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Picture of jerry thomas
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Kalleh, some time ago you wrote:

quote:
You won't find that used by educated Americans, I don't think.


We're wondering if the don't in that sentence was a "typo."
 
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What's the difference between a flat and an apartment? About £100,000!
One thing that really gets on my nerves is the building firms using US terms such as "apartment" when "flat" is a perfectly good UK term meaning the same thing. They seem to think it gives an upmarket sound to it. One building firm near here used- heaven help us!- "duplexes"- pass the hand grenades please!
 
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quote:
We're wondering if the don't in that sentence was a "typo."

Nope.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Erik Johansen:
What's the difference between a flat and an apartment? About £100,000!
One thing that really gets on my nerves is the building firms using US terms such as "apartment" when "flat" is a perfectly good UK term meaning the same thing. They seem to think it gives an upmarket sound to it. One building firm near here used- heaven help us!- "duplexes"- pass the hand grenades please!


There's a block of flats being built behind the local Library in my town (Winchester). Most such places have a Sales Office, but this one bears an enormous ornate shop-sign-type notice across the front of the half-built block which can be seen from in front of the Library (about 100 yards away) proclaiming that it has a "Marketing Suite" - grrrrrrrrrrrrr Mad!
 
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Picture of BobHale
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Kalleh, go check out my trilogy of limericks at the OEDILF on bed-sit, bed-sitter and bed-sitting room.
 
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Well, heck, I'll do better than that...I will workshop them. Thanks!
 
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I had an interesting finding while workshopping. Some dictionaries have the hyphen in all three, and some don't. The online OED (the gold standard?) has the hyphen in all 3, though it has bedsit as an alternative.
 
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Sometimes articles can be so timely! I read a punctuation article in the Tribune, "When is a Hyphen More than a Hyphen?" Unfortunately, I couldn't find it online. It had some fun stories about hyphens. For example, the OED and Chambers Dictionary differ on whether "bling bling" should have a hyphen. While the OED favors hyphenation, Chambers doesn't.

I also thought Germany's "anti-hyphen law" was funny! Apparently they have a strict law that will allow citizens to hyphenate their names after marriage, but they forbid them from passing the names on to their children! In fact, there is a case now before the European Court of Justice on this. The parents of 10-year-old Leonhard Matthias Grunkin-Paul have challenged the anti-hyphen law.

Only in Germany! Big Grin
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
Sometimes articles can be so timely! I read a punctuation article in the Tribune, "When is a Hyphen More than a Hyphen?" Unfortunately, I couldn't find it online.


This one?
 
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Good heavens...how do you do it, Di? I looked all over for it last night. What did you Google to get it? Perhaps it was put up after I looked.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
Good heavens...how do you do it, Di? I looked all over for it last night. What did you Google to get it? Perhaps it was put up after I looked.


As Sherlock Holmes might have said "deduction, my dear Kalleh" Smile.

You mentioned the Tribune in your original post. I googled for that and found several, so I had a look at your profile and discovered you live in Chicago. I then googled for Chicago Tribune and when I brought up their site I discovered they have a site search box into which I typed the word "hyphen" - which gave me three choices with brief details of each, one of which mentioned that German example you quoted in your post Smile.
 
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Well, I must be a real dufus then because I sure tried to do exactly that.

I was listening to NPR the other day, and in a report from a Londoner with a lovely English accent the gentleman said that Tony Blair and some other politician (I can't remember whom) were so close that you couldn't get a "cigarette paper between them." Cigarette paper??? We'd not say that! Is that a common English phrase?
 
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It's not uncommon to say that. It's quite descriptive, I think.


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First of all, cigarettes are not cheap here, being heavily taxed in order to discourage the filthy habit(!) So, many people smoke "rollies" using loose tobacco and cigarette papers in the grand ol' John Wayne tradition, largely because it's cheaper and largely because the tobacco has probably been smuggled from Holland or some-such place, anyway. The economical way to lung cancer!
So ciggy papers- usually made by Rizla- are commonplace here, hence the description.
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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Ah...that's the difference. We don't roll our cigarettes here. So it isn't all that descriptive to Americans.

There is a new movie out here, which is apparently "unremarkable," and I don't intend to see it. However, it has a British language aspect to it that sounds a little funny. In the movie the American step-mother apparently likens certain British expressions to baby talk, such as "Cheerio pip," and in light of this the movie is entitled "Wah-Wah."
 
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quote:
In the movie the American step-mother apparently likens certain British expressions to baby talk, such as "Cheerio pip," and in light of this the movie is entitled "Wah-Wah."

Is "cheerio pip" supposed to be a British expression? If so, it's certainly not one which is heard in my part of the UK!


Richard English
 
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I believe the phrase was "Cheerio pip-pip" and it was common in British films shown in the States. Perhaps the phrase went out with David Niven, and was exclusive to the upper crust of British society.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by markmywords48:
I believe the phrase was "Cheerio pip-pip" and it was common in British films shown in the States. Perhaps the phrase went out with David Niven, and was exclusive to the upper crust of British society.


There's an old World War One song called "Goodbye-ee". I've always known the refrain, but thank you all for making me look it up and therefore discovering several verses to it as well Smile. See here for the full lyrics - which also contain several other terms which were in vogue at that time, such as "toodle-oo" (sometimes rendered as "toodle-pip").

The works of P G Wodehouse are filled to overflowing with such sayings - especially those featuring his best-known character Bertie Wooster and his long-suffering butler Jeeves - but he was exaggerating for effect and I think few people, even of that late 19th/early 20th century upper class, actually talked like that to such an extent (although they may have used a few of those terms occasionally). See here for a few quotes from some of his books. This explains how and why some of the terms which Wodehouse satirised came about in the first place.

Many of these slang terms were brought back from distant parts of the Empire by British Army officers or Civil Service administrators. This is a fascinating site which gives a host of such terms, sorted by region, and their derivations. From this we learn that "chin-chin" was originally Chinese (or at least, used in China) and meant "conference". Colonial British had the attitude (which still persists today) that one only has to raise one's voice and speak English verrrrryyyy slooooooooooowwllyyyyy to be instantly understood by anyone anywhere in the world. Failing that, one spoke to one's inferiors (which was usually anyone else but one's own relatives and class) in a variety of baby-talk - which became Pidgin (which I have been told is derived from a mispronunciation of the word "business") English.

There seemed to be a last gasp of such linguistic practices persisting among BBC cricket commentators right through to the 1990s when "foreigners" such as Australians and New Zealanders, South Africans and West Indians started appearing in their ranks bringing their much blunter ways with them. All but a handful of the original commentators had gone to one or other of the elite English Public Schools (which means highly expensive private schools) and they all referred to each other - on air - by infantile versions of their surnames. There was Henry Blofield ("Blowers"), Brian Johnson ("Jonners") and a few others I can't remember now. They also used slang similar to that being discussed here, but I can't remember the details now because I find cricket intolerably dull and the thought of listening to more than a few minutes of commentary at a time - especially on radio - is more than I can take.

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quote:
Bertie Wooster and his long-suffering butler Jeeves

I would think that Jeeves would far more accurately be described as "a gentleman's gentleman". His role was very different from that of a butler. To start with, Bertie had no household staff and one of a butler's main tasks is to manage the other domestic staff - from tweenie to cook - and to act as an emissary between the master of the house and the other staff (many of whom the master would rarely see.

Jeeves's job was to look after his master - to a significant and often personal extent - which duties would never be undertaken by a butler.


Richard English
 
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Ah yes, I should have remembered that there was a difference Frown. I stand corrected Frown.
 
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It's an interesting exercise, and one pertinent to a project I have undertaken, determining to what extent an expression has "crossed the pond."

Take "commando" for instance. Searching "underwear" in the "all" box and "go commando" in the "exact phrase" box yields about 35k hits. Repeating the search with "uk au nz nu aussie brit british cockney" in the "without" box evokes around 25k. This ratio of 5/7 indicates to me only a very slight rightpondwise adoption
 
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The first time I ever heard the phrase "going commando" was in an episode of Friends. I think that may have been its general introduction this side of the pond.


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<Asa Lovejoy>
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movie is entitled "Wah-Wah."

That sounds close to the moronic state slogan of Washington: "Say 'WA!'" No mention of Bill Gates or Boeing, just "WA!" It appears that politicians in Washington State need not progress beyong infancy.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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anti-hyphen law.

Only in Germany! Big Grin

Gosh, I thought they had an anti-punctuation law! I swear some German seems to be a single-word paragraph!
 
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Picture of pearce
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Kalleh:
Well, I must be a real dufus then because I sure tried to do exactly that./QUOTE]
Kalleh, Thanks for that:
you have taught me a new word, Dufus. I find it's usually spelled Doofus , but I haven't encountered it in my narrow realms of reading. For other Brits who may not know the word, it is classed as slang (though none the worse for that), and is employed: 'mainly in the US'. Defined as A foolish or stupid person, an idiot; also as a general term of contempt. Cf. GOOFUS . Possibly an amalgam of German Doof- and goofy. The Dictionary of American Slang says "probably related to doo-doo and goofus," which isn't very helpful.

Relatively new, it was first noted in 1955 J. LARDNER in N.Y. Times Mag. 25 Dec. 10/1 "Doofus lost every round from the third, but they give him the duke!"
I guess there are earlier examples ?
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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So is "doofus" an Americanism them?

You are correct, Pearce, that for some reason I chose the uncommon spelling for the word. I wonder if "dufus" got into the dictionary merely because the misspelled word was used so much. Interestingly, there are 1,250,000 Google sites for "doofus" and 353,000 for "dufus."

I think "doofus" is rather common. Is it Americans?
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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I think "doofus" is rather common. Is it Americans?

Well, most Americans are common, but there are a few exceptional ones. Wink

Asa the doofasoid dingbat
 
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LOL, yes, Asa, I think you do qualify as a doofus. Wink


I don't hear the word much any more. There are more crude expressions that have become more common, I think.


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I was reading an article about some high schools not using class rankings anymore...and of course colleges not liking that decision. There was a comment that class rankings got started because "Americans want to rank everything." Compared to other cultures, do we in the U.S. have a proclivity for rankings?
 
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I think you have to define what you mean by ranking. There's probably a lot more invisible ranking (class differences) in the UK than in the USA, but there may be more of the ranking you mentioned in the USA. There is of course school ranking and publication of exam results in the UK as well.
 
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By "class ranking", do you mean a particular student's ranking in a particular subject? For example, a student who is best in the class at English would be ranked 1; one who is average might be ranked 20? If so, we used to rank students in that way up to about 30 years ago, but the system was dropped as it was felt to be a disincentive to the lower achievers. The class position was never sent on to colleges; they would rely on exam results.


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Some high schools in America have "class rank", which is a measure of GPA. If you were the best in a class of 200, you would be 1/200, if you were the worst, you would be 200/200.
 
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Yes, I meant class rankings in the way Sean has posted.

In the article I mentioned above, they wrote about a girl who is graduating #140 in her class of about 800. She has had mostly A's and a few B's. This is a high school where students excel and indeed are over-achievers. It is hardly fair for this girl to be #140 simply because her school has excellent students; had she been from a different high school, it's conceivable that she'd be ranked 10-20 or so. These rankings do get sent to colleges and certainly make some kind of impact on the acceptance decision.

We also rank our colleges, our hospitals, our physicians, our lawyers in magazines like U.S. News and World Reports. Even our Chicago Magazine ranks Chicago hospitals, lawyers, physicians, etc.

Does England do that?
 
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We're certainly getting that way here Frown. For several years now we've had school "league tables" which are published in local and national newspapers annually and now we're getting them for hospitals and other institutions too. We hear a lot about "failing schools" which are way down the bottom of these tables and, of course, those parents who can send their children to higher ranking schools do (stories abound of parents who have actually moved house to get their child(ren) into their preferred school) - which leaves the "failing" schools full of those children whose parents have no choice but to stay put, so their demographic spread becomes even more unbalanced.

Now our government's latest idea is to let people go to any hospital in the country for treatment, rather than just their local one. This sounds like a good idea in theory, but I can't really see very many people taking advantage of it unless they're really desperate. Having spent several stretches in hospital, I know that it's not just having the operation that matters but the psychological boost of having family and friends come in to visit - especially if the patient is hospital for a long time. If someone opts to have their treatment at a hospital some distance away from their home area, visiting is going to be a big problem for elderly people or mothers with small children - especially if they have to use public transport.
 
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As some of you know already, I work for Ofsted, which in involved in the inspection of schools in England. The "failing" schools mentioned by Di are deemed to be failing to give students an acceptable standard of education, and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement.

Various statistics are used to help determine whether a school is giving students a suitable education, but they can only apply to the school, not individual students. A system like the one described by Kalleh and Seanahan seems unfair and statistically flawed; comparing them only with their classmates will most likely provide a skewed sample.

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Picture of BobHale
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quote:
Originally posted by Dianthus:
Now our government's latest idea is to let people go to any hospital in the country for treatment, rather than just their local one. This sounds like a good idea in theory, but I can't really see very many people taking advantage of it unless they're really desperate. Having spent several stretches in hospital, I know that it's not just having the operation that matters but the psychological boost of having family and friends come in to visit - especially if the patient is hospital for a long time. If someone opts to have their treatment at a hospital some distance away from their home area, visiting is going to be a big problem for elderly people or mothers with small children - especially if they have to use public transport.


I can vouch for this from personal experience. On her last stay in hospital before she died my mother was due to have a heart bypass operation Coventry, a mere hour's drive away. This was switched to Cheem, about a seven or eight hour drive, depending on traffic. My father was given accomodation there by the hospital. There were complications and she was there for almost a month. In that time I was able to get down twice and my brother (who lives a lot closer) about four times. My father was being a hospital visitor 24-7. This is no good psychologically for the patient or the visitor and when I got down and saw him he was like a lost soul, neither patient nor staff, haunting the grounds of the hospital whenever he wasn't in the ward with my mother.

The "any hospital you want" solution has been touted (in distinct forms) by both our main parties. It is a "seen to be doing something" panacea that completely fails to address the real problem which is that hospital beaurocracy is so complex that pouring money in in any form is just pouring it away as the administration mounts and mounts. What's needed is a radical rethink on how all our hospitals are managed but of course that would involve getting rid of a lot of the non-medical jobs and that would be unthinkable.

What people want is to be able to get quickly, into a local hospital and be assured of an acceptable standard of medical care while they are there. "Choice" has become a mantra for our politicians who would like us to believe that it will solve all our problems to be given a choice. A three-card-trick is a three-card-trick no matter how you dress it up.
 
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Just for the sake of comparison, I'd like to mention how it's done in Oslo, where I teach. For example, standardized tests are administered in grade eight, then given once more in grade ten. The progress made in three years is gauged, not the level compared to other schools in the same city. As you mentioned, it's fairer this way if you are gauging how well a school is doing in teaching its students/pupils.
However, there is always the possibility of external factors damaging a school's standing: when pupils and schools must deal with truancy, problems at home, general neglect outside the school, etc.
 
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A question about the class rankings: you seem to imply that they are based on a student's GPA in all subjects; is that right? If, say, a student is a science nerd it hardly seems right to include all subjects; grades in English Literature and History, for example, would be irrelevant if the student intends studying Physics at college. Whilst it would of course be good if a student were to have a well-rounded education, poor grades in a totally non-related subject could deny a budding Einstein a place.

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The "failing" schools mentioned by Di are deemed to be failing to give students an acceptable standard of education, and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement.

Ahhh...spoken as a true bureaucrat. Wink

Arnie, high school here is considered general education, so there usually is a core curriculum required, which may be 2 years of math, 4 years of English, 3 years of social studies, 2 years of foreign language, etc. It completely depends on the high school what those core courses are. So a student interested in physics, for example, could take lots of related science courses, but she also would have to take the core curriculum of English, history, math, etc.

You are correct that it is very unfair to compare the GPA (or rankings) of a small mediocre school to those of a large, excellent school. Our kids went to one of the best high schools in the country, but for many kids that was a big problem. We had friends whose girl was ranked around 150 in our high school. They purposely moved to another very good, but much smaller high school, where she immediately ranked #10. She was able, therefore, to get into a very good college.

On the other hand, most good colleges will consider several pieces of data besides grades and rankings, such as standardized tests, teacher reommendations, their essay, outside activities they've been involved in, and the quality of the high school. For the latter, I do know that our high school was considered one of the top, so that friend of ours may have gotten into the same college anyway.

I know, it's all very complex, and getting into one's favorite college in the U.S. is widely known to be a crap shoot.
 
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Kalleh,

Here, students take a set of exams at around age 16 in a broad spectrum of subjects, such as English, Maths, History, Physics, etc. These are known as GCSEs. During the next two years the the more academically inclined will study for GCE "A" levels, and the results of these decide to a great deal their further education. They will normally study three or four subjects only, so will of course specialise in their best subjects.

In actuality, their teachers project their expected A level results, and universities will offer places on the strength of the projection, provided they perform as expected. This can of course often lead to heartbreak when a student for some reason does less well than expected. There is some discussion at the moment about holding the exams earlier in the year so they will have their results before they need to apply to the college. It has also been suggested that the first university term start later for the same reason.
quote:
getting into one's favorite college in the U.S. is widely known to be a crap shoot.
I think that sums up the UK's system,too. Roll Eyes


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I think the ranking is important, both the ranking of the schools and the individual students. A truly quality college or university will, as you say, Kalleh, look at many factors, including the ranking and reputation of the high schools in question, before choosing which students to admit. I went to a very good high school, as well, and don't remember my exact ranking, but I do remember that it was in the top 1/3 of the class of 500-600 students. That percentage may not sound so exclusive, but given the quality of my high school and it's subsequent reputation, that was a mark of honor for me and helped me get into a very good college.

The schools in our state are graded according to their academic achievements and other things, and those "grades" allow parents to qualify (in our city) to enter their children into a lottery to get into some of the better schools. We've done this with Simon because our local middle school is ranked at the lowest position in the city (see the report here).

I have mixed feelings about the lottery system we have. At the moment I hate it because Simon still sits on a waiting list for both of the schools we'd chosen as acceptable. We'll send him to private school if neither of those other schools works out, but that is an increasingly expensive proposition. Also, kids who aren't college-bound and who don't do well in school and have no support have equal footing with kids who are trying to get into a good college. I love that idea, and I suspect that it's not the best idea, both at the same time.


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Posts: 5149 | Location: Columbus, OhioReply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
A truly quality college or university will, as you say, Kalleh, look at many factors, including the ranking and reputation of the high schools in question, before choosing which students to admit.

Ah, but think about it. How many high schools are there in the U.S.? Do you think even the "true quality colleges" will get that right? And what percent of colleges in the U.S. are of "true quality?" Surely none of the large state universities, like your Ohio State or our University of Illinois, have the resources to look at "multiple data" of the 50,000 or more students who apply. In theory, your ideas work; in reality, not so much.
quote:
Also, kids who aren't college-bound and who don't do well in school and have no support have equal footing with kids who are trying to get into a good college.

Just remember, high school kids are immature, especially boys. They might think they aren't "college-bound" when in fact they are. We must give all kids a chance to be as well educated as possible. I like your state's idea of the lottery system. Another type of system would label kids as "not college material" much too early.
 
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quote:
We must give all kids a chance to be as well educated as possible. I like your state's idea of the lottery system. Another type of system would label kids as "not college material" much too early.


I'm old enough to remember the dreaded 11+ exam. Students took this at the end of the school term prior to their 11th birthday. This determined whether they would go to grammar school (academic swots) or secondary modern school (all the rest).

I went to BOTH!!! I passed my 11+ in the early 1960s when my father was stationed in Cyprus and went to an army grammar school for 2 1/2 years. We returned to the UK at the beginning of October 1963 - a month after my 13th birthday - and stayed with my maternal grandparents while my father was on a course for six months at the other end of the country (typical forces procedure). Of course, I had to go to school and my mother took me to the grammar school for an interview with the Principal.

By now it was nearing the end of October and, frankly, I think the Principal didn't want me. After all, I was arriving halfway through a term and would only be there for another few months before moving on yet again. She set me two tests - one Maths and one English. She said to us (me and my mother) that my standard of English was "off the top of the scale" but my Mathematical ability was around the level of an average 8 year old Frown.

Needless to say, I didn't get into that school and I was forced to attend a series of absolutely appalling secondary modern schools from then on.

It was taken for granted that, because we were "not grammar school material" that we were all stupid and I was terribly frustrated because everything was far too easy for me and I was bullied unmercifully because I was the class swot and always getting far higher marks than the others (except in Maths, which I've hated all my life).

The government abolished the 11+ towards the end of the 60s, just after I left school completely and introduced Comprehensive schools which merged all the schools in the same area - regardless of location, so that in the early days pupils found themselves having a lesson at one school and then going half a mile down the road to another.

Unfortunately, although the intention was that the standard of education would rise to the level of the best schools, in many it fell instead - especially when it was decided that teachers must no longer correct errors in students' grammar and spelling. We now have two generations which can no longer spell or know anything about basic sentence construction.

I was one of several mature students on my English degree course at a very good English university in 1990 and we all had to take a compulsory 30 hours course in basic grammar because the 18 year olds (despite their having achieved good grades in their GCSE {General Certificate of Secondary Education} A {Advanced} level exams) had no idea of what a noun, adjective, or whatever was! We old 'uns had all been taught this as routine when we were about 12 or so.

Now I frequently see constructions like "bored of", "would of" and similar and don't get me started on spelling and punctuation or I'll be here all day Frown.
 
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I'm sure that I've told this story before but here it is again.
I too am of a generation that weas at school when grammar was still taught - probably the last generation as my Grammar School became a comprehensive in the year that I left, having had a non-selective intake for two years before that. The result was that I left school with a good knowledge of grammar. As an aside some of the people I have been on my recent cert-ed course with - and bear in mind that these people are all teaching English - don't know basic things such as what a noun is or what tense, aspect and voice refer to.
Anyway, some years after leaving school I decided to brush up on my German. After a pointless week in the entry level I moved up a level and was soon attending every week. In one lesson, when as I recall we had been talking about the way to use past tenses in German one student asked, in perfect seriousness, "Why does German have to have all these tenses? English doesn't." Two people in the room were shocked - me and the teacher. The rest all nodded in agreement and turned to the teacher for an explanation of why English "doesn't have tenses".

Needless to say the teacher was completely unable to answer this question and the students simply wouldn't believe that English not only has tenses but has that tricky simple/continuous division that German lacks. (It has other ways of doing the same thing.)

To this day I am astonished that anyone could have asked the question.

(Don't get me started on the subject of some of my fellow teachers and their level of grammatical knowledge!)
 
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I have recently been running some revision courses for travel consultants taking their supervisory and management examinations, which tests are run by City and Guilds. These will all be people of at least 25, holding positions of some importance in their companies.

One invariable query that I get is about the "difficult" language used in the questions and I have had to accept that the language used, which is actually very straightforward, simply contains words and constructions that many people do not use and thus do nut understand. For this reason I have put together a glossary of terms so that, for example, candidates appreciate the difference between the common verbs "describe" and "explain" when each is used in a question.

Goodness only knows how they would do if C & G were to use really difficult words...


Richard English
 
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The language used in the exams we do (also City and Guilds) is often misunderstood by the students.

We have to teach extra lessons on "understanding the question" before we let them loose on the eexam. But this isn't unreasonable, for example they must understand that the question

"How would you describe the language in this letter?"

cannot be answered with "I would describe it to my teacher." or "I would describe it in English."

It isn't in fact a question at all. It's an instruction and it means "Describe the language used in this letter."

While your students, being (I presume) mostly native speakers, should be able to understand this, mine can't always. My students are learning to speak English and I've felt for a long time that the questions should be couched in the simplest possible language so that the students don't lose all their marks because of a misunderstanding about what they are required to do.

The other things about these particular exams is the standard of proof reading - there isn't any. The answer sheets require the students to give answers to questions that weren't asked, to give multiple examples when the question doesn't make it clear that single answers are unacceptable, to answer with complex conceptual answers where the question can be interpretted as requiring simple factual ones, to obey instructions that weren't given and on and on. In the most recent writing exam I administered there were three sections with respectively 7, 14 and 14 marks available. Of those I estimated that a total of nine marks could not be got at all and that about another 6 were very unlikely to be got.

We complained about this after last year's exams and absolutely nothing was done. No changes were made to the papers and all the problems are still there.

The instructions, should, in my opinion, always be written in the simplest language available to enable the students to focus solely on the actual tasks.
 
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That's very interesting. I have been involved with City and Guilds since 1978 as a question-writer, examiner, chief examiner and member of several committees and panels in that time.

Although C & G are often frustrating, the question-setting rigour (at least in my test area) is considerable. The question "How would you describe the language in this letter?" would never be allowed in any of the tests I am involved with for several reasons. To start with it's an interrogative question - and these are generally frowned upon by C & G (except in the case of multiple choice). Questions in the papers I am involved with must be phrased as instructions, not posed as questions.

The example you cite could, quite accurately, be answered, "...A load of old cobblers..." and that would, to my mind, be deserving of full marks. A question that asks for a personal opinion should never be used and would have been thrown out of any of my moderating committees in very short order. A simple instruction, "Describe the language used in this letter" would, as you say, be better. Better still would be a question that indicated what kind of description was needed. For example, "Describe the grammar/spelling/style/tone/language used in this letter" would make it clear to the student exactly what type of description is needed.

I am horrified to learn of the poor proofing; all the papers I am involved with are proofed at least four times: by the examiner; by the members of the moderating panel; by the moderating committee and again by the examiner prior to print.

Some years ago I had occasion to complain to C & G about my payments (basically they were keeping me waiting for months) and I wrote to the Director (Carey, at that time). He really kicked the top of the sleepy ants' nest and the whole accounts department was re-organised. I suggest you do the same since it strikes me that the dread disease of complacency is endemic in the English language testing department!


Richard English
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Dianthus:
It was taken for granted that, because we were "not grammar school material" that we were all stupid and I was terribly frustrated because everything was far too easy for me and I was bullied unmercifully because I was the class swot and always getting far higher marks than the others (except in Maths, which I've hated all my life).

Dianthus, you have a brother in the States! Same situation! Ironic, considering my childhood ambition to become an aeronautical engineer! Frown
 
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A further example, from one of the reading papers.

The candidate had been given an advertising leaflet from a supermarket promoting, among other things, their loyalty card scheme. One of the questions asked something like (I don't have a copy to hand for the exact wording) "Do you think this scheme is a good idea?"

First of all that's a closed question demanding a "yes"/"no" answer and, in my view proving nothing about the candidates reading. It's also impossible to answer wrong. Or is it?

The next question said simply. "Why?"
Again nothing to do with reading. The answer sheet however instructed that for a mark for this question the answer had to be related to the text (not apparent from the question) and to a set list of potential answers that were given -ALL OF WHICH assumed you had answered "Yes" to the previous question.

One of my students wrote "No" and "Because they are trying to make me spend more money." I marked both answers correct and added a notation that if the paper was among the verified ones I was prepared to back up my judgement and argue on the student's behalf.

(Incidentally it isn't just the ESOL papers. The numeracy ones also contain numerous wrong answers, missing questions and the like.)

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Bravo, Bob! I have had the same problem myself in similar situations here in Norway. Once I announced to the pupils that there was a misprint in the exam, and that it should read "heroine" instead of "heroin". I was told by the administrator that no information was to be given to the pupils, and that I had to leave the locale.
 
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