Abusing the English

This is a fun article about the use and abuse of the English language.
From time to time, I channel the Grammar Nazi myself. Among the abuses that particularly annoy me:
1) I was wondering if you are coming to the festival tomorrow? Arrrgh! Make a Statement or ask a Question, but don’t use a question mark to fuse them together into an abominable hybrid Statement-Question!
2) He’s the gentleman I was talking to. Arrgh, and arrrgh again! Don’t end sentences with prepositions! Don’t, I say! Cases in which doing so is appropriate are rare indeed, and your sentence is unlikely to be one of them.
To my great shame, I occasionally make these mistakes myself. I never committed such offenses before I met the internet and email, which tends to confirm my suspicion that the Inter-Web is slowly but surely making me stupid.
p.s. I spell “occasionally” wrong almost every single time I use it. My sin nature always wants to insert an extra ‘s’. (Or should that be ‘s.’? I’ll save that rant for a future post.)

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8 thoughts on “Abusing the English

  1. michele

    Also, in example 1, I’d like to replace “if” with “whether” and “are” with “will be.” If you know what I am talking about?
    My mom was continually correcting my grammar when I was little, and now I can’t seem to help myself.

  2. Ed Heil

    I think that learning to look past poor grammar is good for the soul. It’s too easy for those of us blessed with the particular sort of mind which grasps prescriptive grammar, and the particular sort of education which makes it available to us, to lapse into this kind of linguistic Pharisaism. Better to learn to appreciate the grammatical Samarians, who might be the Good Samaritan, in that they may have something to say which we need to hear, which we may ignore if we are too busy correcting their grammar…
    I think this but that doesn’t mean I always practice what I preach. Grammar nazism is fun.

  3. jrau

    You’re right of course, Ed, but as you mention, being a Grammar Nazi is just so much fun!
    I’m waiting for the first person to point out a grammar error (or errors) in my post, the Third Rule of the Internet being that “anytime you post to the internet about grammar abuse, your post is certain to be riddled with typos and errors.” I re-read my post carefully to avoid that, but you never know…

  4. michele

    Joking aside…in the one linguistics class I took in college, I learned that grammar rules are inherently illogical and represent only one of many systems of usage, which became enshrined as “rules” only because it was the system used by the dominant class.
    I tried this argument on my mom, but it didn’t work.
    i never profread my posts or commnets.

  5. jtr

    Now that you mention it…
    “I occasionally make these mistakes myself” is redundant.
    🙂
    Some of my favorite grammatical violations are “Where is it at?” and the frequent overcorrection (there is a word for this…) for I/me, such as “He gave it to Fred and I.” There is also the double negative (“can’t hardly”) that is fun to hear.
    I think the Web and email are causing written communication to rapidly progress in the direction of informality. Personal communication (such as handwritten notes) have long been informal and therefore adhere to relaxed grammatical rules but email in particular has sped up the relaxing of those rules.

  6. Ed Heil

    If you investigate these “errors” you often learn something interesting about the actual rules of grammar that you wouldn’t know from the prescriptive rules of grammar. For example, the fact that people aren’t sure what case to use in compound phrases (“me and Andy went to the store” and “he gave it to Fred and I”) suggests to me that as far as rules of case assignment are concerned, in modern colloquial English, compound noun phrases are “opaque” — that is, the case-determining power of the subject or object position doesn’t “reach down into” the compound phrase and affect the words inside it.
    I’m basing that observation on the fact that people make “mistakes” about case in compound noun phrases which they would never make without the compound. So people have a perfectly functional case intuition with regards to non-compound nouns and none at all with regards to compound nouns.
    BTW, I think the “Me and him went to the store” thing just comes from the phenomenon of the accusative being a less marked case than the nominative. (Witness how Romance nouns usually came from the accusative forms of Latin verbs, not the nominative — similar phenomenon.) If the normal sentence case assigning rules don’t reach into compound phrases, then the pronouns in them tend to revert into their least marked form — the accusative — unless hypercorrection (as jtr points out) intervenes.

  7. Bill

    Andy, I totally share your problem with the word “occasion” and its many forms. I almost always have to run it through a spell check just to be sure. Even now I have to resist the urge to move the cursor back and add a pointless “s”.
    My parents were grammar nazis in the extreme (although you’d never know it from reading my appalling writing). One of the most ludicrous examples was the difference between “bring” and “take”. Many’s the time I got corrected for calling my dad from high school and saying, “I forgot to bring my soccer uniform to school today.” Only to hear him say, “No, you forgot to take your soccer uniform today.” And then I would be told once again that “you take from here to there, you bring from there to here.”
    But I guess after all is said and done, grammar is like anything else. It’s much easier to point out the faults in others than to deal with our own problems. But I guess that’s a good note to end on. (Sorry Andy, I couldn’t resist.)

  8. KDC

    I am sure Andy won’t read this anymore, since I have dared to not check his blog for a month….
    PREPOSITIONS ARE FINE AT THE END OF SENTENCES!!!
    That rule is just a useless artifact of trying to fit English into a straitjacket of Latin grammar. Our language is inherently (I was going to write super, but thought better of it!) positional, and this ridiculous rule is one with which I shall not put.
    I mean, put up with. (two in a row) (doesn’t it feel better?) (Aaahh.. like running to the men’s room after an overtime thriller)

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