Preposterous Prepositions

I’m a fan of Sir Winston Churchill and his acidic quips. I was delighted to find a new Churchillianism as I was perusing The Cassell Guide to Common Errors in English by Harry Blamires. I wasn’t looking for Churchill but engaging in some grammatical self-improvement to pass the two extra hours spent at gymnastics on a Friday evening. My eldest daughter has developed “talent” requiring extra coaching. Only one word to describe that – “Bugger”!

Prepositions are are words such as “of”, “for”, “by”, “with”, “before”, and “after” and are used with nouns and pronouns to provide some grammatical context. These are the most common words in the English language and without them we would sound something akin to Tarzan leaping through the grammatical jungle in search of Jane.

Blamires outlines the prepositional anarchy that appears to reign in the written and spoken world and though I find him very hard going, he does make some good points. Take this example:

“Accustomed to saying “tired of”, someone presumes to say “bored of”.

I think it should be “bored with”, and he goes on to make several more examples which I won’t bother with here. What has struck me from this is there appears to be far more trendy posing with our language than any real substance. Perhaps the rules governing prepositions have only themselves to blame?

Take this example regarding the rule that a sentence should not end with a prepositiion.

Here is something that provoked Churchill’s ire:

“This is the sort of English up with which I shall not put.”

A more natural way of writing this sentence would be:

“This is the sort of English I will not put up with.”

Churchill was taking the Schmeichel here as the latter, more usual way of writing this sentiment has not one, but two prepositions at the end of the sentence. Perhaps the prepositional rule was to blame to begin with and it only needed Churchill to pronounce upon it?

In any event, this is a blog post up with you no longer shall put 😉