I acknowledge that I am in increasing danger of being a pedantic old bore on the subject and have to bite my tongue on more and more occasions when people say 'lay' when they mean 'lie'; 'less' when they mean 'fewer' and 'hopefully' when they mean 'I hope'. It irritates me even more when I hear somebody (quite often my younger son!) ask in a café or restaurant, 'Can I get' instead of 'May I have'. I always want to say, 'No, you can't get it. The waiter will do it for you.' Another irritant is the response to the question, 'How are you?' The reply should, of course, be 'Very well, thank you', not 'I'm good'.
These thoughts have been rattling around in my brain for a few days and it was a complete coincidence that a report was published yesterday telling how a so-called expert on the English language had pointed out that a lot of words we think are irritating Americanisms can be found in the works of Shakespeare. For example, he used 'gotten' quite a lot and spelt 'honour' as 'honor' more than he did with the 'u'.
But controlling my tetchiness reminded me of the (supposedly) 17th century nun's prayer. I'm sure many will remember these gist, but just in case, here it is:
LORD, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody, helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends in the end. Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is growing sweeter as the days go by. I dare not ask for grace to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and less cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be saint — some of them are so hard to live with — but a sour person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.Wise words indeed, whether they date from the 17th century or not.