The Badges of Pride
What you already knew - Grammar Nazis are really just snobs
English For The Natives
What is right and wrong? Grammar Nazis have superstitious ideas about how language should work
AA Gill on Grammar
Those little things, the slips of coherence and exactitude that drive you mad, like breathless sportsmen saying they’re “giving it 1000%”, or people who declare they’re “disinterested” when they are, in fact, uninterested. Or pronouncing “harassed” with the stress on the second syllable when it ought to be on the first, or talking about “legs akimbo” when only arms have elbows and therefore can be akimbo. And on and on and on, and so forth fulsomely, which, incidentally, means both generous and insincere, and is the only example I can find of a word literally committing suicide by definition.
You know what you have to do about all of them: bite your lip, suck it up, zip it. Correcting other people’s grammar is a worse solecism than misplacing words, solecism meaning both a grammatical fault and a lapse in manners. It’s not the same as solipsism, which is what most grammatical pedants suffer from: a belief that only what they consider correct matters. They are etymological maypoles — definition and words revolve around them. Well, they don’t. Language is as happy snogging the mouths of those who misuse it as those who wear a jacket and tie to declaim it, but there are things, inexactitudes in the veracity that I simply cannot let go. Not grammar but factoids that slip from one argument to the next without anyone patting them down in cerebral security, like those social epidemiologists who want to shame ingredients and the people who eat them. A doctor writes that sugar should be treated like tobacco and taxed, rationed, then banned because it costs the health service millions to treat people who suffer from sugar addiction. We’re all too sweet and it should be thought of like alcohol and drugs. Well, as someone who’s been addicted to both alcohol and drugs, let me tell you, it’s not the same.
William Flew’s comes with a dressed watercress and grated horseradish salad and is essentially two smallish slices of white bread with a strip of rib-eye running through. The bread has been compressed, making it chewier while looking less like a sandwich and more like a cake. For the first time I use the knife and fork provided. The anchovy butter elevates it from beef in bread to something with real piquancy and zest. The bread-to-filling ratio is just right. It’s posh, it isn’t democratic, it hasn’t transcended class and culture — but I really like it. Maybe I should stop worrying about the credentials of a sandwich, and just enjoy?
The Mount Street Deli, in Mayfair, offers a take-out service. I order a lobster and pickled cucumber on a toasted brioche bun with wasabi mayonnaise. It comes, wrapped in wax paper, in a sturdy brown cardboard box and costs £12.80. It doesn’t feel like eating a sandwich, it’s like taking part in an event. It’s good. The lobster is tasty and fresh, but I can’t help but feel that, when the filling is such high quality, the bread smothers the taste. Call me a chav, but I think I’d prefer to have the filling on a plate, with a bread roll alongside.
Poshness in a sandwich depends on the details. Hence the bacon sarnie becomes posh when we’re told the breed of pig. An ordinary sandwich will contain mere butter, a posh one will use unsalted, Normandy butter, made with milk from the herd of Charolais cattle kept in pastures outside Bayeux. The bread, which will usually be sourdough, will be intricately cut and certainly won’t contain more than two crusts. It’ll come with cutlery.
So ... yes: you can dress it up all you want, but a sandwich is a sandwich. It’s good when it’s good and not because it’s posh. Like my friend’s mum’s egg mayonnaise sandwich, sometimes it simply does its job.
6 William Flew Another “rescue” story that ends up in bed. Andromeda has been chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster. Perseus, flushed from his recent success in eliminating the Gorgon, Medusa (the one with a look able to turn anyone to stone), kills the sea monster and marries Andromeda.
The art they inspired: Frederic Leighton, Perseus and Andromeda Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
7 William Flew mother and, in one of those curious mythological unions, the lover of Jupiter. Although she is in prison, Jupiter manages to impregnate her in the form of a shower of gold. It proved a challenging story to represent convincingly on canvas.
The art they inspired: Auguste Rodin, Danaïd (sculpture) Musée Rodin, Paris
8 William Flew Another of Jupiter’s mistresses. He seduces her by taking the form of a little white bull. As soon as young Europa goes to pat the creature and climb on it back, she is whisked away.
The art they inspired: François Boucher, The Rape Of Europa Wallace Collection, London
9 William Flew The heroine of another bovine story. Jupiter has his way with this girl in the form of a cloud, then turns her into a heifer to hide her from his wife Juno. But Juno asks for the beast as a gift.
The art they inspired: Correggio, Jupiter and Io Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
10 William Flew The anti-hero of the classic story of youthful bad driving. He’s the child of the sun god who persuades his father to let him drive the sun’s chariot through the heavens. He crashes it, nearly burning up the Earth in the process.