Me Talk Pretty One Day

Someone reminded me of the standard grammar all of us Angrez-educated types learned the language from. It was a horrible instrument of torture, written by Wren & Martin. Mr Martin is irrelevant to this post, but Wren was none other than Percival C Wren, ex-Foreign Legionnaire and sometime Chief Inspector of Schools in the Bombay Presidency, best known for the Beau Geste trilogy.
Then the partner abandoned the search for suggestive screensavers long enough to seek out Wren’s other works.
The man who was responsible for India’s grammatical heritage wrote ripe stuff like Snake and Sword and Dew and Mildew.

Here is the first paragraph of Snake and Sword; what with Wren on one hand and P G Wodehouse on the other, I finally know why we write the way we do:

“When Colonel Matthew Devon de Warrenne, V.C., D.S.O., of the Queen’s
Own (118th) Bombay Lancers, pinned his Victoria Cross to the bosom of
his dying wife’s night-dress, in token of his recognition that she was
the braver of the twain, he was not himself.
He was beside himself with grief.”

Oh, give the man a posthumous Bulwer-Lytton.


  1. I am looking for an explanation to a puzzling observation. The English we use has many words which are not used by Americans. I initially dismissed it as the American post independence knee-jerk reaction which forced them to do everything quite opposite to how Britishers did it. However, I later interacted with a couple of English people, two dutch, a French, and many others which made me realize that the words which we use are not used by too many other nationalities. Please explain…Example:Ladyfinger -> OkraBrinjal -> Eggplant / AubergineCurd -> YogurtI know, I know, all examples are related to eating. Can’t a man love his food? Sheesh!

  2. Quite off-topic.The mention of “Wren And Martin” seems an uncanny coincidence. Lamenting the reprehensible state of English in emails and online chats, I tried to convince a friend that the book should be a primary source of grammar education in the States. I’m sure they’ll change the spellings for everything, but at least they’ll have good grammar. Needless to say, having never studied the book himself, he didn’t appreciate my sincere advice.

  3. and even more off-topic:I have been coming to your blog for a while now and have really been enjoying the stuff on it. have finally linked to you in one of mine. But could you please turn your ‘ping to’ option ON in your blogger settings? it is easier to keep track of updates in that case. cheers.

  4. Ooh, US versus UK English! It’s nicely complicated. Curd is classic English, as in it’s there in Miss Muffet, and comes from the Middle English “crowden” meaning “to press”. “Yogurt” is of Turkish origin but caught on in the States. Ladyfinger is also the name of a kind of biscuit; bhindi was presumably dubbed ladyfinger because of the curving shape–okra is of West African origin, and okra gumbos were well known in New Orleans.The short answer is no one really knows why languages divide and certain terms carry over while some fall by the wayside–the really short answer is probably ask Bill Bryson. US versus UK English is particularly puzzling–why torch versus flashlight or pavement versus sidewalk, for instance?Promise to look into this one. Until I do, my favourite example concerns food: in Harry Potter, the UK edition’s crumpets were changed to the US “English muffins”, and I remember one author perplexed by the fact that her Bermuda onions had unaccountably gone Spanish in “translation”

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