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Confessions of a Grammar Snob

As a writer, I pay close attention to words and their use (my husband might argue that I pay a little too much attention.). I have to —my job, my professionalism, depends on it. The rest of the world doesn’t have to be quite so vigilant.

But a recent headline announcing that the second largest city in the UK had decided to drop the use of the apostrophe on all city signs left me … well, speechless. What do you mean no apostrophe?? Would society as we know it not come to a screeching halt if St. Paul’s Square was suddenly St. Pauls Square? Apparently the town council of Birmingham thinks not. Be still my poor heart. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090131/ap_on_re_eu/eu_britain_no_apostrophe

While I can’t do anything about this debacle (and my tongue is only partially in my cheek at calling it a debacle) it made me realize how often my writer’s ear hears things that make it cringe.

Where are you at?” The other night, my not-so-trustworthy 14 year old minivan decided to gasp its last about 1.5 miles from home. It was dark and cold, but I was in a relatively safe area, the State Parkway, which is well patrolled by State troopers. I must not have been too terribly upset because when I called AAA for a tow, the operator’s use of this phrase still hurt my ear. Since he was sending a truck to fetch me, I decided not to utter a very snobbish “I’m sorry, did you mean to say where are you?” But it still bothered me…

For God Sakes! Or For Pete Sakes! Now that one sends the heebie jeebies right up and down my spine. This is a clear example of people not thinking about the words they’re saying, yet I hear this in movies, on television, etc. No matter whose name you use, it is for their sake. Not their sakes. My husband is Pete and last I knew he only had one sake to worry about. So it is for Pete’s sake—and his alone– that I write this. So for Pete’s sake, get it right!

Badly. To do something badly is to not do it well. When I hear someone say they “want a new pair of shoes so badly” I feel like saying—you don’t know how to want well? Come visit my 8 year old, he’s the king of want, he’ll teach you not only how to want, but how to make an art form of it. So don’t want a new pair of shoes badly—want them bad enough to find a way to get them!

It goes without saying that hearing these things spoken aloud isn’t nearly as bad as reading them in print. And I really don’t mean to sound like a snob, nor am I saying I use perfect grammar all the time (in fact I probably missed a few typos in this post). But when you use words as a means of making a living, certain things jump out at you. So how about you? Any words or phrases that drive your ears—or eyes, if you’re reading—crazy? Or am I just a frustrated writer who should have been an English teacher?

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4 Comments

  1. Funny, Nic! And no, it’s been so long since I’ve been in English class that misuse of words usually goes right over my head, making more work for my poor editor, I’m sure. But when everyone around you is using words incorrectly, it just starts to sound right after awhile. LOL.

  2. Isabel Roman says:

    I don’t know, Susan, it still makes me cringe. Then again, I hear a lot of misuse! I can’t help correcting the people I know at least. I’m sure it’s annoying but so is bad grammar.

    One of my pet peeves, too, Nic.

  3. LOL I agree with you, Susan, when everyone around you–tv, radio, etc.– talks that way it does start to sound right. But I still don’t like it! *G*

    Isabel, thank goodness–someone who understands! LOL

  4. Paisley Kirkpatrick says:

    I love this topic, Nic. The words that make my hair stand on end are “me and Nic” or “me and her” because I was taught you always put the other first. My poor Camp Fire girls knew when they had bugged me and finally I got them trained to say “Nic and me” or something as wonderful.

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