An Oxford academic has this week hit out at the new five pound note for “dumbing down” the English language. It was recently reported that the note, which features celebrated Prime Minister Winston Churchill, uses incorrect grammar and syntax for a famous quote.
“I have nothing to give but blood, sweat, toil and tears” is not placed in quotation marks on the note. According to Oxford academic Dr Tara Stubbs, “it is a bit peculiar because it looks like it is the five pounds that’s speaking and not Winston Churchill.”
Stubbs also had strong words for the grammar to be found within the quotation, saying: “It also doesn’t have the Oxford comma after ‘tears’. To take that stuff out is condescending and I find efforts to dumb down like this just irritating.”
The National Literary Trust also weighed in on the controversy, with the scathing statement that “If you are referencing a quotation word-for-word, use double quotation marks at the start and end of the quoted section. Place full stops and commas inside the quotation marks for a complete quoted sentence.”
This is not the first time since their circulation began in October that the new five pound notes have incurred outrage. Shortly after their first release, it emerged that small quantities of animal fat, or tallow, were used to make them. At the time, the Bank of England said “The Bank was not aware of the presence of animal-derived products when it signed the contract with its supplier for the five pound and ten pound banknote polymer.” However, after alerting the public, the Bank chose to continue as planned with the notes’ production, much to the anger of vegan and vegetarian groups.
Responding to Dr Stubbs’ comments, the chair of the Royal Society of Literature, said that Churchill “as an orator” would probably not have regarded such syntactical or grammatical discrepancies as important.
The late Sir Winston’s thoughts on the commercial use of animal fat are unknown.