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Funny English Errors Facebook page celebrates 'Benny Hill' moments in language

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Columnist for The Canberra Times

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From the Funny English Errors Facebook page. Click for more photos

Funny English Errors

From the Funny English Errors Facebook page. 

If your nan is showing an interest in social media then try to steer the dear old thing away from Troy Simpson's fabulously popular Funny English Errors Facebook page.

A shock awaits her there in a photograph of two earnest (but perhaps not very well educated) Americans brandishing placards that scream "Youth In Asia Will Kill Your Grandma."

This is just the kind of blooper (for what the demonstrators really mean is that euthanasia is a menace to grandmas) that Simpson's Facebook page, with 1.3 million followers now, attracts and displays. The Canberran's Funny English Errors is calculated to have Australia's fastest-growing Facebook congregation of followers.

And before we leave grandmas, another entry in Funny English Errors makes the point that a comma can save a life because there's a world of difference between between the cannibalistic "Let's eat grandma" and the fond "Let's eat, grandma."

His page collects and celebrates the funny English language mistakes we read, hear and say. These mistakes are universally loved by both hawk-eyed humourless pedants (the bane of this reporter's profession) and by the fun-loving.

Simpson says that he can remember at school having a fondness for famous books of collections of schoolboy howlers. Then, some years ago he found himself working to help members of the legal profession overcome the howler-studded language of "lawyerspeak" (he remembers with fondness one lawyer's "the plaintiff inflicted this self-inflicted wound on his own body"). And so his fondness for the genre has never left him and has grown and grown. He has published collections of bloopers and language oddities and has others in mind.

One of the joys of the Facebook page is that there is a warm kindliness about it. Lots of English language pedants scavenge for and point out others' blunders with a steely, ugly, "Gotcha!" triumphalism. But Funny English Errors doesn't do that. Simpson was pleased I'd noticed that because he says that what he's about is laughing at and feeling fond about the lovable "foibles of the English language" rather than the foibles of the well-meaning souls who make harmless mistakes when they use it.

And so it comes to pass, he reports, that a vast amount of the page's teeming traffic is from people of India and Pakistan and the Philippines who are taking a keen interest in English and its foibles because it's a language they're learning and enjoying and playing with. They're using Funny English Errors for fun and education.

"There are a billion people in the world trying to improve their English and a lot of the page's readers like it because it's a fun way to improve. For example one way to improve is to learn to understand a joke, a funny thing on the page. And so, using the items on the page, they can see it's meant to be humorous and they ask 'Why is this funny?' and they correspond with others visiting the page."

Some of us would blush to have to explain some of the meant-to-be-funny things on the sometimes rather rude page. It is all sometimes a little Benny Hillish. So for example, there's the sign outside the Northampton (UK) General Hospital advising "Family Planning Advice - Use Rear Entrance." And we'd rather not have to further explain what's funny about the supermarket display of pantie liners with their accompanying sign "Spoil Dad This Fathers' Day" or the sign outside a cafe inviting everyone to "Come In And Try Grandad's Sausage."

Not that, in spite of an excess of sausage references, Funny English Errors is unsophisticated throughout.

So for example there is the probably bogan-bewildering and even average-undergraduate-perplexing T-shirt that seethes "The Misuse Of The Word 'Literally' Makes Me Figuratively Insane." Simpson, who for all his page's forgiving tone owns up to a little teeth-gnashing over some misuses of English, owns up to a deep approval of that T-shirt's sentiment. So does this reporter, remembering hearing people report, one hopes incorrectly, how "I was literally shitting myself!" during tense moments of the recent Empire circus in the Spiegeltent.

Even though this left me (only figuratively) beside myself, I didn't interject to pick any of the offenders up on their misuse of the word. Silent (but censorious) disapproval is the way to go, and on the Funny English Errors Facebook you'll even find a T-shirt in that spirit. It proclaims to those in conversation with the wearer "I'm silently correcting your grammar."

5 comments so far

  • A funny page and great books Mr Simpson.

    Commenter
    Catherine
    Date and time
    January 20, 2014, 2:23PM
    • So "hawk-eyed humourless pedants" are "the bane" of your profession. It amuses me how journalists take exception when their spelling or grammatical errors are pointed out to them. That's a bit like a doctor being upset because he is caught out using forceps instead of a thermometer. If you choose to be a journalist, then words are your stock in trade. Learn to use them correctly and take pride in your work.

      Commenter
      Ken
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 2:34PM
      • Add to that journos who think that being called out for blatant factual errors in their articles counts as trolling.

        Commenter
        Markus
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        January 20, 2014, 4:05PM
    • The youth in Asia gag is in fact a Benny Hill line!

      Commenter
      Theo
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 3:40PM
      • What!? No Ruddisms? LOL!

        My favourite Benny Hill moment? Jubilant Delinquents!

        I'd like to see a book on all sports commentators but especially the channel 9 cricket "commentators" and their use of such gems as "revert back", "continue on", "basic fundamentals" and so on.

        Commenter
        GeorgeVII
        Date and time
        January 20, 2014, 9:16PM

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