Robert McNeil: Never mind capitalism, it’s capital letters those loveable lefties are after now

I’VE a shocking confession to make: I am ambivalent about grammar. That is to say, I’m mostly a stickler for it, or even a stickler mostly, yea, even unto deploying the occasional comma. But only because it’s often practical (it stops “Let’s eat, grandpa” becoming “Let’s eat grandpa”) or, as I should have said, “deploying the occasional comma, but only because it’s often practical”.

But, often, I like starting sentences with “But” or “And” because it provides more of a pause – about 0.0005 seconds – which can help with punchlines. Or just if you’re trying to be punchy. “Or” maybe I shouldn’t have started that sentence with “or”. Lordy.

Also, I’ve no understanding of grammatical terms. I was going to describe “but” as a “preposition”, but – looking it up online – it seems more of a “conjunction” or even an “adverb”. Lordy, it’s not easy.

However, I confess that I tend to stick to rules whenever I learn about them. Don’t want to get into trouble. Sorry. I – the person writing; hope that clarifies matters – don’t want to get into trouble. And, besides, I like a bit of order as much as the next authoritarian.

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But, as in other areas of life, I need a reason to obey a rule. Wilfully, therefore, I will deploy sometimes a split infinitive because it sounds better or enhances the rhythm of a sentence, ken?

There’s no logical reason for the rule about split infinitives (as, in most famously, “to boldly go”). It’s the result of loony classicists saying that, as you couldn’t split a verb in Latin (ie they didn’t have “to do” just “do”, which in my view just won’t do), you shouldn’t be able to split it in English.

But Latin, ridiculously, also put the verb at the end of the sentence, so they’d say, “The cat on the mat sat”, making you think irritably for ages as you plough through the sentence: ‘But what did the cat do on the mat?’ A poop probably.

The worrying thing is that, according to my researchers, Latin was the language of ancient Rome, and ancient R. is the basis of western civilisation, hence why the woke are saying grammar enhances white privilege and so should be done away with. (Or away with should be done, since you should shouldn’t end a sentence with “with”).

One professor in that Canada has announced she’s joining a “lower case movement”, which rejects capital letters as racist symbols of hierarchy. I see. I stand with Dr Linda Manyguns in her horror at the deaths of indigenous children at Canadian residential school in the past.

But I can’t think grammar had much to do with it. Or that avoiding capital letters will achieve much. I don’t remember Lenin writing: “And, verily, we shall overthrow that capitalism by smashing its oppressive grammatical structure. Note how I have already struck a blow for freedom by starting a sentence with ‘And’.”

Where the left once stood against capitalism, now it just stands against capitals. And I fear this movement will catch on. It can’t be long before we hear about it from leading Marxists, prince harry and meghan muckle.

Nobody likes being told what to do, which is why the woke are so unpopular with the masses. Mind you, I suppose you could apply that to grammarians too: “You’d better use capitals at the start of a sentence or you’ll be marked down at school as thick and have to take one of these jobs where you have to start at 8 instead of 9.”

But most grammatical rules exist for a reason. What will be next to go? The full-stop? Many people on Twitter seem to have done away with it already. In the meantime, I think it’s time for me to up shut.

The end of immortality

THERE used to be a lot of talk about immortality, but it soon died a death. Much of it revolved around Dr Aubrey de Grey, who believed medical advances would let us live for hundreds or thousands of years or even – ken? – for ever.

Elsewhere, some experiments looked promising but, as usual, these involved mice which, last time I looked, hadn’t written any books or developed a coherent philosophy. The latest to involve himself in the doomed quest for immortality is Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon, who is reportedly funding research into reversing the ageing process.

He’s employed a Spanish scientist who already believes he can increase life expectancy by 50 years. I doubt if we’ll live long enough to see that. None of these claims ever comes true. It’s similar to reading about some great new painless, five-minute technique that cures a medical condition.

So, chap goes to his doctor and asks about it, only to be told: “No, I’m afraid our local hospital still prefers tried and tested medieval methods, in which you will be incapacitated for years and have to eat through a straw.” Bit much for an ingrowing toenail.

Still, we wish Jeff good luck. If he is successful, immortality will doubtless only be available on Amazon Prime. So I’ll probably give it a miss.

Now meow

CATS appear in the news almost as much as humans, and this week’s headlines shrieked about 40 per cent of owners trying to communicate with their moggies by meowing at them. Sounds barking.

Interestingly, up to a point, cats don’t meow at each other, only at humans. It reminds me of that Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers cartoon where Fat Freddie’s cat is rubbing against his leg as Freddie is opening a tin of cat food.

The cat is thinking: ‘I wonder why they always feed you when you rub against their leg.’ And Freddie is thinking: ‘I wonder why they always rub against your leg when you feed them.’

Cat owners also reportedly get down on all fours to commune with their creatures. Not doing that again. Last time, while looking after my friends’ cat, I arrived back at their place a bit soused, lay down in the hall to play with the beast and promptly conked out. Several hours later, I woke up, still in my anorak and woolly hat, with the creature pawing at my face. I think that means they’re hungry.

Persona non grata

HERE’S another thing I’ve been getting wrong. I’ve only one persona, and it’s inappropriate for all situations. The only time I adapt it slightly is when I decide I need to take command of a situation. Which usually leaves me with a black eye or being read my rights by a constable.

But, according to research, most people adopt up to nine different personas daily. Sounds a bit nine-faced. And it surely can’t apply if you just sit aboot the hoose all day, like me. Personas include the Thinker, Grafter, Leader, Socialiser, Adventurer, and Smoaster. The what now? Apparently, that’s someone who boasts on social media. There’s a whole world out there I know nothing about.

I do know people who claim to be shy, but go to parties and mutate into air-kissing butterflies, laughing with up-tilted faces and dancing inconsiderately. It leaves me feeling bamboozled. You say: “Look at your column, Ronald, if that is the name. The Moaner, the Philosopher, the Wind-up Merchant. All in one paragraph.”

Good point. However, it’s different when you’re getting paid for it. (Aghast chorus: “You get paid?”).

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