Thursday, August 16, 2007

Its all good & well irregardless of who your talking to

Admission: I'm a bit of a grammar snob. I get a kick out of the English language with all of its rules and exceptions to the rule. I don't always get my own grammar shined to perfection but I still enjoy editing (in my head) when others are speaking. Here are a few of my favorite errors.

Good and Well
I had a friend who was disgusted whenever someone answered the question, "How are you doing?" with the reply, "good." He'd say "nuns and priests do good." In other words good is not an adverb so it can't describe how you are doing. The correct response is that you are doing "well."

Adding prefixes and suffixes
People, intelligent people, say "irregardless" all the time. Well, I hate to say it (actually I LOVE to say it), but that isn't a proper word! What people really mean is simply "regardless."
Irregardless is considered nonstandard because of the two negative elements ir- and -less. It was probably formed on the analogy of such words as irrespective, irrelevant, and irreparable. Those who use it, including on occasion educated speakers, may do so from a desire to add emphasis. Irregardless first appeared in the early 20th century and was perhaps popularized by its use in a comic radio program of the 1930s. My friends (Tom, Charlotte, Phil, Tracey) and I came up with the ultimate word for this category: disirregardlessliness.

Who v. Whom
If the person about whom you are speaking is receiving the action it is "whom" if the person is performing the action it is "who." This is so old-school that hardly anyone uses "whom" anymore. It is like the young women at church Sunday who read a scripture that said, "ought ye not..." It drove them nuts! They kept saying, "ought not, ought not? What does that even mean?" That is probably how most people feel about whom but I still think it is useful.

Its, it's, your, you're, to, two, too, there, they're, their, etc.
Just get these correct, please! You can't rely on spell check for everything!

Prepositional phrases
Hardly anyone uses these correctly anymore. These are probably in the "ought not" category. Strictly speaking (or when speaking strictly), a sentence should never end with a preposition (to, from, about, etc.).

Strange phrases (popular in Utah)
"Is what it is, is"
"Might could"
Need I say more? Unfortunately I might could but is what it is, is that I just can't stomach it!

Passive voice
This comes from years of writing essays and papers in history courses. No passive passages allowed! Now it simply drives me nuts to hear people speak passively. The one that really gets me is when people pray that we "might" do this and we "might" do that and that we "might" be blessed with this and that. It is so passive and if there is a time for action, I think it is in our prayers. I hate to admit it but sometimes I'll whisper in my head, "he means bless us that we WILL do this and we WILL do that and that we WILL be blessed with this and that."

And that, friends, is when you know you've gone too far as a grammar snob. Correcting people's grammar during prayers is just too much!

(feel free to edit any errors in this post) :)

6 response(s):

Cramster said...

The only reason I find humor in your entry is because my hub is a slight grammar snob. I blame it on all the sentence diagramming classes he had to take for his major. His favorite is the correct use of less vs. fewer.

Use fewer when referring to something that cannot be divided - people, parking spaces, items in a checkout line, etc.

Use less when referring to something that can be divided into less than one - money, temperature, gallons of gas, etc.

But I'm sure you already knew that!!! I mean new it! :)

Jodi said...

I am an English major and I detest grammar and usage. I know-it seems disrespectful and irrevrent. Personally I think it is just a bit of laziness on my part. I break out in hives if I have to diagram a sentence. I did take from my grammar and usage class a love for a book by Bill Bryson called Mother Tongue. It even has a section dedicated to Dixie dilect (Southern Utah). You may have heard a person from Utah say fark rather than fork or carn rather than corn. It made me appreciate that some of our bad grammar is infact our dialect, if we were living in more ancient times it would be a crucial element in helping others identify our origin.

Cramster said...

Are you trying to be Professor Henry Higgins, Jodi? I think I can see from your post that you are from Idaho... the southeastern corner... I am not sure how precise I can get... :)

Layne said...

I copy-edit magazines and books (not as a career, but as a disgusting hobby), and I once called the Wicander cork flooring people to bring to their attention an error (if memory serves, it was one of those its/it's ones) in one of their magazine ads, and to flog them about the disservice it did to their reputation.

Professor Higgins said...

I have always loved that movie!

Kathy said...

I'm glad to know I'm not the only grammar geek in the world! I agree with most of what you say, although the preposition thing doesn't really bother me (sometimes it's just too darn hard to avoid). If I may, I would like to add my own pet peeve to your list, namely the apparent inability of many to write in complete sentences! I even find myself falling prey to it from time to time. Email and IM are killing the American language! (But, I find I can't live without it anymore...)