Fewer than fifty people care if you use “less than” instead of “fewer than”

…And they’re all literature snobs.

Based on an article about how to write better travel articles (that was utterly ridiculous in its earnestness), I present you with the following poem about the rules of language.  This one goes out to all the Grammar Nazis out there; I am confident enough in my command of the English language to not need to correct other people’s SPAG. All grammatical “mistakes” in this piece are intentional; they are making my point.

Dear Heavenly Father, I come to confess for I have sinned.

I split no less than twelve infinitives this week,

Before addressing someone as “darling”

I started a sentence with “and”

Because I wanted to.

I misused the subjunctive by design.

I made this poem that doesn’t rhyme.****

I used contractions when I shouldn’t have,

And I didn’t use them when I should.

I referred to myself in the third person.

I used a cliche and exchanged metaphors for similes.

I alliterated all along a line and all across an article.

I made up my onomatopoeia.

And I published it just like that.

Where the whole wide world of internets could see it.

See how I pluralised “internet” when I shouldn’t have?

See how I carried forward the subject without reaffirming it?

Then, I used a few dozen adverbs and adjectives.

When someone spoke, I ended it with “said” instead

Of “asked, replied, exclaimed, howled or beseeched.”

Oh I beseech thee, I even used the same word twice in the same sentence.

Canst thou ever forgive me?”

And in a dream, God replied, and spake He:

“Last time I had anything to do with this ball of festering pus,

Everyone was speaking Latin and they were fighting over bits of wood.

What do I care if you break some arbitrary language rules?

Did you get your point across?

Did you share something with your readers?

Did you like what you’d written?

If so, who cares what Ms Rowling down the road is doing?

Who cares whether Strunk and White would have approved?

They wrote that stuff ages ago. In America.

American is a whole separate dialect to English; Australian;

Canadian; Scottish; South African and so on.

Are they qualified to tell you how to write in a global society,

As your language fuses in a new melting pot of accents and colloquialisms?

Language is fluid, growing, shaping itself and, at its heart,

Language is a tool for communicating.

If you’re getting bogged down with “less than” or “fewer than”

As long as it makes sense, and people can understand it,

It really doesn’t matter which you use.

Call it luncheon, call it dinner, call it tea,

It’s fine by me.

Just cos everyone else is wearing short socks, it doesn’t mean winter has ended.

They’re over there with their friends.

Oh, and tell them to stop fighting and to get off my lawn.”

**** See what I did there?  It’s called IRONY because I’m intentionally trying to avoid rhyming in order to let my language flow freely, but on this line, in order for the language to move how I willed it, It had to half-rhyme.  It’s also a COINCIDENCE because I’m talking about the very thing I’m trying to do in a couplet where I’m clearly not doing it.

That’s your English lesson for today.

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