Category Archives: Stylistic Issues

Epic Grammar Feud

Wow.  I just discovered an intense feud over grammar between members of the “Good Grammar Is Hot” group on Facebook.

It started with the posting of this picture:

As you can guess, it got a lot of jeers from the members of the group.

Well, it didn’t end there.

Davin joined the conversation.  You can read the whole thing here if you’re on Facebook, but if you’re not, here are some of the highlights:

From Davin:

just because i dont feel as if i need to use perfect grammar in a facebook status u people decide to roast me wow you guys seriously are a bunch of uptight fags but if it makes u feel any better imma english major with perfect grades i just chose to perfect english for class and would rather use slang and or inappropriate use of terms for more social occasions like facebook oh yeah Imma so stab you in your fucking face with a spork for posting this shit u know that right and yes bitches i used u instead of you so bite me on my caramel colored ass

From Luke:

Is there such a thing as a descriptionary? If so I would very much like to get my hands on one, if not it’s a fantastic idea that someone should make millions out of it and give me a copy for my birthday :)

A few quick notes for the angry Davin:

1) The only difference between American English and British English is a few spelling differences, the grammatical structures are identical, otherwise they’d be different languages rather than dialects. The reason we internationals perceive you as speaking (or typing in this case) incorrectly is because you are.

2) Confusing “there’s” for “theirs” and other similar errors are not “slang” as you called it. Colloquialisms are quite different to spelling errors, although one could argue that spellings like “ur” for “you’re” could be counted as textual slang.

3) Gay (or fag in this case) is not a synonym for stupid (or any other derogative term).

4) I get laid regularly, and I still think you’re a dick.

From Davin:

Honestly, thats not my real communication mode i just conform to fit the needs of my surroundings. if im in school or with my friends then i talk like that status. If im in a interview or need to get something done to my liking then i take another tone that many people arent familiar with i just dont see the need to spell out you on facebook when many people if not everyone understands that u is the same thing as you and the people that dont understand that seriously need to get a social life and stop having theirs revolve around people choosing to use slang instead of correct english cause well if u realise that to the english almost all american english is slang

But I think it was David who had the most interesting statement:

My suggestion would be to find a major you really LIKE. It’s inconceivable to me that anyone who really loves English could ever bring himself to write like this, in a social occasion or otherwise, just as I can’t imagine a philosophy major ignoring a specious argument just because he’s at a party or a math major pretending not to notice a mistake on a restaurant check just because he’s out to dinner with friends.

Personally, I don’t believe that Davin is an English major.

If he is, though, then I can’t believe that Davin is an English major, yet takes pride in the fact that he writes so badly.  WHY would anyone DO THAT?

You know me — you know that this blog is about going after the people who make errors in professional writing.  But I thought that this was worth posting.

What do you think?

SMS/Texting Habits and Grammar

I recently found a piece online about children’s spelling and SMS in anglophone India:

“We have learnt to accept the fact that kids will remain hooked on the mobile phone, of which SMS-ing is an integral part. We are devising ways to help them strike a balance between the formal language that they are expected to write in their answer scripts and the SMS language,” said T H Ireland, principal, St James School.

We’ve talked about SMS and texting here on a few previous occasions. This is something new, though.

Before I got my iPhone, I made an effort to have correct spelling and grammar in my text messages. The iPhone makes that even easier, just as it makes everything in your life easier.

But I’ve developed a bit of a bad habit. The iPhone corrects your spelling, especially when contractions are involved, so I now type “dont” and “im” and “thats” with the knowledge that it will turn into “don’t” “I’m” or “that’s” as I type it.

This hasn’t quite affected my life away from my iPhone (which pretty much consists of my sleeping hours ;-)).  Then again, the readers of this blog and I tend to be an exception to the rule and not the norm.

I know a lot of you are teachers, and plenty more of you have elementary school-aged kids.  Have you seen “SMSese” and text-speak affecting kids’ writing?

The Ten Most Annoying Phrases in the English Language

Compiled by Oxford researchers:

1 – At the end of the day
2 – Fairly unique
3 – I personally
4 – At this moment in time
5 – With all due respect
6 – Absolutely
7 – It’s a nightmare
8 – Shouldn’t of
9 – 24/7
10 – It’s not rocket science

Personally, I’d probably add “ironic” and “ironically” because most of the time they’re used wrong!

Online Dating and Bad Grammar

I know that this entry is probably going to piss a lot of you off, but I’m going to be honest.  And I think it’s relevant.

I’m a member of an online dating site.  (One reader of this blog actually found me on there!)  Personally, I don’t think I’ll have time to go on another date until well after the election, but I keep my profile on there, just in case.

I received an odd message from a guy today.  Here are a few excerpts:

“your in my [list of matches] and what not, I feel somewhat compelled to “accept” you rather then reject you like the previous 15.”

“Anyway, if you like to “drop it like its hot” or “get low” then your in luck cause i do 2 and so far no one has been able to drop it lower then me (Shorty gets quite low)”

“have a good night
oh and if i didn’t mention it, i think your hot

[Name]“

Now –

I’m not going to reject a potential suitor based on poor grammar and/or spelling alone.

I’ve dated my fair share of guys who couldn’t write anything to save their lives.  And some of those relationships were the most significant relationships of my life so far.

But on an online dating site, when a message to somebody serves as the best way to make a good first impression, why would a guy write so badly?

Would you have bad grammar and spelling in a cover letter?  In a resume? Then why would you on a dating site?

I think that a message so full of errors — written by a college graduate (so his profile claims) — shows that he doesn’t care about making a good first impression.  He doesn’t care about taking the time to write “you’re” instead of “your,” among other things.  Come on.  That is the MINIMUM.  Everyone knows the difference.

I wouldn’t have gone out with this guy anyway — he’s not my type.  But this email more than sealed the deal.

I replied to him:

Hi, [Name] –

Thanks for the message.  I don’t think that we would be a good match, but you deserve a reply, and I wish you the best of luck!

Kate

Unleash your fury.  Call me a snob or an asshole.  I don’t care.  But do any of you feel this way?

Thoughts on “Lam”

I recently downloaded a great new iPhone application — Word Warp.  (AND it’s free!)  It’s a game that gives you six letters and you try to find as many words as possible.  I now play it whenever I’m on the T.

The other day, “LAM” came up as one of my words.  And that got me thinking.

Do you ever use the word “lam” without the words “on the” preceding it?

I couldn’t think of any instance.  Neither could my sister and her friend.

It’s something to think about…

Please tell me this is some kind of sick joke.

I’ve become a big fan of the Bumper Sticker application on Facebook.  With this application, you can send “stickers” to your friends, and they end up displayed on their profiles.  (And thanks to those of you who have already sent me grammar-oriented stickers!)

Of course, since most of them are homemade, they’re often filled with errors.  I’ve come to expect that.

And then I saw this one:

Oh, sweet Jesus.

Are we serious here?  Are we really, truly serious?

Or is this some kind of elaborate joke?  Is the joke that there are so many errors in it, on purpose, that this is the ultimate “gotcha” by the creator?

If it were a joke to those of us in the know, then I would gladly add this sticker to my profile.

For now, though, it’s staying far, far away.

Tell me — do you think that this was done on purpose to joke about people with bad spelling and grammar?

Or do you think that the creator was serious and just made the mistakes without thinking?

I can’t even tell!

The Worst Text Message of All Time

Last November, we had a discussion on text messaging and how grammar plays into what you do.  Everyone seems to have a decisive opinion on just how much of a role grammar should play in texting.

For me, personally, I try to be as correct as possible, including capitalization, but I’ll occasionally use an abbreviation like BRB or LOL, and I hate to say this, but when I want to appear “breezy” (as in when I’m talking to a guy I like or something equally pathetic), I’ll leave punctuation off the end.

While I was in Vegas, I twittered everything I did, and since I didn’t have computer access, I did it by texting.

On Sunday night, I sent the worst text message of all time.  It had been a long and crazy night, seeing Cirque du Soleil’s The Beatles LOVE, dinner at the Grand Lux at the Venetian, checking out the Palazzo and the Wynn, dancing at Tryst at the Wynn, going to the after-hours club Drai’s at Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall, and then walking all the way back to T.I., where we stayed, and playing blackjack unil 7:30 AM.

I can’t believe I actually wrote this message.

Here it is, and I am not exaggerating it in any way:

Wait — oh, no!  It deleted a lot of my old ones.  Anyway, the tweets were along the lines of TRYST IS THE BEST MOTHERF—— CLUB TO WHICH I HAVE EVER BEEN, MOTHAF—-!, perfect in their grammar (if using a slang form of spelling!), and then I texted this gem at 4:32 AM:

At local after club Drai’s and nmt paying for a cent because i am the motherfucking afterrclub of vegas

And then this beauty at 5:37 AM:

Dudd. we are sthll up and it is f——  awake.  me officially have left the aeater party at the ip.

I still can’t believe I considered that to be verbally coherent.  We have reached a new low.  There is literally nowhere lower to go.

Also — I would like to wish a very happy birthday to faithful reader furrperson.  I hope your day is fantastic!

Punctuation Contest — SEXY CAN I

I enjoyed your corrections to “Everything is super when you don’t you think I look cute in this hat?” so much that I’ve got a new one for you.

Let’s try this sentence, a gem of a lyric from singer and amateur porn star Ray-J’s hit song and McCulley favorite, “Sexy Can I”:

Sexy can I just pardon my manners girl how you shake it got a player like oh

Man, I love that song.

How would you punctuate it?

There seem to be a lot of possibilities…

The winner will get a chance to plug his or her favorite thing on this blog, whether it be the winner’s own blog or anything else!

Let’s see what we’ve got!

All I wanna know is — SEXY CAN I?

I’m Super! Thanks for asking!

Okay — your responses cracked me up.

If you would like to hear the original version of Big Gay Al’s “I’m Super” from South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, check out this video.  (I couldn’t find the original film clip on YouTube, so this is the next best thing.)  Fast-forward to 0:25 if you want to hear the line.

I did say that I would announce a winner, so here goes:

“Everything is super when you — don’t you think I look cute in this hat?”

Big Gay Al, in the heat of the moment, gets interrupted by his thoughts mid-sentence, leading to an entirely different outburst.

I’ll give props to the winners, Ryan and Alexa, who echoed my thoughts exactly.

Ryan writes Megorious, which is a really great blog, filled with politics, movies, amusing incidents and the like.  He is also the second person ever to successfully RickRoll me.

I’ll be honest about Alexa’s blog, Alexa Shrugged.  I do like it — except for the political parts, which is to be expected, as we have very different political views.  Though her blog has mostly been about politics lately, I love her entries featuring Overheard in New York quotes and updates on Knut the bear.

I also have to admit that after listening to the song, it looks like I got a word wrong.  The actual words are, “Everything is super when you’re — don’t you think I look cute in this hat?”

That may have impacted some of the entries.

Well, either way, I hope you enjoy the song in the clip!

One of these days….

When I originally switched to WordPress, one of my goals was to start blogging ahead of time, so I could write a post on Tuesday night and have it posted on Thursday at around 10:30 PM, around the time when I usually post.  That’s because I usually go out on Thursdays.

I don’t think there will be too much of value in terms of posts tonight.  The photo uploader is giving me problems today, and we all know that photos are the cornerstone of this blog.

At any rate, I think it’s worth telling a story from my friend, Beth, who currently lives in Texas but is a Massachusetts native, like me, and recently spent time at home.

She stopped by the Linens-N-Things in our hometown, Reading.  She then spotted an egregious error on an advertisement.

She took a few pictures for me with her cell phone.  (Thought I’ve had my cell phone for well over two years — I’m thinking of getting an iPhone this summer once the new model comes out — I still haven’t figured out how to send picture messages to my email.)

On the advertisements for Linens-N-Things, they listed a word of which I had never heard.

Afterall.

As in, “It’s time for you to buy some dishes, afterall.”

Or, “We need to buy a rice cooker and an omelette cooker to fool all of our houseguests, afterall.”

AFTERALL is not a word, last time I checked, Linens-N-Things.

How could you be so ignorant?

Is nobody checking your work?

Come on, now.  It’s not that hard to run spellcheck.  Hell, if you ran this advertisement in Microsoft Word, originally, you would have the telltale squiggly red line underneath the word!  There is no excuse for spelling the word like that.

I keep worrying…I keep thinking that my efforts are futile…

ATGV: Collective Singular Nouns

This is a really good question.  It came to me from reader Bailee?

Dear Kate,
 
There is a subject I am really hoping you could cover for me on your blog, since I’m sure you would do a better job than I would. The topic is singular collective nouns.  I am driven to the point of madness every morning when I listen to my local rock station, because the DJ insists on referring to bands whose names would be a singular collective noun in a plural sense.  For example, she recently said, “Radiohead are releasing a new album.”  Radiohead is a group, and “group” is a singular collective noun. Thus, it should be, “Radiohead is releasing a new album.” She does this all the time, and I am always thinking about writing a letter to her, but I’m sure I wouldn’t explain it very well.  However, I think you would probably do great.
 
Forgive me for any grammar errors in my email, as I’m only a novice grammar Nazi. I hope to hear from you soon.
 
Bailee

Wow.

This is tough.

Let’s start with an example.  The word band can be used as a singular collective noun.  Let’s say, for example, that you had plans to see your favorite band in concert.

  1. Singular: My favorite band is in town, so I’m going to see it.
  2. Plural: My favorite band are in town, so I’m going to see them.

Neither of those sound right to me, even though they seem to be grammatically correct.

I’m going to turn to the fabulous and useful Language Log.  Here is what the writers had to say on the subject:

Like most Americans, I prefer singular verb agreement for collective nouns like family and committee, unless the meaning of the phrase emphasizes semantic multiplicity, as in “My family all live in North America”. When the meaning is neutral or emphasizes unity, I strongly prefer the singular: “My family is gathering in Philadelphia for Thanksgiving”. However, I can’t imagine writing or saying “#My family is gathering in Philadelphia for Thanksgiving, and I’m preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal for it.” The problem is not that the sentence is ungrammatical, but rather that it doesn’t say what I mean. I prepare the meal for them, not for it.

So, would I say that Pink Floyd is appearing in concert?  Or that Pink Floyd are appearing in concert?

Dear lord.  I think I would say either.  WHAT does that MEAN?!?!

Click here to read the rest of the Language Log’s analysis.  Seeing all those research notes makes me shudder.  It brings back traumatic memories of the 30-page research paper I had to write for my “Understanding the Sacred in Literature” class at Fairfield.

I’ll let them handle the heavy research.

In conclusion, I think that being able to say that your favorite band is in town and you’re going to see them has become so accepted in our language that it has become reality.

As for bands, Bailee, I wish I could answer your question better.  I don’t see anything wrong with saying Radiohead are any more than Radiohead is.

For now, you might want to hold off on that letter to the station.  :-/

And, just because:

DAVID COOK!

YES!!!!!  GO, COOKIE!!!!!  This is the first time that my favorite contestant has won American Idol, so I’m very excited!!  (I haven’t had luck in the past with Clay, Constantine, Elliott and Sanjaya…shut up!!)

Thanks, Bailee.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

I’ve been an avid speller since I was quite young.  Spelling was one of my favorite subjects (besides geography) when I was little, and I was thrilled to be included in the accelerated spelling program from when I was seven years old.

That being said…

I was unable to spell the word “margarita” until I was 17 years old.

The reason?

I grew up in the Boston area.

People mock the Boston accent.  Most people say that I don’t have a Boston accent, but at the same time, they’re expecting to hear Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.  Even within the region, there are several dialects of the Boston accent.  While my parents and other family members all have thick Boston accents, they’re from the North Shore — mainly Lynn and Revere.

(I often joke that every single member of my family except for my sister and me has spent time growing up in Lynn.  There are very few exceptions.  For background, Lynn was one of the few Boston-area cities allowing abortions, inspiring the rhyme, “Lynn, Lynn, city of sin, you never come out the way you went in, you ask for water, they give you gin…”)

People from Lynn and Revere don’t talk like people from Dorchester and Southie, except that they omit their R’s.  Seriously, you should come to a family gathering of mine.  And when the family members are around, the accent thickens.

(Personally, I live in the city now, but whenever I head home into the suburbs, I think that the accents kick into overdrive.  I always hear much more of a Boston accent among the older crowd on the North Shore than I do among the younger crowd in Boston.)

Therefore, there are three words with which I never enunciate the R: margarita, watermelon and drawer.  Mahgarita, watahmelon and drah.

It’s for this reason that I didn’t know how to spell the word “margarita” until I was 17 years old.

That being said, I hope you had as many mahgaritas as my friend Esther and I did, although we were unable to get into the Cactus Club.  Happy Cinco de Mayo!

A someecard for all of us

I’m a big fan of someecards.com, a Web site with some of the funniest e-cards I’ve ever seen.  My friends and my co-workers are big fans.  Check it out!

This one is perfect for all of us:

Now, I have a question for you:

Has poor grammar, syntax, spelling or word choice damaged a friendship or relationship of yours?

For me, I wouldn’t say that it outright damaged a relationship, but I do have friends who use “your” and “you’re” interchangeably in emails and it drives me insane.  I will go so far to say that I don’t email them as often as I do my friends who write well.

Denounce vs. Reject

What do these words mean to you?

These words have been in the news in the U.S. quite a bit in the last 24 hours.

I will post a discussion on this tomorrow night.  (I’m about to fall over with exhaustion.)

Start thinking!

AGTV: Talking Tenses

This is a really great grammar question that I received from reader Linda.  Here it is:

Hello, Kate,

My friend and I disagree over the use of “went” in the following excerpt. The speaker is talking to a person in Milwaukee.

“So, I was hoping that, if you had the time and were willing, you would show me around the city if I went back there for a few days? Or is that a lot to ask? I know I would be in good company,” he added hastily.

To my ear, it sounds better to say “if I came back there for a few days,” since the person he’s talking to is already there. Is one or the other correct? Or does it matter?

Thanks!

Linda

When I read this, I thought back to high school French class.  Whenever we worked on our “si clauses” (the grammar to use with “if, then” statements), they would always say, “Paris, France Is Cool.”

If Present, then Future.

If Imperfect, then Conditional.

If she does meth, then she will scratch her face away.

If she did meth, then she would scratch her face away.

(And you wonder where they get the expression “methface.”)

Oh, man.  I just reread the question and I’m realizing that what I just wrote was completely irrelevant.  I thought this was going to be about “if, then” statements.  Okay.  Apologies.  I’m going to leave it up, because I think it’s good grammar material.

Both the words came and went are the past forms of the verb.  Because of that, I think either word could be used.  I’m assuming that the character originally came from that city.  You could also use returned if the character is originally from there.

It doesn’t matter where the person to whom the character is speaking is currently located.  You could come or you could go.  It’s up to you.  However, because you’re using the word back, I think that the word went sounds better than came.  If he originally came from the area, you could also use returned and drop the word back.

So, I was hoping that, if you had the time and were willing, you would show me around the city if I returned there for a few days?

Thoughts?

Thanks, Linda — and thanks especially for using the comma after the word Hello!  I love to see that!