Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bad Language


I try not to perpetuate the image: I’ve never worn my hair in a bun, never mind stuck a pencil through one.
I can also proudly say that I’ve never rapped anyone on the knuckles with a ruler, although I’ve been sorely tempted.  I also don’t correct other people’s grammar.  Okay, occasionally my husband, who you’ve gotta admit, according to the playbook of marriage is fair game.

I do, however, grit my teeth every time I hear “less” when “fewer” should be used, inserting the correct word in my head while I’m listening. (Just for the record: if you can count it, the word should be “fewer”, e.g. fewer calories, less fat).  Fewer is a word that’s disappearing rapidly, I’ve noticed, and soon I’ll need a mouth guard to protect my enamel.

English teachers tend to pay attention to words. We can’t help ourselves. If we weren’t fascinated by language, we’d be adding columns of numbers or firing up Bunsen burners instead.
          Another example of sloppy usage:

Troop - A group of soldiers, esp. a cavalry unit commanded
            by a captain, or an airborne unit.

And yet in today’s news, the word has come to mean one soldier, as in “Four troops were killed during the border skirmish in _________(insert whatever war-torn country you’d like).

The following two are just garden-variety annoying, examples of the imprecision of the English language. I still am truly impressed by anyone who takes it on as a second language.
Explain if you can, how this contradiction came to be:

SanctionNoun: A threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule
                Verb: Give official permission or approval for

So think about it. The U.S of A.  may lower sanctions on some country gone astray, but first someone has to sanction that act.  Go figure.
Then we have the paradox of :

            Oversight – Noun - An unintentional failure to notice or do something.
                              Verb – The action of supervising something or someone.

This does invite some reflection on the whole concept of an oversight committee.

Okay. I feel better now.
I promise to save my rant on apostrophes for another day. 


  1. Of course I'm the fellow driving with you that gets a grammar lesson everytime we drive by a sign that isn't correct. Isn't love wonderful!!

    1. You're truly a martyr to grammar, dear.

  2. My pet peeve is using I when me is actually the correct choice. The irony is that many of those who make the error regularly sincerely believe that they sound intelligent for having made that choice!


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