The Liza Doolittle Syndrome

a brickbat aimed at the high achievers of our society

Michael Wallerstein

The Liza Doolittle Syndrome was first remarked by George Bernard Shaw in Pygmalion, where Liza Doolittle, a common street flower-seller, is given by Dr Higgins, a Professor of Phonetics, an education in the correct pronunciation of English. What he fails to do is to correct her grammar and vocabulary, so that she arrives at speaking with a superior accent whilst retaining her Cockney lexis and syntax.
      What has happened in our society is that many people now in positions of authority—MPs, lawyers, senior bureaucrats, bank managers, academics—are akin to Liza Doolittle, without having benefitted from the attentions of a Professor Higgins.
      Michael Wallerstein first noticed this modern mutation in Dear Mr Howard. He now treats this set of characteristic contemporary illiteracies and solecisms in a more systematic manner, by grammatical category. If this slim volume causes resentment in some quarters, it will have achieved its object; but Mr Wallerstein will not be answered, because his patients will not understand him. Ordinarily educated readers will, and will find this little book as funny as it is alarming. The subject is the decay of a whole language.

The Liza Doolittle Syndrome
1 The commonest Doolittle-isms
2 The use of like as a conjunction
3 Failure of the negative / the partitive / the distributive
4 Failure of sequence with auxiliary verbs
5 Confusion of either . . . or with between . . . and
6 Failure of subjunctive mood
7 Muliplication of "ve" / "of"
8 Muliplication of "as"
9 Intrusive "to"
10 "With" before present participle
11 Deletion of preposition with go and place
12 Absorptive "that"
13 The fear phenomenon
14 Deletion of preposition in clause-final position
15 Failure to see syntax as meaning-related
16 Deletion of "t" between vowels
17 Deletion of "g" in "-ing" forms
18 Intrusive "r"
19 Spelling pronunciations
20 False Latinisms
21 False Gallicisms 22 Misunderstood sayings, proverbs, idioms and words
23 Striving for gentility and status
24 The use of grand-seeming words
25 "Classy" pronunciations
26 Dangling adverbs
27 Mass versus count
28 Punctuation
29 The past tenses
30 The future tense

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