Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Top Ten Grammar Peeves" Redux

I got a nice long note from "Barry G," the originator of the "Top Ten Grammar Peeves"; Barry gently defended himself about affect-effect and plurals with apostrophes, arguing, basically, that these exceptions are rare.  Not so rare, really, but his "peeves" are one reason we need to be careful with words like never and always, both of which are, uh, always questionable in a subject as slippery and protean as a living language.  Not only had Barry G. used never in his plural-peeve, but he'd italicized it.

But I have no real quibbles with Barry G.; he sounds like the kind of guy who would be fun to talk with.  What really interested me were the myriads of responses to his peeves: many, many people weighed in on FB with their own examples of locutions that bothered them.  One of the points that Henry Hitchings made in his wonderful new book The Language Wars is that other people's "errors" really bother us; our own, not so much--in fact, we're often defensive about our own language.  Very understandable.  After all, language is among our most intimate possessions; it is the social clothing we wear even when we are naked.

As I indicated in my earlier post, a number of distinctions and rules my teachers pounded into me have vanished--will and shall, split infinitives--and as a book reviewer I see many writers using hopefully in the way that would have earned me a full-grade penalty in high school.  And just about everyone uses which to refer to an entire clause (I was taught to use it only to refer to single words, never like this--I brought candy to school, which was against the rules--which bugs me).

 Over my forty-five years in the classroom I developed a thicker and thicker skin about it (the other road led to madness).  I watched the rise of alot and alright; recently, I've seen an uptick in the use of single quotation marks instead of double (texting?).  Not many observe the difference between compare with and compare to. And what about that old rule about using a possessive adjective in front of a gerund?  (I don't like your taking my Snickers. Or I don't like you taking my Snickers.) And I'm pretty sure that by the time my grandsons are my age, the apostrophe will be dead--lying in the punctuation graveyard with the interabang (whose life was brief--questionable but definitely exciting).  The health club where I go has Mens over the locker room door ...  And does Womens appear over the women's?  Can't say.  Wouldn't be appropriate to look.

Interabang or interrobang: a printed punctuation mark (‽), available only in some typefaces, designed to combine the question mark (?) and the exclamation point (!), indicating a mixture of query and interjection, as after a rhetorical question. (from Dictionary.com)

Example: "Are you kidding me!?"  The mark never made it onto keyboards (it's not available as an Insert option in MS-Word, either), so we have to put both there--though I was taught never to do that.  Which is annoying ...

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