Grammar Monsters

Adventures In Grammarland is the new book by co-authors Paul Georgiou & Chris Prendergast. Here Paul talks about his influences and gives us a little inside information.

Grammar! It’s not important. It’s boring

Oh yes it is. Oh no it isn’t

It really is important.

When my son was at school there wasn’t much attention given to grammar, and that worried me. Language is the finest, most powerful and most subtle means of communicating ever devised. It allows us to describe things, control things, invent things, tell the truth about things and, yes, to lie about things. We wouldn’t be human without it. And grammar is the means of controlling all the words in language so that they do what we want. If the power of grammar is weakened, so is our ability to communicate.

It was this thought that prompted me to come up with the idea of a world peopled by words, a world thrown into disarray by the corruption of grammar. I discussed the idea with an old school friend of mine, Chris Prendergast, and the two of us decided to try to write an engaging and exciting story which introduced all the parts of speech, warned against some of the more common grammatical pitfalls and emphatically made the point that, when words work together, marshaled by the rules of grammar, they become more powerful than even Obi-Wan Kenobi could have imagined. To make such a subject interesting may sound a bit of a challenge but what are challenges for if not to rise to? (So much for never ending a sentence with a preposition.)

Grammarland CoverThe land in which the story takes place is Grammarland, which, when the story begins,  is ruled by the tyrant Ignorance and his two sons Prejudice and Bigotry. The hero is Josh (same name as my son as it happens), who is swept from his father’s study into a strange and alien world where nouns, egged on by adjectives, and verbs, abetted by adverbs, vie for pre-eminence. Because of the decline in grammar and the hooliganism of Ignorance, the words are weak and confused. It falls to Josh and his two companions (Syntax, a silver-headed walking stick, and Melisa, a talkative and creative flute) to lead the army of words into battle against the destructive army of Ignorance. Syntax is, of course, a disciplinarian with little time for grammatical deviations, but he is complemented by Melisa who delights in playing with words, even taking liberties with them, while acknowledging that if you are going to break the rules, you first need to understand the rules to break and then have a good reason to break them.

Neither my co-author nor I is interested in a rigidly prescriptive approach to grammar but we do believe that everyone needs to grasp the basic rules in order to reach their full potential. I know a number of highly intelligent individuals who have skills that demand considerable mental acuity but who are handicapped by an inability to communicate their thoughts clearly and succinctly in words. I know managers in business whose careers have been blighted by difficulties in writing coherent, structured reports. I know youths with As in A level English who have only a very vague idea of the parts of speech and are none too clear about where to put a full stop.

And it isn’t boring.

Of course, the teaching of grammar is a tough task. It is one of those basic disciplines which has to compete with what seem to be much more inherently interesting subjects, such as history, geography, chemistry and physics, subjects with real world content. But, like grasping mathematical concepts, mastering grammar is a basic skill. Without it, and its companion maths, we are ill equipped to learn those other subjects; we are also ill equipped to deal with life.

So how can we revive enthusiasm for the learning of grammar? Well, obviously, we need to make it as interesting as possible, and we hope “Adventures in Grammarland” goes some way to achieving that goal.

We need to point out how a grasp of grammar can help you to say exactly what is meant. That can be really useful, whether you are explaining what you want to a shop assistant or negotiating a substantive review of the Treaty of Rome.

We need to point out the advantages that a mastery of grammar gives to anyone in their career. As far as I know there are no statistics that look for a correlation between good grammar and salary levels but I bet, in most companies and in most professions, there is one.

There is another reason: the love of language. All civilisation is based on our ability to communicate precisely and, when need be, subtlety. Our laws and our literature are just two of its achievements. Life would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short without them. And what is it that enables words to fulfil their potential? Grammar.

***

Paul Georgiou and Chris Prendergast are both Oxford graduates who have co-authored “Adventures in Grammarland”.

Paul studied English at New College, Oxford. In 1978, he set up his own company, Panarc International (www.panarc.com), to provide media consultancy services. The company pioneered media coverage analysis as a professional business service. Throughout his time in education and business, Paul has always written poems, short stories and novels. His first published novel, “The Fourth Beginning”, was issued under the pseudonym, Paul Gee. Under his own name, he has published “The Tortoise and the Hare”, a long, illustrated retelling of one of Aesop’s fables in verse; “The Elements of Life”, a collection of his poems; and this new book “Adventures in Grammarland”, a book co-authored with Chris Prendergast.

Chris is a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge and a Fellow of the British Academy. He has written extensively on French literature and has published a number of highly regarded academic books.

Adventures in Grammarland by Paul Georgiou & Christopher Prendergast (published by Panarc Publishing RRP £6.00, paperback RRP £3.00, ebook) is available from online retailers and to order from all good bookstores. From more information, please visit www.panarcpublishing.com

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