10 February 2014

Grrrrr

"was sat" or "was sitting"/ "was stood" or "was standing"?

Okay, okay - maybe I am just an old pedant but I can't help it. I can often forgive ordinary people's grammatical errors in everyday conversations but when such errors creep into the communications of highly paid and well-trained BBC broadcasters, my hackles rise.

Let's get it clear. If you were "sat" somewhere - that means you were picked up and literally placed in your seat but if you sat there of your own freewill, then you "were sitting" in that place. It's the same with "stood". If you were "stood" say in the middle of a field, that means you were picked up and placed there but if you "were standing" in the field, that means you had walked through the gateway independently, dodging festering cowpats before arriving in the middle of said field to stand. Incidentally, why you should do that - I have no idea.

So in Standard English terms, when you say: "We were stood at the bar waiting to be served" you are mangling our language. You should say: "We were standing at the bar waiting to be served". And when you say: "The cat was sat on the mat" you should really be saying: "The cat was sitting on the mat" or indeed "The cat sat on the mat".

It may be that other fusty old pedants and I are fighting a losing battle on this one. The English language is forever evolving - not just through the addition of new vocabulary but also through changes to previously accepted grammatical constructions. Nonetheless, as I move inexorably towards my state funeral, I shall never say: "I  was sat at my computer churning out nonsense", nor shall I say: "We were stood in the West Stand watching Hull City thrash Southampton". I cannot condone abuse.

22 comments:

  1. But Guv'nah, you said it yourself: "The language is forever evolving - not just through the addition of new vocabulary but also through changes to previously accepted grammatical constructions." We (you and I) can no more stop that than Cnut could stop the tide. I am nearer to my state funeral than you, so perhaps I am farther down the philosophical road to peace. I used to be outraged by bad grammar all around me; nowadays I find it almost charming. Ignorant, but charming. My own father invented a word unwittingly and used it all the time - "ilregardless" - that as far as I know was never spoke by anytone else. It disappeared, yes, but it existed for a time in the mouth of my father. It used to drive me crazy but now I smile when I think of it.

    No, do not condone abuse, but perhaps change your definition of what abuse is.

    Peace, brother.

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    1. A former pastor of mine, a man with a master's degree, said "had went" - now THAT drove me crazy.

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    2. Yaaay! Peace brother Peace and luv! LOL! Ilreardless of what you had went and said, I shall continue to fight for Standard English, raising my standard high as the battle against slovenliness rages by the foaming waters of the River Brague.

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    3. "Irregardless" is a disturbingly common usage in the U.S.
      I think it's because many people don't think..........................

      I had a more complex sentence in mind, but the rest was redundant. Many people don't think.

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  2. To be fair, our cat is sometimes sat on the mat, by me, when I lift her out of the way and plonk her down where she's less likely to be trodden on.

    But I agree.

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    1. May I suggest a stuffed cat - as opposed to a living one. This would make sitting the cat easier and you wouldn't have to buy cans of evil-smelling cat food either!

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  3. Given that in Shakespeare's time there was no 'ing' what would he have said?

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    1. He would have said "Forsooth Lord of the Hebrides, hold thy codpiece!"

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  4. It's only a few days ago that I went on a rant in a comment over at GB's about using words wrongly, wrong spelling, wrong use of the apostrophe, and so on. I am not going to start yet another rant, but you surely have me on your side, Sir, noble defender of proper language!

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    1. Without we proper language warriors, communication would recede to the gruntings of Neanderthals. God save the apostrophe! Long live the difference between "your" and "you're"! Death to those who confuse "its" with "it's"! (Perhaps the last one is going a bit too far).

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  5. Hull thrashed Southampton? Crikey!

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    1. Not yet Rhino. We are playing them on Tuesday night, Revenge will be sweet.

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  6. The same gnashings of teeth occur when i hear such nonsense as "watching Hull City thrash Southampton".
    Let's face it, it's geographically unlikely, given that Southamptons almost as far south as you can get in England, and Hull's firmly attached to the north bank of the Humber. I seem to recall, long ago, reading a Sci-Fi story about a vast city which was mobile, roaming the earth's surface in search of resources. Hull is not that city. Hull is sedentary. Sedimentary, too.
    And I won't even bother taking you to task on the fact that Hull is a river, not a city. A fairly boring little mudbath of a river too. The city around it is Kingston.

    (d'Jamaica? No, she went of her own accord! Boom-Boom!!!!)

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  7. I too hate folk mistaking sat for sitting. I always thought that adding an 'ing made it present tense, while not adding an 'ing' made it past or possibly past historical tense. I have know idea what I'm talking about so will shut up and leave these learned folk to it.
    I did buy a copy of Usage and Abusage. I used to consult it so thating I did not appearing to be ( that is the future tense) moroning.

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    1. PS. That know should be a no. I added the 'k' and 'w' to make me sound illiterating

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    2. Oh dear Ade Edmondson, you appear to be tying yourself in syntactical knots! See me in my study after school and I suggest you stuff an atlas down your trews!

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  9. Using "sat" in this way is not something you hear in Australia unless someone of English or Scottish origin is speaking. However you do hear the use of the word " youse" . I hate this and have always considered it wrong but was appaulled recently when it was accepted in the online Scrabble-type word game "Words with Friends" ! I immediately looked it up to find it is (debatably )recognised as a real word not just awful slang !!!

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    1. I had never heard the word "youse" before Helen. Is it aboriginal - perhaps a now extinct marsupial?

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  10. I've never heard "was sat" or "was stood." Those are new expressions to me.

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    1. Good then Red. I hope these language aberrations don't reach America.

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