Things You May Be Saying Wrong (even if you're really, really smart)


Let's get one thing straight: in my grannyish heart, the only thing more irksome than bad grammar is the kind of galling jackassitude it takes to correct total strangers on their grammar. Please don't think I'm that dude. But ever since the day when I was 19 and decided to figure out "who"/"whom" for once and for all, I've been a zealot for reforming errors of my grammatical slash lexical ways. Here are a couple little linguistic snafus I've spotted in my own vernac -- and sometimes see even my word-lovin' counterparts occasionally mess up.

Whence: People tend to view this as basically "where" wearing an ascot -- a facetious olde-tymey variant -- and misuse it in the stock phrase "from whence." That phrase is actually redundant: "whence" already means "from where." Kind of a twofer deal.

"Beg The Question": All y'all lawyerly types already know this one. Although it's generally used interchangeably with "raise the question," BTQ is actually a specific type of logical fallacy in which one attempts to prove a statement using only the statement as evidence. Some would argue that correcting people's usage of the phrase is hoity-toity because it's a pretty pretentious thing to do. (Little BTQ humor for you there.)

ambivalent: If you don't care about something either way, chance are you're just indifferent. You're only ambivalent if you have mixed feelings. Like how I'm ambivalent about pointing this out to people because, on the one hand, words mean things, but on the other, I just hate eating alone in the cafeteria.

Myself: Other pronoun-junkies and myself deplore needless reflexives; if you have a problem with that, take it up with Noah Webster or myself. Hint: never use "myself" either of those two ways. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you just way to say "I" or "me." Only use "myself" if you're performing a verb on yo'self (naughty!) or reaaaaalllllly want to emphasize that you're the one doing something.

Santa Clause: You caught me. This one isn't grammar. But as another dude with a frequently misspelled last name, I just had to speak up for Mr. Claus. Turns out that the movie in which there was a legal clause that required Tim Allen to become Santa Claus was more influential than ever we'd know. WHAT HATH THOU WROUGHT, TIM THE TOOLMAN TAYLOR?!

Welp, I'm going to turn around and draw some syntactic structures on the blackboard now. You guys can go ahead and throw spitballs into my old-lady bun. I deserve it. Or you can rant in the comments section about some common grammatical/linguistic traps that distress your own nerdy selves.

Posted by TKOG from Not That Kind Of Girl.

24 comments:

The Maiden Metallurgist said...

When people say "chomping at the bit" it drives me a little crazy, because there is no polite way to tell them what they really mean to say is "champing at the bit"

Andrea said...

Oh, the statement "I could care less" is uttered a little too often. I've even heard Michelle Obama use it and we know how smart she is. If you want to say you/someone do/does NOT care much about something, the expression is "I/she/they could not care less".

Also, excessive use of 'hopefully' is bothersome. "Are you going to finish that work today?" "Hopefully." No, 'hopefully' is an adverb, meaning to do something with hope. It is not a way to express the desire for something to happen.

KittenMittens said...

Ever since The Santa Clause I was always spelling it wrong up until I was maybe 14 and lost an argument with my older brother. :(

I also hate when I read or hear "try and do this" or "I'll try and go there" There is no try and, you will either try TO do this or not. My mom went on a rant about this a long time ago and I read a lot and always see this. My mister's excuse is when reading in the 1st person, that's the way the person thinks so the author does it that way on purpose. I was super happy to be reading Christopher Moore's You Suck and the one character is a smart mouth 16ish year old and she used it correctly! If she can, there are no more excuses!

Who knows, maybe I'm wrong and both ways are right. But my way is more right. I say so. :D

Pocket ~ said...

I had a girl come into work and insist that "irregardless" is the correct form of the word. Needless to say I laughed in her face and had to correct her.

Anne (in Reno) said...

This is writing and not saying, but mixing up things like "eek" vs. "eke" kill me. You are not going to eek out a living on your meager salary. You might eke one out if you're lucky, though.

Also I have to second the chomping/champing at the bit. The other one that gets me is people saying it's a hard road to hoe/row to sow/any weird combination of the above. I believe it is "a hard row to hoe".

Marie said...

A coworker of mine always says "foo pa" instead of "faux pas." I think most of us know she is saying it wrong, but nobody ever corrects her. I have grown to enjoy it as part of her.

Jenni said...

*GASP* I didn't know that about "beg the question"! You can bet I won't be using it incorrectly anymore! And THANK YOU for mentioning "myself"... That's a big pet peeve of mine. People always seem to use it when they want to sound smart, too.

Maureen said...

Oh god. Mine is when people say "that person that..." etc. It's WHO when referring to a person, yo. Another is "There's lots of ways..." It's THERE ARE lots of ways! It's plural! And my last one is "different than". It's "different from." Always, every time.

Anne (in Reno) said...

Ooh, also a huge pet peeve of mine that I see all the time on design blogs - peek vs. peak. Seeing the caption "Sneak Peak" makes me crazy.

That Kind Of Girl said...

Oooh, and speaking of peak/peek homophones -- how about when people talk about things that "peak" their interest? Although I'll grant a little leeway because pique is slightly harder to spell.

And speaking of leeway, how about "segway" for "segue" and "wa la" for "voila"?

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
zyzzyva said...

My mother (English Major) hates "to orientate" instead of "to orient." I think people conjugate down from "orientation" and leave the 'a' in.

One that irritates me, but is a lost cause at this point, is the word "dour" (sullen) being improperly pronounced. It should be 'doo-r,' but mainstream mispronunciation has made 'dower' an acceptable version. Argh.

That Kind of Girl said...

Oh man, "orientate"! Some people say "conversate" too -- drives me nuts! And I've heard "analyzation" instead of "analysis" way too often as well.

Em said...

Maureen must be a journalist, I suspect AP style has influenced those particular pet peeves...
One phrase that I often hear is, "for all intensive purposes." What on earth is an "intensive purpose"? I think they mean "intents and purposes."
Agreement on peak/peek/pique (most homophones, really) and begging the question.

saffronlie said...

I agree with Mauren on my loathing of "different than". I also dislike the phrase "needless to say" as I almost never see it used in a situation where the thing that is said was not actually necessary to say.

#1Nana said...

Si I guess my two-year-old granddaughter has it right when she keeps saying "I do it myself!"

Anonymous said...

When people try to be highfalutin' and say wherefore to mean where. Wherefore doesn't mean where, it means why!

Mollie said...

Off the top of my head, I've also seen really smart people botch these:

"for all intensive purposes" (intents AND purposes!)
"reigning [something] in" (this one's only clear written, but it's "reining" in)

Nicola said...

The other day, I read an article that said "faux pa" and "pre-Madonna". I cringed.

That Kind of Girl said...

Oh. My. Goodness. Reading that, I was like, "Well, I guess music was different pre-Madonna. What's so wrong with--" then I realized what the writer was trying to say. Oh noooo.

Anonymous said...

I hate the use of 'less' when people should be saying 'fewer'!!!

Los Schoenys said...

Oh. Em. Gee. I hate hate HATE the "wa la/voila" thing. I might hate it as much as the lay/lie thing. You lay your head on a pillow when you lie down. One is transitive, the other is intransitive. Not that hard, people!!!

Kelly L said...

Hee, this is awesome. Someone stole mine though. I was going to bitch about the use of "wherefore" because I have heard just one too many bad Romeo & Juliet jokes and I have to refrain from screaming IT MEANS "WHY", ASSHOLES!

Also, when I was in 8th grade, I totally schooled everyone in a spelling bee because the word was "pique" and Every. Single. Person. was all "p-e-a-k" or "p-e-e-k"EVEN THOUGH everyone else had already tried that and it was wrong (but hey, maybe you'll have better luck) and I was like OMFG just let me have my turn already because all of you are STUPID and I had to refrain from gloating when I got it right. Seriously, the six people in front of you all spell it the same way and you don't figure out not to do it too? Lametastic.

Anyway. This brought joy into my life. I even learned things. Like whence. I think I've only ever heard it used wrong, so I had NO IDEA. But now? Now I know.

Roisin Muldoon said...

I'm with the poster above who feels rage when someone says they'll 'try and' do something. It makes me grind my teeth every time I hear it!

Post a Comment

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

List Lovers Unite

Send an email to listaddicts(at)gmail(dot)com to join the Secret Society of List Addicts
List of Members Secret Society of List Addicts Facebook Group

Top Secret Missives

Enter your details to receive occasional messages from the Secret Society of List Addicts:

Name:
Email:
Subscribe Unsubscribe