I had to clown Judd Apatow on Twitter when he bragged that he had an “advanced DVD” of a George Harrison documentary. I asked him if the advanced DVD was only for really smart people. I know he meant “advance” as in “before everyone else gets to see it.” Nine times out of ten I do not correct people because I want to have at least some friends.
I know this quality of mine makes people loath to comment on my site, and downright giddy when I myself make an error. Which I do. I think I even wrote somewhere that I was “loathe” to do something (cringe). At my first job (non-teaching), I wrote that something was “all for not.” And if you don’t get why that is mortifying, leave this house immediately.
Language purists like me (technically “like I” because what I mean is “like I am,” but we’ll let that pass) suffer painfully on a daily basis. You do not feel badly for me. You feel bad.
A student once asked me if I spell check my texts. I do. Of course I do! I also do not use abbreviations, numbers for letters, nor do I leave out punctuation or capital letters. This is a family trait. A relative of mine once texted a friend “Please stop using the letter U when what you mean is the word you.” And she did not conclude that text with “thx.”
And yes. It was me.
It isn’t just because I love the English language. This is the thing I’m good at, and I am not good at much; therefore, I need to lord this over people with everything I’ve got. Notice my compound-complex sentence and my correct use of a semi-colon?
My other talent? I’m psychic. You heard me. I will randomly get a scene from a movie or TV show in my head, think about it for a moment, then forget about it. Later that day or a few days later, that very same show is on TV. Sometimes, I will turn it on at exactly the scene I was thinking of. That’s right. I can predict what will maybe be on TV at some point in the indistinct future with 49% accuracy. Move over, Alison Dubois.
I think you can see why I cling with such tenacity to my ability to remember the rules of grammar, usage and spelling.
Over the years, I have had to cut back drastically on correcting people. It can be obnoxious at best and downright damaging at worst. For example, I once corrected my boss: “We don’t need less suspensions, we need fewer suspensions.” Thank goodness I just got the “That’s an English teacher for you” eyeroll and not an official reprimand. Because I did it in a meeting. In front of other teachers. And I totally did not mean to try to make my boss look bad. Saying those things is as natural to me as breathing. They just fly out of my mouth. Sometimes I have to smack my hand over my yapper to stop it from happening. Now that I am older and wiser, I think before I speak (71% of the time). Did you know 62% of statistics are made up on the spot?
I’m not alone in this. Do you remember the scene in the book Charlotte’s Web where one of the sheep tells another character that the expression is not “I could care less” but rather “I couldn’t care less”? Of course you don’t. But it’s there. And it’s there because E.B. White also wrote Elements of Style. He managed to slip a style lesson into his charming children’s tale about a spider who becomes the copywriter for a pig.
In the proud tradition of E.B. White, I will not yield to this texting shortcutting* of my language. I need to believe that they will always need people like me to know the rules. To know things like the real meaning of “nonplussed.” To know the difference between lie and lay. To snicker at the accidental hilarity of misplaced modifiers. Go ahead. Google it.
I know that I will go back to work in February to a world where people actually say “hashtag” out loud at the end of their sentences.
I know the difference between “advanced” and “advance” and I’m going to point it out on Twitter to a millionaire. Even though I used the word “clown” as a verb to describe it.
Let me have that.
And P.S., David Fincher: “Se7en” does not say “seven.” It doesn’t. It says “seh-seven-en.”
*texting shortcutting = texting used as a participle (a verb ending with “ing” used as an adjective), shortcutting used as a gerund (a verb ending with “ing” used as a noun). See what I mean?
I can understand not wanting to use “all for not” on a written paper. However, do you mind when it is used in speech? My Dad and his family were born in Ireland and they use it all the time when they worked hard and didn’t get the result they were expecting.
I do have a few pet peeves with the new shorthand texting type (my sis-in-law’s boyfriend is “Casey” and she won’t write out his name, she types “kc”) and I don’t enjoy the confusion over “there,” “their,” and “they’re” but I am not as particular as you. Hopefully, your good friends (and celebrity tweeters) can appreciate the knowledge of our language you are giving them. You may want to follow Kelsey Grammer. He gets highly annoyed by people’s mispronunciation. The two of you could “school” the rest of us.
Oh and let me apologize in advance for all my errors, I do the best I can, but grammer and spelling were never my strong points.
“all for naught” – perfectly acceptable, if spelled correctly. 😉 And please, don’t worry; there are VERY few people who actually do.
Yes, that was the issue. I spelled it “all for not.” I’d only ever heard it said.
And look at spelling it wrong…ugh…sory. I have only heard it said too (a lot).
Thank you. And people wonder why I like you so much…….
What about people who insist on “transitioning” instead of changing, or moving?
“It is what it is” : I respond with a stupid expression on my face and ask what the hell THAT means..
And the current thorn in my side – from a certain blog (as IF that’s the only grammatically incorrect thing we’ve ever seen there) – is “chihuahua” – the small Mexican breed of dog – spelled CHIGUAGUA. I wanted to comment and spell all my words Chaucer-style. I mean, that was standard English someplace, at sometime, right? Therefore, that must make it standard now. But instead, I commented that just because HER name is creepily-spelled (how’s that?), doesn’t mean that everything else on the face of the earth has to be. Of course, the comment was deleted – not by the author, but by the ROCK STAR herself.
I have no idea what “hashtg” means. It must be one of those California commie-liberal phrases, right?;-)
People wonder why you like me?!
Thanks for your blog. I found your blog because I was searching for “To Kill a Mockingbird” references. Long story, but I have a student originally from Monroeville, Alabama, who wrote an essay about one of his first literary experiences of actually reading said book with his aunt shortly after the first publication. I teach online college English, which has the added benefit of not having to actually look at the fish eyes in a class room. However, due to all communication with students being via the online course I have to see way too many texting type language on the informal discussion board.
While I may occasionally give in to the rare smiley, I truly despise texting language and actually mostly refuse to text due to the fragmented language and inability to use complete sentences that most people suffer from.
I will be visiting your blog when I feel downtrodden by my teaching life.
Glad you found me.
Do it bother you when their are persons whom mispel words to?
My husband is a college English professor. He refuses to get an account on Facebook because he doesn’t want to find out how stupid his friends and family really are. Once, while in a hurry to send an email to a colleague and entertain our then infant, he misspelled a word. I think he lost a year off of his life from it.
Could my psychic friend please try to picture where my wedding ring is?
I wish I could help.
For me, it’s mispronunciation. For example, there is no M in sandwich, there is no X in espresso and there is no M in Valentine’s Day. What is wrong with people?
Some people say “volumptuous.” We should be allowed to kick them.
I had a friend who used to say “Na-kin” for the word napkin, and “punkin” for the word pumpkin. It used to drive me crazy, and that was when I was in the 4th grade. I’m worse now, at age 42. I might not be the best speller or an English major whose grammar is perfect, but I know what a word should sound like.
Mispronunciations are really irritating! Or how about when people mash two words together – “irregardless” instead of “irrespective” or “regardless”. THERE’S NO SUCH WORD AS IRREGARDLESS!!!! My brother has said this for years but I can’t stop him, he believes it is a real word.
Even worse are any words beginning with or containing “th” – it is not pronounced as “fff”. Stick your tongue out very slightly between your teeth to make the “ththth” sound, it’s NOT that hard!!!! There is no such day as “Fursday”, you do not “fink”, you do not “frow” a ball or dislike “fings” aaaarrrrggghhhhh!!!!
Aha, I read a comment on an online article yesterday in which the author had spelled “Good Riddance” as “Good Ridden’s”. Lord have mercy, I nearly had a rage stroke. I posted it on FB and some friends responded with malapropisms they’d come across such as, “Sorry for the incontinence”, “You’ll have to be more pacific” and (this is my favourite), “I won’t be your escape goat”. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!