So youíre bored of grammar, are you? Clearly yes, or youíd say bored with. Tired of, but bored with, not the other way about. Donít ask me why, but those are the rules for these particular words.
Not that such rules are always observed these days, even in the land that gave rise to them. The correct use of prepositions, words such as with or to or about, is one of the trickiest elements of English, and plenty of todayís Britons neither practise it nor care about it.
Not just ordinary folk either: the once-literate daily paper that I read often prints such grammatical errors as bored of. It recently told readers that in 1901 it had credited Queen Victoria for re-establishing a successful monarchy. It meant with: you can give people credit for something theyíve done, but you credit them with it.
Errors? Iím hardly a purist, yet I still think thatís what they are. But I donít doubt that within 30 years such things will be a matter of choice, and those who insist that one preposition is right and the other wrong will be seen as elderly pedants stuck in the past.
Thatís a pity, because exactitude with prepositions is a mark of truly idiomatic English. Itís not easy. Tiny differences call for different words. Thereís a minute distinction between being bored with your brother and (equally possible) getting bored by him and his unfunny jokes. You may be (or get) tired of walking to work, in general; yet tired by the long walk you took yesterday, in particular. Or worried about your health, yet worried by the rash that has just appeared on your face.
Iím ashamed of my past follies, but would be shamed (or put to shame) by your revelation of them. Iím sorry for what I did, but sorry about some unconnected misfortune of yours. I can be happy with some choice of yours, happy at the result and happy for you because it went well. You can talk to your brother or talk with him (especially in America; in Britain that tends to imply a discussion of some defined, significant matter). Or indeed talk at him, if you barely let him get a word in.
Or take this exchange: ďLetís fly to Delhi tomorrow, is that OK for you? ó (hinting at some practical problem, maybe that you hate flying or canít be ready so soon). ďNo problem.Ē ďSo itís OK with you, then?Ē ďYes, OK by me.Ē OK for; with; and by: each word, and only that one, is correct in its place.
Usage, of course, alters. Lewis Carrollís walrus told the carpenter that the time has come to talk of many things. Today weíd usually say talk about, though of, albeit old-fashioned, is not yet dead ó and you can just as well give a talk on grammar as one about it.
And there are many sheer curiosities. Either in or at the centre of a town, say, but always in the middle. Things happen in a city or large town, but at a small one or village (unless you live nearby); between those extremes, geographical proximity rules, not the English language. When you go over or across a road or river that means from one side to the other; yet over or across a bridge means from end to end. Beat that for oddity.
So far, so be it: logic has no great place in English. But habit has, and I hate to read in some paper that the secret to (say) living longer is eating less, when it should be the secret of. Sports writers love this sort of stuff. My favourite football club is Arsenal. Yet I can endure to read of Arsenalís loss to Chelsea or at Chelsea (that is, at that clubís ground) or defeat by Chelsea. But I spit blood to learn of our defeat to Chelsea; or even our victory to Chelsea ó yes, Iíve seen even that, though it canít have been recently ó rather than over.
Britainís press has a lot to answer for. And as for the BBC... Or as to.