Monday, September 24, 2012

I'm Worshiped at Westerburg and I'm Only a Junior.



I don’t want to name names because my high school reunion is coming up next year and I am sure every single person from the Canyon High School class of '93 reads this blog and I don’t want trouble, but SOMEONE I went to high school with once proclaimed in anguish, “It’s SO HARD being popular!”

Boo hoo, right? That’s like Charlize Theron saying, “It totally sucks being genetically perfect” or Jennifer Westfeldt lamenting, “Why do I have to be the one who sleeps with Jon Hamm!”

But, being the hypocrite that I am, I found myself doing something similar this weekend. I was penning an email to a publication in hopes of getting an interview, and I whined to myself, “It sucks having to be grammatically correct all the time!” 

I felt like an asshole for thinking complaining thoughts because without grammar I wouldn’t have a book. But I am terrified that one slip up with the wrong “there” and I am written off as a fraud forever—which, I know, I should be. 

But that got me thinking: not all grammatical errors are equal, are they? I, for example, cringe when people write “could of” instead of “could’ve,” but I am totally okay with people using “who” when they should be using “whom.”

What are your grammar deal breakers, and which errors do you let slide?

25 comments:

Mark said...

I think that's because who and whom are ambiguous and not everyone knows the rules. As much of a grammar nazi as I am, I screw up on who and whom. But I also don't like people who screw up could've and could of. It's short for could have, regardless of how it sounds. I think it depends on how common an error it is. The more common the error, and more obvious, the more it outrages us. I've never really thought about what I let slide, but I rarely ever let someone get away with mixing your, you're and their there's. They're not hard people!

Shelly said...

A deal breaker for me is the misuse of there, they're, and their. Using text speak in place of real words and sentences (in student essays) is another one. Usually, though, I'm fairly mellow.

the late phoenix said...

ah, school...so glad i survived school without dying...as for what i let slide, i'm cool online, i'm a grammar hippie more than a grammar nazi, but i have found that "your" and even "yr" for "you're" is rampant everywhere, don't exactly know why, i mean, it's just an extra ' and e...

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

OH! This is a total no-brainer for me. There is one grammatical error that I find being committed constantly by 8 or 9 out of 10 speakers/writers. And I don't just mean amateur writers, but even by professional writers and supposedly very educated folks like English professors, lawyers, doctors, politicians - you name it.

Why do I hate it so much? Why do I cringe like someone just screeched their fingernails across a chalkboard every time a person says or writes "I COULD CARE LESS", when what they really mean to say is "I COULDN'T CARE LESS"?

It's because (if you pause and think about it), "I could care less" is 180-degrees opposite of "I COULDN'T care less", which is the idea the writer is really attempting to convey.

Now that I've mentioned it, you'll probably start noticing it... EVERYWHERE! I'm not kidding, 8 or 9 out of 10 people (regardless of how educated they are) say/write it INCORRECTLY!

In fact, it is so rarely stated correctly that when it is, it actually stands out!

Knowing that my grammar is far from perfect, I very seldom correct a person when they make a grammatically incorrect statement. But it takes ALL of my willpower to refrain from saying, "What you mean to say is that you COULDN'T care less", every time some bozo or bozoette says it 180-degrees wrong.

That's my #1 (and only real) pet peeve when it comes to grammar. But this one DOES drive me to distraction!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger said...

I can't stand ANY grammar mistakes whatsoever, but for me it really depends on the level of grammar competency of the person who made the boo-boo..

Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger said...

You mean, "They're not hard, people!"

Alesa Warcan said...

If the purpose of language is to convey ideas, to enable communication, then grammar becomes nonessential. Similarly style and fashion are luxuries when it comes to clothing oneself.

However, being one of those privileged enough to have gotten a modicum of education, and from it an appreciation for the finer use of language, its every misuse pains me and my own mistakes doubly so.

That being said, languages are continually evolving things, things that are defined by the manner in which they are most commonly used. Rules are constantly being left on the wayside. The line between what is and what was is evanescent, not to mention rules that have been in partial or complete contention for over two generations (split infinitives, ending sentences with prepositions, etc.) or exotic singular/plural forms (medium->media, datum->data, octopi/octopodes/octopuses, rhinoceri/rhinocerotes/rhinoceros/rhinoceroses).

Ultimately, I'll make allowances if the opposite meant that I would be the only one at the party wearing a bustle with a petticoat (or a codpiece for the gents) and a ruff collar, or if rigorous obedience to fashion rules impeded my movement (whalebone corsets anyone?).

Language as tool should be flexible enough to allow communication. As an art, the field is open: it can derive beauty by observing the rules of composition, or you have Dadaists, Surrealists, and Beatniks for whom breaking conventions was a part of their art.

Proper form is a luxury that should not be taken for granted by those who have access to it, one whose value is an intellectual construct. I think there is a time and a place for grammar and that a balance must be struck.

ellembee said...

Where to start??

The two biggies are:

- writing *your* when you really mean *you're*

- and adding inappropriate apostrophes everywhere. Biggest BIGGEST gripe is *photo's* for the plural of photo. Arrgghh!!!!

I need a drink now... sheesh.

Genskie said...

mine is the use of than and then... I often see people on Facebook using these two words inappropriately on their status...

One wrote...
I would rather be pissed off then pissed on...
Lol!

Jemi Fraser said...

I've almost given up on correcting who/whom, but I can't let 'I seen' slide. Ever. Makes my skin crawl!

DiscConnected said...

Jenny-

I will go through "pet grammar peeve" phases, and my latest (f0r a while) has been the misuse of reflexive pronouns ("Stephen T. McCarthy and myself could care less").

I think this one strikes a nerve with me because when most people seem to misuse 'myself," I believe it is because they think it makes them sound more intelligent, when, of course, to the grammatically enlightened, they do not.

My days as an Enligh major are long past (back when MTV was young), and I make plenty of missteaks myself when I am in a hurry, so I have learned to be forgiving.

Maybe your book will change the world, and we will all move forward into the future with perfectly crafted e-mails and blog comments!

Larry

Kelly Polark said...

You probably do need to watch your grammar more than others!

Could of drives me nuts and the misuse of your and you're!

Madeleine Sara said...

I know what you mean about being a grammar junkie, but as they say pride goes before a fall and I've made mistakes like the best of them.

The mistake I hate seeing are inappropraite use of it's and yet sometimes I do it myself LOL! ;O)

Theresa Milstein said...

Sometimes that "whom" sounds so pretentious. And when I write teen, I have to be authentic when they talk. Imagine my hot guy sing, "To whom do you wish to speak?"

I know that grammar fear you feel. When I comment here and hit send, I shake a little bit.

Heathers is the best movie ever.

Jono said...

I can forgive punctuation errors, but not spelling errors. Mostly.

Zack the Grammar Nazi said...

their their, its going to be alright you just have too remember that using good grammar is a sign of being more smart than you're peers.

Liz said...

Stephen-I'm with you. "I could care less" makes me crazy.

The errors that bug me the most are of the to/too, their/they're/there, and you're/your variety.

Jaya J said...


i can't stand errors like 'we are going to jenny house today'

should be jenny's house as we know it.

many asians tend to skip the 's in cases like this.

Sara said...

I tend to be pretty forgiving of friends/casual emails/blog comments. BUT I second the "your" "you're" issue and the misplaced apostrophe issue. Pretty annoying!

Kristina Knight said...

Capitalization. I hate it when people don't capitalize their "I"s.

Jo Antareau said...

Normally I'm blind to the who/ whom thing... except once. A young and ambitious work colleague thought she was making herself look quite learned by using the word 'whom' all the time. And I mean in instances when she should have been using who (eg, 'the person whom referred you to this agency'). She clearly thought it was just the formal version of who. Fingernails on the blackboard...

Kate K said...

"Whom" has been disappearing from casual conversation with no loss; however, I'm sticking to my guns, no matter how stiltled I sound. My cringe? "Between you and I." My teeth itch every time someone says it. That breaks deals with me.
By the way, check out www.grammarstuff.com to find mugs, plates and notebooks with grammar bugaboos on them and the cure. I just bought a set of them and lay (not lie) them out for any company who needs a little salt in his or her wounds.

James Garcia Jr. said...

Jenny, you're a human being. Human beings make mistakes and are far from perfect. Each of us does something a little better than the next guy. With regards to grammar, anyone who would point out one of your errors on the subject had better bring it!
For the record, I cringe at spelling and grammar errors, but my focus is more on story. I rely on editors to catch that stuff.
Have a great week, my friend.

-Jimmy

anthony stemke said...

I cannot stand it when they say "chopped fine". For Gods sake it is "chopped finely" Okay?

traci's mixed bag said...

I am far from perfect grammatically, because I hate memorizing rules. Which is why I loathe math. But once a rule is pressed into my memory, I cannot forget it.

Honestly the only thing that bugs me is when my OWN family members cannot spell or use basic grammar correctly. I have higher expectations of them and I will be mean. I have an aunt that is a great businesswoman but I never know what the hell she's texting me. And I text her back just that, "What the hell are you trying to say?"