Tuesday, March 10, 2009

For Ettarose: she shares this pet peeve, too


Right here at the very beginning of this little post, let me confess that I don't pay enough attention to my grammar, spelling, and proper word usage. I don't proofread my posts as thoroughly as I do other writings. It isn't that I don't respect you, it's just that... well, I'm not sure. :) Anyway, this post is not meant to be all high and mighty by any means. Having said that, though, there are a few things that bother me as I travel around the blogsphere, and what better place to unload my frustrations than right here? I say "frustrated" because these things are so simple. The frustrations stem from three areas:

1. Using the right word
2. Spelling that right word
3. Using Apostrophes

(I'm not going to talk about other punctuation, or where quotation marks are supposed to be put, because the Americans and the British do it differently.) And I am not really talking about this blog or the comments to this blog because, frankly, I can't remember it happening here; for some reason I seem to attract an educated audience - more so than myself, so this is not for you. I simply hope that you will, because you also travel around the blogosphere as I do, nod your heads along with me. Then I hope you will add some examples to my too short list, in your comments.

Then we will throw a party and feel all superior together. I may even reopen the pub Friday night for that purpose. Here goes the short list. (It is short because I want to leave room for your own examples. Plus, you all know by now how lazy I am. Plus you also know how much I hate to write long posts.)

1. There are many examples of misused homonyms, but let's use "to, too and two."

I went "to" bed. I went to bed "too." I have "two" beds. I have two beds, "too." I have to go now, to be in one of my two beds. You have to go to bed in one of your two beds, too.

See how easy that was? Won't you comment on your own pet-peeve misused homonym?
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2. There, their, they're. And apostrophes.

Why is the use of apostrophes so difficult for people, people? Why did so many children stay home sick the day the English teacher covered apostrophes? Judging from my travels around the blogosphere, I am not alone in my loathing of misused apostrophes.

In thinking back through my foggy memory, I can recall only two uses for apostrophes: to show possession and to indicate missing letters in contractions. I'm not talking about the single marks you use for quotations within quotations. Those aren't apostrophes.

Possession:

The ball is hers. The balls are theirs. (I realize we are approaching another area of difference between American and British usage, as to when to use singular or plural verbs, but that is not my point here.)

If the thing that is owned is owned by one person, then use 's. If it is owned jointly by two or more people, then use s'. Jimmy's ball. Trees' leaves. So easy. Well, most of the time. How about children's and childrens'? Who can tell me? Anyone? Anyone? Heh.

Actually, this can be quite entertaining. At least it can if your mind works like mine and Soubriquet's. For example, where would you put the apostrophe in "Farmers Market"? (Actually, I think I read this one on Sage's blog a long time ago, not Soubriquet's. But he will enjoy the little mental swordfight anyway.)

"Farmer's Market?" "Farmers' Market?" Depends on whether one farmer owns the market, or whether seven farmers own the market. Me? I say neither one. The market could be owned by a city slicker who owns the vacant lot the event is held on. In that case, the sign over the entrance should simply read, "Farmers Market" - no apostrophe at all. Meaning several farmers are selling here, but they don't own it.

Onward and upward.
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2b. The other occasion to use apostrophes: contractions.

There, their and they're. DO NOT be afraid here. DON'T be afraid here.

They are going over there. They're going over there. Their dog is going over there where they're. Heh. Forget that last one.

And while I am at it, may I briefly mention "your" and "you're?" Good god almighty, people! This isn't rocket science here! (Just in case Stephanie reads this.)

You are running fast. You're running fast. Your car. The car is yours. "You're" means "you are." Your means it belongs to you. Your horse. Not "your going to dinner." Please.

And "lose" and "loose." Ah, well. I will leave that one for youse to deal with.
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3. "Was" and "were." I save the easiest for last.

"Was" is singular, and "were" is plural.

But "were" is also theoretical, and "you" has only become singular in the last couple hundred years. By that last statement, I mean "you" used to only mean plural, and was used only to refer to several people. When you wanted to mean just one person, you used to just say "thou." Not so today, of course. Now you say "you" in either situation, plural OR singular. And that's the rub: "you" singular has kept the same verb as "you" plural. And so you say, "You WERE there last night," not, "You WAS there last night." Just as if you were talking to two people instead of just one.

"Were" is used when the sentence is theoretical? Sure. That means if you see the word "if" nearby, it is a sure sign you will be using "were" pretty soon and not "was." Sometimes "was" is used incorrectly because it often "sounds right," but it never is. I screw this up a lot myself. But...

"If I were you." Not, "If I was you." I'm not you. I never will be you. It is only theoretical. Use "were."

"If George Bush WERE to come back, I would scream!" Theoretical. "Were," not "was" - because his presence is theoretical, not actual. Again, note the word "if" in the sentence, and use that word as your cue.

"George Bush WAS here last night. The vapors remain!" Use "was" IF he truly WERE here last night.

Okay. You've got it. You've always had it. I'm leaving now. Otherwise this would be another long post.

What are your favorite words and usages you see in the blogosphere that make you growl? Tell me in your comments.
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The following is for Ettarose for not bothering to comment on a post that even has her name in the title:

25 comments:

frostygirl said...

I will expand on lose and loose, because I see them used incorrectly frequently.

Lose is when you have lost something i.e. Do not lose the train of thought you are on.

Loose is used when you want to indicate that something like a shoelace for instance is not tied i.e. my shoelaces are loose.

So many people use the word loose when they should have used the word lose.

Lidian said...

Norman really ought to read this, you know. I agree with all of your examples, and with Frostygirl's example as well (the loose/lose thing makes me, well, lose it, so to speak).

I particularly dislike it when "less' and "fewer" are misused. Less would refer to a quantity that cannot be individually counted, such as (grains of) sand; fewer is used for something that can be counted. I have fewer Bic pens than I did yesterday (the cats must have taken them) - not "less Bic pens" (ugh).

There is, however, less road salt on the floor (that's a good thing!).

I recommend the book "Eats Shoots and Leaves" for more of this sort of thing.

CH!CA said...

I passed English with flying colors, but tend to not follow the rules, and type like I talk. Very informative post though. Everyone should read it!

*bites you*

Sue said...

I feel somewhat responsible for that bite.

I plan to pass this informative post along to my teenagers. Although probably in several parts. I fear their eyes may glaze over in boredom if they have to read the whole thing.

The your and you're thing drive me crazy too.

Relax Max said...

@Frostygirl - Thank you for that. I would have botched it up if I had tried. You know what a looser I am. I would have been ranting about unsecured cannon rolling all over the deck, or barking about the dogs of war or something else no one would have cared about. Your explanation was much more understandable. Take care. (Hang lose. :)

@Lidian - Actually it is even worse than the picture indicates. The dork's name is really Jimmy, not Norman. How could one make such a mistake with their own name? Um... "his" own name, I mean. I'm old school - not much on mixing numbers either, just for pc purposes, and if the dork's name were Sally, I still would have said "his". But I stray off subject, no? ("Digress" is so over-used nowadays, don't you think?) I didn't know the rule about lesser and fewer. Oh, I know - a smarter blogger would have simply said, "I also agree with you about the misuse of lesser and fewer." But why lie? You wouldn't have been fooled. You know I really AM stupid, that it isn't an act. Add that to "unafraid of humiliation" and, there you go. Bob's your uncle. Relax Max in the flesh. Take him or leave him. Yo. I forgot what we were talking about. Ah, yes. Something about shooting salt on the floor before you leave. I'll have to give that a shot. Har!

@Chica - Yes, I know. And you are one of the smartest women I know. I always tell you that and you always get all Lady Sarcastic with me. I have never quite understood that. But you are. But Farvel Cargo is where you are supposed to bite me, not here. The house of the newly manified Sue.

Is it just me or is this blog beginning to drift off point? I just don't know. A. is off somewhere and can't be here to guide me, and Catherine won't be caught dead on this blog anymore. So, unleashed, as it were, I drift dangerously close to the edge.

Floo Z. said...

Maxie, you are many things. But stupid is not one of them. What are you up to now and who are you trying to suck in, then, luv?

Relax Max said...

@Sue - Sorry I just missed you before. "Glaze over in boredom." Can't ask for more than that.

Thank you for stopping by and making such a non-girly comment. Hey, it wasn't intended to be this long. I swear. I was only going to make a little numeric list of things I read that I didn't cotton to, and it just seemed to keep coming and coming. It was mainly involuntary.

But since I am here, and there are letter keys under my fingers, why stop here?

ADDENDUM:

1. I am fed up with Americans who don't bother to put "ly" on the end of their adverbs! Every single American on earth except me does that!

2. I hate people who always seem to get "impacted" instead of "affected!" What the heck ever happened to "affected?" Why is is now better to be smacked on the side of the head with something or other?

3. And I don't like people who "advocate" for something. Advocate isn't a verb! Or at least it didn't used to be. Holy Macaroni! But it probably WILL show up as a verb in the next version of the dictionary you guys subvert! Arrrrrghhhh!!!

Sorry. Thank you Sue. That wasn't meant for you. I was only using your comment comment space.

A. said...

There is a point to this blog? Where? Never mind that, you missed me!

I agree with all examples so far, even, heaven help me, Vicar Ezra.

I see you, and raise you "could of" instead of "could have"; i.e. (that is) instead of e.g. (for example); definately instead of definitely.

That will do for the present. I could write a comment as long as your original post, given half a chance - the result of an over-rigorous English grammar teacher.

Oh yes, and "different to" instead of "different from". I can be soooo pedantic.

A. said...

And "who's" instead of "whose".

I'll stop now.

soubriquet said...

"I could care less" -mostly an american usage, in pace of "I couldn't care less".

"Different to", as opposed to "different from", but (grrr..) I keep hearing "different THAN"!

I could go on for pages. Hours.
But I won't.
Succinct?

soubriquet said...

Draw... instead of drawer.
People who think "Mirror" has one syllable, and pronounce it "meer". Even worse are the people who say "Mirrow"

Debbie said...

I'm sorry, you wrote something about apostrophe's and I got lost in Revelations until I realized that was apocalypse. Maybe I better start reading this over.....

Da Old Man said...

The non word "alot" drives me crazy, but the one thing that makes me absolutely insane is when someone uses various forms of the slang, former non word, conversate.
"We were conversating, we conversated," either one reeks of ignorance. And it's funny because I know the writer is trying to make the post more interesting by trying to use a multisyllabic word, but oy vey. At least use a real word.

Janet said...

Wildly applauding over here. When I first taught English 101 I was completely appalled at the essays I was gettting. In subsequent courses, the first couple of days of class focused strictly on grammar, specifically all the things you and others have mentioned. Also whether and weather. Many of the students had never learned the difference.

Recently the Mountain Man came home from a meeting having heard someone use the word "incentivize." I'm still cringing.

A few months back we saw a sign on a gas pump: "Please pay in advance. We apologize for any incontinence."

And finally, this is something I see on a lot of blogs.
Whining spelled whinging. I keep wanting to ask if this is a new blog term, but I'm afraid that it's just ignorance and I will insult someone. Thank you for allowing me to "whing" about it here.

Relax Max said...

@Janet - Thank you so much for your input. I was surprised at the wide response this little post induced. I am apparently not alone in my teeth-grinding. :)

I would want to let you know, however, that "Whinge" is a British expression, which is also not unknown in Canada - I think perhaps of Irish origin, now that I think of it. But used in the UK. It means pretty much the same thing as when we say "whine." - As in "Stop your whingeing. Just get on with it!" So you might check the blogger's country to see if he is ::horrors!:: British. :)

Thanks again for your examples and support. Hope things are going well for you.

Relax Max said...

@Floo Z. - I'm not quite schizoid enough to answer myself. Not yet. But I guess I just did.

@A. - Of course I missed you. I am lost without constant guidance. And of course there is a point to this blog: to keep the puppeteer happy. :) I am sorry now that I deleted the vicar's comment. It was just a bit too double schizoid even for the puppeteer. But touche, I guess.

I always thought "could of" came from the contraction "could've", but if you write it, then there is no excuse. Thank you for your examples. Perhaps we should make a comprehensive list and post it. No, YOU make a comprehensive list and post it. :)

Relax Max said...

@Soubriquet - There is nothing wrong with "draw". I like to draw. I am a pretty good drawer, as a matter of fact. Har.

"I could care less is, I think, mostly used in the environs of the New York island, so don't lay the blame on regular Americans. They also stand "on" line up there rather than stand "in" line like the rest of us. At least we don't queue up. So there's that. :)

Thank you for not going on for pages/hours. Succinct? Sure. Not bad, anyway. Better'n I.

Mirrow is the Chinese pronunciation, so don't be intolerant. Not to be confused with miwwow. Which is the Barbara Wawa proununciation...

You made a very good comment today. And I thank you for it. Take care.

Relax Max said...

@ The Always Mesmerizing Debbie - It is just fine to combine as many posts as you want - just so you comment. The Pale Horse was not meant for you, Lady Godiva, nor was the treatise on apostrophes/apocalypsi. You could teach us all how to apostrophe our way out of a wet paper bag any day of the week, and the little dog is smart enough to know it.

I only know you are back, and it makes my tail wag 19 to the dozen. :)

Relax Max said...

@Da Old Man - Thank you for stopping by. I also find "combined" words irritating. But I sometimes find it hard myself, so I guess I am not one totalk. :)

And don't get me started on hyphenated words. My friend Soubriquet is the authority on those, as far as I am concerned.

Some time? Sometime? I'm pretty sure there is a place for both. Don't know for sure.

Alright? All right? My 8th grade English teacher told me it was two words. And so it shall be with me.

A while? Awhile?

Arrrrgh!

Thanks again for your input! I hope we see you again.

ettarose said...

Well, all right then! It will be hard to talk with my lips around your ass, so I will type this instead. Never mind the fact that I have been under the weather and every muscle I have is cramping like a menstruating teenager, and my feet are like walking on watermelons, and my blood pressure is SKY HIGH, I should have woke myself up long enough to come over here and KICK YOUR ASS! There are a lot of words that are misused but one in particular is "irregardless" Sorry wrong, not happening and quit saying or using it. Happy?

Relax Max said...

"Irregardless" ? All that crap and that is all you can come up with? Bite me, Ettarose. Take your muscle aches and high blood pressure and drag your ass back into the woods. :)

Janet said...

Well, it's a relief to know that whinge is a legitimate British term. Of course, NONE of the people I've seen using it are actually British. . .

Angelika said...

I were very interested in you're post about badly grammar and punctuation.

I don't suffer from that so much as typing faster than my brain thinks.

Nodamene?

Relax Max said...

@Angelika - Yeah. Nojuhmene. Where have you been?

On the blackboard a hundred years ago, when we'd just come back from lunch break in high school, put there by our speech teacher (as in "learn how to give speeches in public class"), phrases he claimed he had just heard in the hallway on the way to the cafeteria:

"Jeetchit?"

"NoJew?"

Perhaps.

But English is funny. For example, how would you ("could" you?) spell the word fish?

Alternate spelling of "fish" in English:

ghoti

gh as in "cough"
o as in "women"
ti as in "nation"

fish.

Never mind. :)

Angelika said...

I thought I toejew I wuz readin'?

I totally have to tell Evan how to spell ghoti.

Just to see the look on his face.

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