THE BLOG
11/06/2012 10:32 BST | Updated 11/08/2012 06:12 BST

Does No-One Understand English Nowadays?

Flicking through the online newspapers on Saturday, I was brought up short.

The Independent, which, when first published in 1986, promised no funny business, announced: 'Prince Philip released from hospital.'

My inner pedant shot to the surface. (It's never far away).

Good God. Had the Duke of Edinburgh been in a secure ward? Held at Her Majesty's Pleasure?

The word, surely, is discharged.

Forgive me for being of a pre-comprehensive school sensibility, despite going to a comprehensive myself, but how, exactly, does one get a job as a sub-editor on a quality newspaper without, it seems, fully understanding the English language?

The problem with writing a blog like this is that you come over as a narrow-minded obsessive killjoy.

Be that as it may, but the Duke of Edinburgh had not been detained, never mind arrested. Contracting a bladder infection is not a criminal offence.

Released implies being unleashed; out on parole. A patient can decide to leave hospital in opposition to his doctors' advice, but the medics were not holding the Duke against his will. Given that Prince Philip is (just) 91, and that an infection at an advanced age requiring a hospital stay could, presumably, be as serious as serious can be, then one imagines he was not unwilling to be treated. The alternative may have been a wooden box.

The problem is partly political. The Left appears to think that correct spelling and scrupulous grammar are elitist, that actually being able to do something properly is a sign of money, and therefore privilege, and so should be disowned, disavowed.

Indeed, why teach children from sink estates to read using a system that actually works - i.e. phonics - when there are other, 'progressive' schemes that leave them unable to make sense of The Sun at the age of 11? Clearly, it's a no-brainer. Literally.

There is in fact a scheme called 'look-say', where-in children are encouraged to peer at the 'overall shapes' of words on the page, and in which the alphabet is therefore not terribly important. Thus it's arguably unsurprising that many children begin secondary school at a disadvantage.

Speaking about Sats results for 11 year-olds last year, The Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, said: "A third of children are still struggling in the three-Rs. There has been a decline in the proportion of children - both boys and girls - who can read and write beyond the expected level. And the results of our weakest readers and writers also remain a real concern." And this happened after years of increased spending on education by the Labour government.

The up-shot is that bright kids from state schools are not being given the skills necessary to get on in life, thus entrenching the very inequality Lefties claim to want to eradicate. According to a recent survey by the CBI and Pearson Education, more than four in 10 employers are being forced to provide remedial training in English, maths and IT.

Private schools, meanwhile, as well as teaching grammar and punctuation, are said to imbue their pupils with confidence, and, perhaps, entitlement. As Matthew Parris said in The Times on Saturday, class is still important in Britain. Fewer brain cells can lead to a vastly superior job. Tim Nice But Dim is alive, well and flourishing. Just look at the coalition government.

A few years ago, Rod Liddle produced a witty column almost devoid of punctuation. It was a fluent read. But it was written by a very good writer who knew what he was doing.

For nearly everyone else, using and understanding the rules enables clear expression.

A footballer or a tennis player needs to know the right technique before they can execute a volley correctly.

It's the same with writing. Thus the quality papers need to be setting an example. Mostly, they do. There is lots of good writing in The Independent. I have its app on my phone, and read it almost every day.

The Duke, meanwhile, was typically straightforward as he left King Edward VII Hospital in central London.

Asked whether he was feeling better, he replied: "I wouldn't be coming out otherwise."

It's the kind of no-nonsense attitude we need regarding English too.