Oh dear, following the aggrieved letter written by Bill Rennie (17 July) complaining about the alleged slipping standards of English grammar in The Scotsman, swiftly followed by a criticism from Sheila Corbishley (18 July) of the alleged errors to be found at the National Museum of Scotland, I anticipate a spate of letters on the same subject.
In defence of the museum, may I suggest that the missing letter “i” in the word “deposition” may have been due to a simple typing error, rather than being evidence of a lamentable ignorance of basic spelling, and, as we have no idea of the context in which the word “formally” was used, how can we know whether the writer should have used “formerly” instead?
For example, if the former word was used to indicate the birth name of Mary, Queen of Scots, ie, Mary Stuart (or Stewart), then I would suggest that it was used correctly. Our “formal” name is our full legal name – the name which appears in the birth register.
As for the errors in the hotel brochure, well, let’s face it, hotels and restaurants are renowned for their spelling bloomers. For some people, spotting the mistakes in the literature of those establishments is a pastime.
I am not condoning the sloppy use of English, since I am as likely to wince at the worst offences as anyone, but I do think that some people can become rather obsessive in their battle against “slipping standards”.
I imagine a panic-stricken journalist dashing off a headline about an impending disaster, then passing it on to an equally petrified proof-reader, who, without even a cursory glance (and who can blame him), clears it for printing: “Giant asteroid on course to completely destroy the Earth”.
Some poor apoplectic guardian of the English language could die sitting at his computer halfway through typing an irate letter to the guilty newspaper about the iniquity of the split infinitive.