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conan
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Bài gửi by conan on 2/1/2008, 7:28 pm

Cynthia Lelos from Italy asks:
Non-standard English

I hear so many British saying I was sat waiting for an hour or I was stood in the rain. Isn't that grammatically wrong? Shouldn't it be: I was sitting..., I was standing...?
I have even heard broadcasters on the BBC use this seemingly incorrect
form! Is there some verb tense I'm not aware of? Thanks.

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Samantha Hague answers:



So what a great question! I have to say, it’s rare for a non-native
speaker to notice this feature of spoken English, so you must have a
very good ear for conversations! The feature that you’ve drawn
attention to is called a ‘non-standard grammatical form’ and in the
cases you’ve mentioned the speakers seem to combine two tenses into one
new one.
So what’s going on here? I was sat waiting for an hour uses the simple past of be and the past participle of the second verb sit, and finally waiting
is in the progressive verb form. This pattern, which almost looks like
the passive voice, is used to introduce anecdotes and stories, almost
as a kind of ‘scene-setting’ device. It also sometimes suggests that
the person was forced to do something against their will, which is
similar to the function of the passive. This phrase is likely to be
used when we’re complaining about something:
I was stood waiting for the bus for half an hour in the freezing cold.
I was finished cleaning when the kids come in and messed the room up again.
Technically, in writing, this combination of verb forms would be
incorrect, and if children wrote in this way at school, their teacher
would correct the form of the second verb (as you’ve done in your
examples) or cross out the be participle to change the verb to the simple past:
I sat waiting for an hour.
I stood in the rain.
The teacher corrects written English so that the child is aware of
‘conventional’ or ‘standard’ usage, which a child needs to become
literate. Even as children, we’re able to modify our language depending
on the formality of a situation and adult speakers who use a lot of
non-standard grammatical forms are probably unlikely to do so in formal
situations - for example, if they were asked to give a speech in public.
So, while a teacher might correct a child’s written English, I
think we’re more tolerant of spoken variations, and these days, we use
the term ‘non-standard’ to describe such features. I think it’s better
than describing such variations as being wrong or incorrect, because
these non-standard grammatical patterns are used consistently by
millions of speakers every day! So, I really approve of your phrase
‘seemingly incorrect’, Cynthia, to describe this usage, because I think
that sums it up perfectly!
And Cynthia, I just want to finish by mentioning that there are
some regional variations in non-standard grammar. I thought I’d tell
you about some features of non-standard grammar from the regional
accent, Geordie, where I live. (In fact, rather than being an accent,
it’s a dialect, but that’s another story!). OK…

  • The first example I’m going to tell you about is I’ve went or She’s went or He’s went home, which is used instead of gone.
  • Another example is the use of the simple present instead of the simple past - I says to my husband - which uses the third person singular form of the verb.
  • There’s also a non-standard conditional form used: If I had’ve went meaning ‘If I had gone’ to express an unfulfilled condition.
  • Another example is that the past tense of irregular verbs becomes inflected: I catched it; I telled him.
  • And finally, double negatives are common: You didn’t want it, didn’t you not?

So, just before I go, or ‘gan’, you might be intrigued to learn
that regional accents (although not dialects) have become very
fashionable in broadcasting, but the announcers do read scripts written
in standard English grammar! So good-bye and thank you for the question
Cynthia!


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happyboy1992
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Naff

Bài gửi by happyboy1992 on 4/1/2008, 6:49 pm

Naff. N-A-F-F. British slang. It means worthless, tacky,
unfashionable - 'that's naff', 'the party was naff', 'those clothes are
naff' - unenjoyable, of poor quality. 'Uncool', I suppose people would
say these days - 'that décor is naff', 'that software is naff', 'that
pub is naff'. In other words, it's used in a huge variety of
circumstances as a general dismissive term, and it's also used as an
expletive, to avoid the worst swear words - 'naff off!' - you hear
people say, 'stop naffing about!' Now, that usage was made popular by
the comedian Ronnie Barker in the television series 'Porridge', back in
the 1970s. And it became very, very popular in British usage, and went
right up the class system too! I mean, there's a story for instance
that Princess Anne told paparazzi to 'naff off', back in 1982. At
least, that's how it was reported.

The origins of the word are unclear. It might well be a gay usage.
Kenneth Williams recalls it from the 1960s used by gay people, and
often in a theatrical context as well. It may be an acronym meaning
NAFF - not available for fun.


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