, discussed grammar before, and I just searched for the nearest convenient thread for this example. I didn't think it really earned a thread of its own.

I am writing an outline for a curriculum, which our editors have gone over. Here was my statement (with that pesky preposition at the end of the sentence!):

"...gradually the instructor increases the number of clients the student administers medications to."

Ah...and the editor's change:

"...gradually the instructor increases the number of clients to which the student administers medications."

Now, I ask you, which sounds better? I, at the very least, have requested that she change it to "to whom."

Normally I try to remember the egregious grammatical errors, as written by Strunk and White, when writing these edited pieces, but I missed that one.
 
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Not ending sentences with a preposition is one of those canards spread by 18th and 19th century grammarians. In some cases the amendment sounds clumsier than the original, as in the famous quote attributed to Churchill: "Up with which I shall not put."

It should certainly be to whom; to which makes the person a thing. I ahould hope you don't want to give that impression.

By the way, do you actually use "clients"? What's wrong with "patients"?


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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I, too, think it should be to whom? I mean it's not number which is being modified, but clients. I guess I'm probably the wrong person to be answering this question. Somebody who believes in the inherent evil of language change and semantic drift might be better equipped to aid you. How about rewriting it?


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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I have no problems with using a preposition to end a sentence. However, in this example, I think the the rewrite reads more easily - although, as you say, it should be "to whom", not "to which".


Richard English
 
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By the way, do you actually use "clients"? What's wrong with "patients"?

It's the idea that one should regard patients as your customers, not simply things one deals with.

Which is why the Railways of Britain now call their passengers "customers".

I am not convinced it's a particularly good idea since it is less clear. Not all of the railways' customers are passengers and not all passengers are customers. But all passengers are passengers. Similarly not all patients are clients and not all of a health service's clients are patients.


Richard English
 
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Ditto. There's no real reason not to end sentences with prepositions but if you do wish to avoid it then to whom is the form I'd use here.
Incidentally if the editor insists that which refers to number rather then clients ask how you administer medication to a number. Smile

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"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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Well, I like my original better, but I won't put up with the "which" in the changed version; in that case, I will reword it. I just found it funny that an editor would change something that miniscule and in doing so made her own questionable usage.

Arnie, I completely agree with you about the use of clients, and I note that physicians continue to use patients. However, that's one battle I have lost.
 
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I just found it funny that an editor would change something that miniscule and in doing so made her own questionable usage.

In fact she did worse than that; she changed a completely correct construction to an incorrect one.


Richard English
 
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Which is why the Railways of Britain now call their passengers "customers".

Actually, with South Eastern Trains, at least, they appear to have gone back to using "passengers". Notices and announcements at their stations now routinely refer to "passengers". I've only noticed this over the last few months, so I'd guess it's a pretty recent reversal, but welcome nonetheless. Good on you, SET!


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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I used to work for a High Street bank, and I remember that, years ago, when I was studying for membership of the Institute of Bankers, one of our lecturers was deeply indignant if someone referred to a bank's custards customers as "clients".

"Banking is a trade," he would boom, "The trades have customers; only the professions have clients!"

I somehow doubt that his views would be universally accepted nowadays.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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"Banking is a trade," he would boom, "The trades have customers; only the professions have clients!"

I would tend to agree with his definition, but not necessarily with his assertion that banking is strictly a trade. Much of banking is about giving advice and providing services, for which the banks charge. Trading, that is, buying goods or services at one price and selling them at a profit, I'd have thought, is a less common banking activity.

The travel agency side of the travel industry is presently going through a traumatic change from trade to profession. Commissions (retail margins) on many products have disappeared and travel agents are increasingly being forced to charge their customers for their services. Business travel agents have now made this change so completely that in the UK they no longer even call themselves travel agents. They now use the term "Travel Management Companies", which more accurately describes their function.

High street travel agents will soon be forced down the same track since principals have discovered that the internet now allows them to make their stock available directly to the public more cheaply than by using high street agents. Of course, only those agents who are more knowledgeable and more efficient than their clients will retain them once they start to charge.


Richard English
 
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It's funny, you know. Ever notice how the very same people who think nothing of telling you how to use "correct" language, are the very same ones who go apoplectic when somebody tries to regulate or legislate their vocabulary?


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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I am speaking here about the late 1960s, when, as bankers, we stuck to our lasts and dealt only in subjects in which we were experts. Customers seeking advice on peripheral subjects were referred either to a specialist head office department or very often a local professional.

For instance, those seeking insurance were provided by our insurance division with several quotes from different insurance companies. We were expressly forbidden from indicating which we thought was best. Someone wanting complicated financial advice was either referred to Head Office or to a local firm of accountants.

Nowadays, of course, the banks try to provide of-the-peg solutions which "Customer Service Assistants" sell in the branches without any real knowledge in depth of the product, and without taking any real notice of what is best for the customer, just what will earn the most commission.

I am well out of it.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Richard: the Railways of Britain now call their passengers "customers".
arnie: Actually, with South Eastern Trains, at least, they appear to have gone back to using "passengers".

One simply must use 'passengers,' as the overriding consideration, trumping all others and rendering them puny and insignificant, is to preserve the rhythmic integrity of this immortal lyric:
    Passengers will please refrain
    From flushing toilets while the train
    Is standing in the station. I love you.
    We encourage constipation
    While the train is in the station.
    Moonlight always makes me think of you.
 
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Big Grin
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It's funny, you know. Ever notice how the very same people who think nothing of telling you how to use "correct" language, are the very same ones who go apoplectic when somebody tries to regulate or legislate their vocabulary?

Isn't it the truth? Roll Eyes
 
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Hic et Ubique,

Here are the complete lyrics of the immortal song you brought up.
 
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Here are the complete lyrics of the immortal song you brought up.

I'd never heard of this song. It's clear enough from the rhymes and references that it's from the USA, which might be why.

Which reference does remind me of a graffito I once saw. To the notice, "Please do not use this toilet while the train is in a station" someone had added, "Except Woking".

For the benefit of those who know it not, Woking is a rather depressing Surrey town that has the distinction of having probably the largest number of services to London of any similar town. John Betjeman used to refer to it as "The conifer-clad half world of Woking". As one who was based there for 12 years I can vouch for the awfulness of the place. Happiness was Woking in the rear view mirror.


Richard English
 
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Woking

I spent some time in Woking (as I have done in Slough, too), and I thought it a lovely little town. At least in 1976. H G Wells lived there. In his War of the Worlds, the Martians first land thereabouts. As an American, I'd rather live in Woking than Dorking.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Originally posted by zmježd:
Woking

I spent some time in Woking (as I have done in Slough, too), and I thought it a lovely little town. At least in 1976. H G Wells lived there. In his War of the Worlds, the Martians first land thereabouts. As an American, I'd rather live in Woking than Dorking.


Does that mean that as a voyeur you would like to live in Peking?


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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