Tuesday, June 9, 2009

To the manor born? WRONG.

Left: "Hamlet and Horatio" painting by Delacroix

Here is the most comprehensive list of common errors in English I ever have seen. Some of them are less common than others, though. For instance, "to the manor born." That's incorrect. It's supposed to be "to the manner born" (Not that anyone could tell if you were speaking it, but you should know the correct form if you intend to write it.) From the Web page:

Hamlet complains of the drunken carousing at Elsinore to his friend Horatio, who asks “Is it a custom?” Hamlet replies that it is and adds, “but to my mind,—though I am native here and to the manner born,—it is a custom more honour’d in the breach than the observance.”

“As if to the manner born” is used to praise someone’s skill: “Reginald drives the Maserati as if to the manner born” (as if he were born with that skill).

PBS viewers might be cut a bit of slack in this case, I think, since one of the popular Brit series several years back was titled, "To the Manor Born," a pun on the original phrase. Jolly good series, that was.

Peruse the list and see if you have been torturing the King's English unwittingly. You might be surprised.

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