NPR in Two Hours!!

I’m about to head out for my segment on NPR. It’s due to be on from 3:40-3:52 PM today on Talk of the Nation.

Every geographical area has a different schedule, and many communities will not be broadcasting Talk of the Nation live — including Boston! Can you believe it?

Other networks will likely be rebroadcasting the interview, but it will be at different times.

At any rate, it will definitely appear on

Hope you listen!


52 responses to “NPR in Two Hours!!

  1. Nice! I listen to NPR at work every day.

  2. This is great!

    I thought I was the only one- my idea was “Grammar-fiti”

    The idea- I was going to carry around a whole bunch of Post-It style “Fix it” notes to put up on/over the local ads placed all in facilities of my local Transit agency, Septa.

    Good luck on the radio.

  3. Apparently Talk of the Nation is not aired on DC’s NPR affiliate – I couldn’t find it on the schedule. But it looks like the segment will be available on the main website at 6pm. Can’t wait to hear it, even though NPR is evil.

  4. I am listening to you right now. I think I’m in love! Grammar geeks rock! Did I mention I’m florentine? 😉

  5. Listening to you now!!
    First I’ve heard of you– keep it goin!

  6. I’m listening to you right now. You are doing what I’d like to do every day. There’s a hardware store in my town that says: “Plumbing Supplys”. There are several signs with randomly added apostrophes (Sub’s, Pie’s, home’s) and a sign that went up last week that says “Raspberrys”.


    Thanks for being evil, totting about with your stickers and sharpies.


  7. I’m listening to you on Talk of the Nation at this exact moment.
    I am very impressed with your tenacity.
    Have you read the grammar book
    “Eats Shoots and Leaves”?
    You’d love it!

  8. StLGrammarPolice

    My sister and I are self-appointed grammar police. A few issues which frequently annoy us: (1) Where have all the adverbs gone? (i.e. I’ve heard “Think different.” on the radio (it’s differntLY, for God’s sake!); (2) The local news media invariably choose the people with the WORST grammar to interview (“He shoulda went…”); (3) Carrier Air Conditioning’s annual ad, “If your air conditioner’s broke (it never had any money! If it doesn’t function, it’s BROKEN). We could go on and on… and we usually do!

  9. I love the concept. Keep up the good work!

  10. Kate – You are Right On!!! Piss poor spelling, whether in advertising, newspapers, or ANYTHING else is inexcusable. I live in Utah where they exchange “were” for “was” – It is worse than waterboarding ~

    Wonderful appearance on TOTN!!!

  11. Great program!

    Is it better to say “run easily” than “run easy”?

    Also, the word “hot” is not spelled as “hott”, but rather as “hawt” if one wants to emphasize one’s hotness :))

  12. I did hear it, and have a comment on “gone missing.” That, I believe, is a British English expression that has started taking root in this country. I’ve been seeing it for years in British novels and also hearing it from “British”-speakers. (check out BBC all night newscasts) They also say “in hospital” and not “in the hospital” but that hasn’t made it over here yet.

  13. Would it be grammatically correct to say that it is ironic for a grammar expert to like totally, like overuse the word like?

  14. “not to put too fine a point on it,” but you just said on NPR, “there are so many people out there that think the same way.”

    when it should be, “there are so many people out there who think the same way.”

  15. katie mckay bryson

    Listening to you in Alaska, and it’s making my workday! I’m the daughter of a journalist (who approaches even conversation with a metaphorical red pen) and a schoolteacher (who embarrassed me throughout childhood by always assuming “They’ll want to know!” when she found errors on restaurant menus). Of course, it’s a hereditary condition… I’ve worked part-time for The Body Shop for years, and the sheer number of grammatical errors in the information they send to stores and staff has driven me to write way too many nitpicky e-mails in that time.

  16. Kate,
    I enjoyed your comments on NPR. However, emails don’t say they read.

  17. Hi Kate, I just heard about your blog on NPR and may I just say, Brava! I am also of the “Carry a Sharpie at all times” variety. Here’s my favorite such experience: I was driving in Miami some years ago, looking for an address and driving in torrential rain. There were 3 lanes in my direction and when I saw my left turn coming up, I also saw a road sign that said “Left lanes turn”. I was in the middle lane and glad that I didn’t need to change lanes to turn left since the weather was so bad. However, as I was making the left turn, I suddenly realized that only the far left lane was designed to turn left and that I was in the process of squeezing out a police car! Needless to say, he pulled me over. Of course he told me why but I protested, saying “But the sign said lanes – PLURAL!” His response was “Huh?” and I said again, “Why does the road sign say ‘Left Lanes turn’ ?? He had no idea what I was talking about but he didn’t ticket me and a week later when I drove that same route I saw that there was a plain piece of yellow metal covering the S in “lanes”.
    Thanks for a fun blog! Keep it up.

  18. Oops, Kate; you said “you know” and “gotten” today on Talk of the Nation. However, I am with you on the bad usage of punctuation; spelling, and grammar, all over the place. IM’ing could have something to do with it, especially among the young people. I probably tend to use too much punctuation. Keep up the good work and also drink tap water!

  19. I heard your comments on NPR and have a question. You stated that you have read since you were little. Do you think that “young” would have been a better word to use.

  20. Kate, I heard you on NPR and appreciate your efforts. Having a BS in English Literature, I agree entirely with you about the sad state of grammar in our country. About your Professors Row story though, the sign isn’t necessarily incorrect. Rather than being the Row of the Professor, it could be the Row that refers to the Professors. If the sign was referring to a goose instead of a professor, it might be Geese Row as opposed to Goose’s Row. To me, this illustrates the need of precise grammar in the English language. As we are no longer an alliterative language precision MUST be employed to ensure proper communication. Take care!

  21. Oh, and *my* pet peeve? (and you hear it ALL the time on NPR), is that “pleaded” is used as the past tense of plead… instead of “pled.” Maybe it’s an alternative, but I think it sounds awful. Should be “he pled guilty” instead of “he pleaded guilty” to my way of thinking.

  22. I love what you’re doing, Kate.

    While proper use of language & grammar has always been a general interest, my personal passion is the misuse of “insure” when it should be either “ensure” (mostly) or “assure”. To illustrate the differences, I say: “I assure you that, when we insure you, we ensure that you will be well protected by the terms of your policy.”

    Keep up the good work and your wonderful, refreshing, creative, and positive attitude!

  23. “The reason is that..,” not, as you said on NPR today, “The reason is because…”

  24. I was made terribly upset by the content of your discussion today on NPR. It seems, in my opinion, that your views are incredibly elitist and normative. Not everybody communicates in the same mode/manner and there is no such thing as “proper” or “correct” grammar. Language is highly personal and is now, as it has been since the dawn of humanity, a dynamic beast.
    Would you prefer that everyone wrote and spoke in the style of Chaucer? Do you not agree that the current state of language was arrived at through millenia of change? Perhaps if you had spent some time studying fallacies of argumentation and critical thinking instead of developing a fetish for “older literature” you wouldn’t be making some of these highly dubious claims on a national radio broadcast.

    P.S. Don’t bother “correcting” my grammar; I suppose you’d have told t.s. eliot how to use proper capitalization and then thought yourself the hero for preventing the exposure of his true intent to generations of readers.

    -Yours Truly
    The Pedantress Critic.

  25. I just heard you on NPR and I am happy to hear someone of such a tender age actually concerned about grammar (I am of the “diagramming sentences” generation)!

    I watch newscasts and correct the grammar out loud. My pet peeves are these types of errors; “between the cat, the dog and the mouse” instead of “among”. Also, “less people” instead of fewer, as an example, drives me crazy. My list goes on. My British husband goes crazy when he hears “very unique” as did the caller. Things are so bad among our office workers, that we are considering a “writing” class!

    Keep up the good work!

  26. I started to listen to you broadcast and had to go back to work. Bravo!

    My current pet peeve is the all-too-familiar “Where is it at?” phrase that seems to be creeping in to all areas of society. When I hear Condoleeza Rice say it on TV, I’ll know I’ve lost the fight for good. But until then, do you have any suggestions about how I can politely correct my grammar challenged boss?

  27. Is good grammar important? Absolutely. Just as important, however, is a grammar “expert” who is actually an effective speaker. Like, you know?

  28. I just heard you on NPR on my way home from work, and had something to contribute, but did not get the chance, so I thought I’d contribute here.

    My family and I flew to Philadelphia this summer for vacation. On the way, we stopped for a connecting flight in the Twin Cities International Airport (Minnesota). While we were rushing through the airport to reach our next plain, every single sign that indicated the next terminals substituted “thru” for the word “through.” I found this appalling to say the least; If the airport is that concerned with sign space, they could simply use a dash. Instead, in a public setting designed to cater to the entire world, they chose to display our American ignorance and laziness in its fullest. I was embarrassed and dismayed when I saw the signs, but obviously could do nothing about it at the time. There has to be some way to fix signs like these, to make our country look slightly more presentable…or at least educated.


  29. I enjoyed your interview on NPR! I tried to call in but couldn’t get through. I’m so glad someone is drawing attention to this! Bad grammar drives me crazy, and I get the feeling that most people just don’t care. But we should all care; our communication would be much better if we took the use of our language more seriously. My pet peeves are: the use of “which” in place of “that,” adding apostrophes where they don’t belong (e.g. 1960’s), and two phrases: “should of” in place of “should have,” and–shudder–using “seen” in place of “saw” (e.g. “I seen it” instead of “I saw it”). I have a question for you: What’s your feeling about using a preposition at the end of a sentence? Technically it’s incorrect, however the correct sentence structure can sound very pedantic.

  30. Hi Kate,

    I loved your interveiw a minute ago. I am thinking to visit your site often as I am new immigrant who has keen interest to learn proper grammer.
    Good luck for your world wide traveling.


  31. Kate,

    I wonder if you have ever heard of the difference between prescriptive grammar and descriptive grammar. You seem to be quite obsessed with the conservative Standard American English version of speaking and would probably be quite nonplussed in the company of say, some African-American Vernacular English (better known as Ebonics) speakers. However, any linguist knows that AAVE is a perfectly valid way of speaking, with its own internally consistent system of grammar and so forth. A descriptivist would simply elaborate those rules without making value judgments as to their worth. To set the SAL way of speaking as somehow superior to all others is not only classist and racist, it is just plain wrong.

    I wonder if you are familiar with the history of your beloved grammatical rules. Many have their roots in some sort of logically coherent scheme, but many do not. The book The Origins and Development of the English Language details the birth of many of these rules: “Present-day conceptions of “correctness” are to a large extent based on the notion, prominent in the 18th century, that language is of divine origin and hence was perfect in its beginnings but is constantly in danger of corruption and decay unless it is diligently kept in line by wise men who are able to get themselves accepted as authorities, such as those who write dictionaries and grammars. Latin was regarded as having retained much of its original “perfection.”… When English grammars came to be written, they were based on Latin grammar, even down to the terminology… The most important eighteenth century development in the English lanuage was its conscious regulation by those who were not really qualified for the job, but who managed to acquire authority as linguistic gurus.”

    For example, the rule against splitting an infinitive was based on Latin, as in Latin an infinitive is a single word and thus impossible to split. Of course, English is Germanic in origin and the rule is completely ridiculous. Another is the taboo against “ain’t,” which was pretty much invented out of thin air, and English suffers as a result, having only clumsy alternatives. Yet another is the rule not to end a sentence with a preposition, about which Winston Churchill once said, “[that]…is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.” These rules are not just obnoxious and unnecessary; they are genuinely harmful to those who, as you put it, are “not educated” in the classical sense. To be clear, there are many benefits to knowing SAL, but they are almost exclusively the result of SAL speakers keeping out the uneducated (i.e., black and/or poor) rather than some sort of intrinsic superiority of SAL.

    To sum up, I quote an excellent article by Bruce Byfield: “Writing well, as George Orwell observes in “Politics and the English Language,” “has nothing to do with correct grammar and syntax.” If it did, then two centuries of prescriptive grammar in the classroom should have resulted in higher standards of writing. Yet there is no evidence that the language is used more skillfully in 2001 than in 1750. The truth is that, prescriptive grammar and effective use of English have almost no connection. A passage can meet the highest prescriptive standards and still convey little if its thoughts are not clearly expressed or organized. Conversely, a passage can have several grammatical mistakes per line and still be comprehensible and informative. Prescriptive grammars are interesting as a first attempt to approach the subject of language, but today they are as useless to writers as they are to linguists. So long as writers have a basic competence in English, prescriptive grammar is largely a distraction that keeps them from focusing on the needs of their work.”

    Here is the full article:

    Thank you for your time.

  32. I heard you on the radio today…should that sneaker ad say “Run easily, Boston.”?

    Thank you for your vigilance. I think more people should speak up about poor vocabulary and bad grammar. One of the joys of reading J.K. Rowling’s books with my kids is the expanded vocabulary.

    At a park the other day I watched a frustrated teenager repeatedly ordering his dog to “Lay down!” (Yes, I realize the phrase “frustrated teenager” is redundant.) I wondered if the dog had gone to grammar school instead of obedience school. Someday that dog will lie down for the boy.

  33. Hi Kate
    I listen to the show and I liked it, I am in Berkeley, CA. My daughter and I were in Emeryville, CA and we saw a sign that said “Saphora coming Pretty Soon”. I must say I did not think twice about it, however my sixteen year old daughter went balistic, she said “what do they mean pretty soon, are they retarted” was she overeacting or was this a job for the grammar vandal.

  34. GV – while I appreciate your earnestness, I agree with the other posters who took issue with your rampant use of “like”.

    I would also recommend “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” (as well as “Talk to the Hand”, by the same author) to anyone who appreciates the spirit of GV’s quest.

    Dave – while I truly can sympathize with your descriptivist rantings at some level, I have a question for you: if everyone is allowed to communicate in his or her own “rules-be-damned” style, how will we know when communication has been accomplished?


  35. Still haven’t heard the interview, but NPR has a place for people to comment about it, if you didn’t know already:

  36. just heard your NPR piece (KQED-FM, San Francisco). Most encouraging to hear that I was not the only one who gives a damn.
    My miscellaneous comments
    1) what drives me nuts is grocery etc. store signs, indicating their express lanes, that say “15 items or less.” Of course, these signs are way out of reach, and, of course, management has more urgent things demanding attention. Oh, here’s another one: “these kinds of (whatever)” when the speaker means “this kind of (whatever).”
    2) Grammar ignorance can carry important consequences. For instance, if one has no concept of “past participle,” it is going to hinder one’s learning, say, Latin or French.
    3) As you said, hearing someone’s using lousy grammar can make you doubt the adequacy and/or intelligence of the speaker. This might or might not be important. In retrospect, I’m appalled that I disqualified a roofer from working on my home because his estimate was riddled with errors. Does this really make a difference in his line of work? I guess if he understands me, that is all that matters. But the little voice inside makes me worry whether he actually DOES.
    4) The borderline between grammar errors, spelling errors, thinking errors, and pronunciation errors is quite hazy. For instance, another example of I-love-it-because-I-hate-it (for me) is using “pour” as a verb — in the sense of studying something feverishly. “Pore over” is a metaphor derived from sweat that comes from hard work; clearly, someone who writes “pour” hasn’t the faintest idea about that. Once again, one has to wonder what ELSE the writer doesn’t know. It’s a misspelling, but also a grammatical mistake. And it probably occurred because the writer had HEARD the word but had not READ the word.
    I fear that software spell-check functions have exacerbated this situation, blithely ignoring any error that resembles a legitimate word.
    5) Unfortunately, embarking on crusades such as this (and believe me, I’ve experienced it) makes everyone scrutinize what you say or write — and the moment you make the slightest transgression, you are in much more trouble that the typical person.
    6) I could go on about our Commander-in-Chief’s ghastly pronunciation of “nuclear,” which to me indicates either disingenuous pandering to the ill-educated or a gross ignorance of what “nuclear” means. Both possibilities are appalling. But as I indicated, I won’t go on about it (nudge nudge, wink wink).
    7) then there’s malapropisms, which cause endless confusion and which I hear every day . . .

    Interesting books that touch on these subjects are “Eats Shoots and Leaves” by Lynne Truss, and (to a lesser extent) “Figures of Speech” by the late academic (University of California) Arthur Quinn.

    Done with miscellaneous comments. Thanks for letting me blow off steam.

  37. Bob Ortalda wrote, “Maybe you should write a book.”

    No, she shouldn’t. At least not until she knows how to do background research before she declares what’s right and wrong with the world.

    Or should I say, what’s not “alright” with the world.

  38. Loved your show today. I must say the above comments against proper grammar were a surprise. Granted, our language is evolving but to write off grammar is absolutely ludicris. We (Americans) live in an English-based society and therefore should know how to use it. But that’s not why I’m commenting.
    You mentioned that you see the internet as part of the demise of our language. I disagree. I’m 26, only a high school grad and new to the internet and reading for pleasure. It’s done nothing but bolster my vocabulary and grammar. I’m sure you’ll still find plenty of errors though.
    In the endless interactions with others I have via Myspace, email and the like I have been able to pick up on many of my grammatical problems and correct them. By spending more time actually seeing words as opposed to speaking or hearing them I am given the opportunity to decide if it makes sense. Grammatically, logically, briefly, and of course, spelleriffically. Plus the incredible amount of resources available such as to help determine all of the above.
    Thank you for your vigilance. I need to go proof-read my comment now.

  39. I listened to you on NPR today. I believe strongly in what you do and am inspired to use your website in my classroom to get students interested in grammar. I am an English teacher in need of ways to stimulate conscientious observers of great English! Keep it up. Thanks.

  40. You had nothing to worry about- you did a great job!

  41. Hi Kate. I just heard the piece on NPR. I had to laugh. I never considered myself a grammar snob until recently, and it’s always nice to hear about kindred spirits. I once stopped emailing someone on an internet dating service simply because she pluralized the word ‘anyway’. That kind of thing would have driven me crazy.

    Keep up the good work. You may have convinced me to start carrying a ‘sharpie’ with me from now on.

  42. I caught your interview on the way back from grabbing lunch. Great stuff!

    While it’s true that the evolution of language is partially a result of habitual misuse, certain words are fingernails on the chalkboard to my ears.

    Recent pet peeves: misuse of the word “enormity, and that phrase one hears standing in line at Borders or Starbucks, “I can help who’s next,” (look up “anacoluthon”).

    Thanks for your efforts!

  43. Kate, this is great! I caught your broadcast out here in Santa Rosa, CA (KQED, San Francisco), and blessings on you! I’m so glad you are the age you are–young enough to prove that correct grammar is still ‘in’ and incorrect grammar is noticed by people who are nowhere near the grandparent age range.

    I’ve been conducting my own gorilla warfare on incorrect grammar and usage for the past 11 years–ever since I returned from five years of living in France and couldn’t believe what I was hearing when I got back. What happened?

    Most of my battles have been with newspapers, radio, and TV programs. I have an souvenir indignant letter from David E. Kelley (creator/writer of Ali McBeal) when I called him on Ali–supposedly educated and a lawyer–saying, “between she and I.” Yikes! Despite his his being irate at my calling attention to his error (in a nice way too), I noticed on a subsequent episode that a similar situation got the pronouns right–“for her and me.” Whew.

    I agree with an earlier poster (Bev?) who identified the term “gone missing” as British, and I disagree with the poster who apparently feels that “gotten” is incorrect. “Gotten” is accepted in American English, but not British, but since we are in the US here… So many grammar and usage rules, not to mention vocabulary, that differ between the Americans and the Brits. We actually are diametrically opposed on a number of grammar rules, making things even more interesting.

    Anyway, thanks so much for making a splash, and bringing much needed publicity to this issue. The English language is in a sad state of repair, for sure…I’m sure you’ve noticed that NO ONE (except perhaps some of us here) says “there are,” as opposed to “there is” anymore. It even gets written that way–“there’s many people, there’s 100 reasons, there’s 6 dogs.” Finding a person who uses “there are” when referring to a plural of something is as rare an occurrence as winning the lottery.

    Good luck on your campaign–it is greatly needed and very appreciated by those of us who care about preserving what’s left of our language.


  44. watch out for the error you made on NPR:

    “the reason is because” which is similar to another common error — “the reason why is”.

    i was disapointed no one called in with the very common error of using nominative case pronoun when it should be prounoun in objective case, e.g., “between you and I” instead of “between you and me” or “between he and i or she and i” instead of “bewteen him and me or her and me.”

  45. I can’t believe someone suggested you write a book! I think someone already wrote it, and it’s called Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

  46. Great segment! A couple of thoughts came to mind: “Grammar Gorilla” and “Random acts of grammar”.

    Keep it up.

  47. Loved your segment on NPR! You do know your stuff, although, ironically, you said “the reason is because,” where “the reason is that” is preferred. No biggie.

    Dennis, the math guy and yet another pedantic

  48. I also heard the NPR story and thought it was great!

    However, I notice you use the term, “geographical area” in your post. Isn’t “geographic area” more correct?

    Searching for both terms in Google reveals that “geographic area” is used about three times more often than “geographical area”.

    Just an observation!

  49. The first two examples you gave were punctuation, not grammar. In the Boston example, I would have changed the sign to “Run easily, Boston,” not “Run easy, Boston.” “Easy” is an adjective, “easily” is an adverb.

    At one point you used the phrase “I was almost like…”. What exactly does this mean? You felt like saying it but didn’t? You wish you had said it? The ubiquitous “I was like…” is a distressingly vague usage common to teenagers and unfortunately, now, some adults.

    NPR used to be known as Educational Radio. Many of their regular reporters and correspondents use conspicuously bad grammar. Shouldn’t they, of all people, be setting a good example? What do they have to gain by using the incorrect version?

    Herb Childs, Ashland, Oregon

  50. Here’s a quibble on the post preceding mine.

    The poster writes “… ‘geographic area’ is used about three times more often than ‘geographical area’ …

    This usage drives me nuts. Taken literally, “three times more often” means four times as often. Which does the writer mean?

    Advertisers use this sort of phrase regularly. Thus we have “This medicine is eight times less likely to cause side effects than that medicine.” What does that mean mathematically?

    I’m getting into usage here, rather than grammar, but I hope that’s within the scope of this blog, which is really quite interesting.

    Herb Childs, Ashland, Oregon

  51. Hi Kate,
    I love Talk of the Nation, and caught your segment today. Previously, I had heard of Grammar Girl, but it’s great your highlighting the bad grammar usage we’ll all become accustomed to. I relate to a lot of things you said, I particulary loved your comment about your friend and her email about Mitt Romney’s son being hot (hott).

  52. mh, are your grammar mistakes a joke or real?

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