Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Good Thief's Guide to a Shelf of Grammar Books

Having spent time in Amsterdam last summer, I was excited to find a copy of Chris Ewan's The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam. However, instead of getting caught up in the story, I got caught up in examples of nonstandard usages. In the second paragraph, the narrator states, "if I was a lesser writer..." But the statement should be contrary-to-fact, and hence, the verb form should change accordingly. The narrator should have said "If I were" unless he wanted to imply that he was indeed a lesser writer, which was probably not the intended implication. Granted, it's possible that Ewan didn't want the narrator to sound sophisticated. However, since the character is an expert locksmith, etc., I suspect this was an oversight on Ewan's part rather than at attempt to show character.

On the same page the narrator takes a twenty minute stroll, which implies that the stroll is a "twenty stroll" and also a "minute stroll;" the narrator means that it was a "twenty-minute stroll." He repeats the same problem when mentioning the "ten minute bicycle ride" by omitting a hyphen between ten and minute.

Both of these items, though small, accosted me on the first page.

On the third page, I learned that the narrator "was stood before a beer tap at a bar." "Was stood?" Was standing, perhaps. Or had already drunk so much that someone had physically stood him up before the bar to prevent him from falling back down.

Either way, these features of Ewan's language distracted me. It's easy to overlook a mistake when reading proofs. but to have this many in the first chapter is an indication that more lurk nearby.

Next time.... I'll cover just a few of those.