This is for the grammar nerds amongst us; the rest can comfortably hit delete now.
Hopefully (ie, it is hoped) you watched this week's American Idol for a live example. If so, you would have heard when Simon Cowell said "The band were good..."
Very shortly after moving here I heard this construction, incorrect in the American vernacular, which I, rightly or not, call the 'collective plural'. I watched AI with a Dutch and an American friend (since no British people live in London) and Simon's comment triggered a discussion about this topic.
In America, we would say "The band was good", and here they say "The band were good." Garret (American) took it as a cultural grammatical difference, Lottie (Dutch) considered it just incorrect. I pointed out that they say it like that on the BBC and, therefore, it's correct (everyone agreed).
But the conversation got interesting (to those of our ilk) when I counterpointed their grammatical arguments with my thoughts on it. When I first heard a comment along the lines of "The team were on form tonight" or somesuch, my thought didn't wander immediately to the grammar. I thought "Oh, in America, when we refer to the team, we think of the unit. Here, they think of the individuals that make up the team." Different perspective.
And then I quietly went along, slowly and unconsciously adapting the collective plural, until the conversation came up tonight. Lottie and Garret had never thought of it in the same light as I had. So is it a grammatical difference, or a social/perspective difference? If the latter, there might be a PhD topic there.
Would love to hear thoughts from the aforementioned grammar nerds out there.
Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
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