How an error brought back bad memories of Latin class
It was, as so often happens, a complaint from a reader that triggered a trip down memory lane. A story in the Belfast Telegraph about Arctic terns included a caption that tilted outrageously against the gods of grammar by stating that the birds had “breeded successfully”.
Hmmm. A childish error by any standards. I managed a wry smile when I spotted it.
But one reader was so agitated she telephoned our office in Royal Avenue to complain, pointing out — quite correctly, of course — that “the past tense of breed is bred”.
She signed off the call with a few choice words about the education of our journalists which, while well over the top, were difficult to contest at that moment.
Hoping against hope that there might be an antiquated use of the word “breeded” lurking somewhere in the canon of the English language, I consulted the internet.
Perhaps an ancient Anglo-Saxon usage, or a barely remembered Ulster-Scots, or Gaelic, corruption, which could whimsically be cited in a light-hearted attempt at damage limitation?
Alas, there were none.
I stumbled across a site called the-conjugation.com, which helpfully boasts of being the proud possessor of the conjugation records of 6,500 English verbs.
It’s an anorak’s paradise: 16 different tenses of ‘breed’ are given, including, for example, the Present Perfect Progressive/Continuous tense (‘I had been breeding’, since you ask), or the Future Perfect Continuous tense (‘you will have been breeding’).
But wait! Where’s the Pluperfect? Cue memories of first-year Latin — seemingly burned on my brain is the fact that Pluperfect is the fifth of the six Latin tenses.
The memory sends a shiver down my spine. What we reasonably gained by learning Latin, I’ll never understand. Thankfully, it’s now banished from the school curriculum (although it would be a crime against history if Latin were ever to die out completely).
It turns out Pluperfect is the same as Past Perfect, which the-conjugation.com does list for each entry. It is formed, for those of you interested — and I know from the mailbag there are quite a few — by combining the auxiliary verb “had” with the past participle of the main verb, eg “had bred”. Here endeth the grammar lesson.
Facebook beheading videos damage young minds
In spite of its latest move, Facebook is still weasling on beheading videos. All this rubbish about allowing people to post videos of live human decapitations in the right context, or with warnings, is a smokescreen.
People know full well the gory outcome when a masked Mexican cartel member cuts a woman’s head off, as was the case with the video that sparked the outcry.
They don’t need to see it to visualise it. All that does is inflict further suffering on the bereaved.
Neither the Belfast Telegraph nor any other reputable newspaper in these islands would ever knowingly broadcast such videos on their websites.
Regular readers will know I’m as passionate a supporter of freedom of expression as anyone. But how can it be okay to place a voluntary ban on video of a naked breast, or offensive language, but not the decapitation of a live human being? We agree to restrict pornography and also simulated scenes of torture and violence from television before and after the watershed.
These horror shows are repugnant, they damage vulnerable young minds, encourage copycat crimes and are morally indefensible. Facebook, YouTube and all mainstream content providers give a crystal-clear commitment that all decapitation videos will be banned. If they refuse, parents and advertisers should rise up against them.
* BTreaderseditor@gmail.com @BelTelReadersEd
Belfast Telegraph Digital