Bad grammar heard upstairs


In the second season of the British TV series Upstairs Downstairs, which aired in the early ’70s, a little gem of a conversation took place between Edward, the footman, and Mr. Hudson, the butler, downstairs at 165 Eaton Place in London’s Belgravia at the turn of the 20th century.

Edward is telling Hudson about something surprising that he overheard while upstairs serving lunch to Lady Bellamy and her son James:

Edward: “By the way, Mr. Hudson: I noticed at lunch, while I was handing Captain James his potatoes, that he said to His Ladyship, er: ‘I tried to really save money, mother.’ Well, according to that book on grammar you give me, that’s a split infinitive isn’t it? I mean, surely for an Old Etonian he’s not very well educated. I thought they were supposed to talk proper.”

Mr. Hudson: “You’re quite correct in saying that Mr. James split an infinitive over luncheon, Edward: I noticed it myself. But don’t speak too lightly of the Old Etonians or underestimate their importance. Apart from providing this country with a number of prime ministers and colonial governors, we must never forget that they won the FA Cup in 1879. Get away with you now.”

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