Thursday, August 27, 2015

Today's Top Ten List: Hateful English Language Errors

Here's the thing: I might be retired, but I will always be a Defender Of The Language. It causes me actual physical pain--emotional pain as well--when I have to witness errors in The Language. The errors may be spoken or written; it really doesn't matter. They make me wince, and some are so terribly egregious that it's a Good Thing that I am generally opposed to personal firearm ownership. Succinctly, Everyone should be glad that I am not Packing Heat, or stupid people would be stacked up like cordwood.

I'm not talking about a typo here or there in Comments, or the general lapse now and again in subject-verb agreement in a particularly thorny complex sentence involving multiple interruptive phrases. I make those errors, too. I'm talking about easy things. Things everyone should have mastered way back in elementary school or junior high school at the latest. Sadly, however, as we all have seen time and time again, this is not the case.

Here are my

Top Ten Hateful English Language Errors

1. Loose instead of Lose
2. Apostrophe S to make plural nouns
3. Lead instead of Led
4. Women instead of Woman (and vice versa)
5. Saying SH for the S in words like Start, Stop, Straight
6. Saying Southmore for Sophomore
7. Omitting Apostrophes in Contractions
8. Not Using the Oxford Comma
9. Its/It's
10. I Could Care Less

This list has changed quite a bit since I stopped having to read and grade student writing.

Briefly, then:

1. This will never stop--never, ever--hurting my feelings. I honestly feel that knowing this one pair of words and its correct usage can determine someone's potential for serious intelligence. I honestly do. I wonder if I can be friends with anyone who cannot use/spell them correctly.

2. This. Another dealbreaker. I have seen signs like this before: Apple's and Pears $1.59 lb. How do they decide that Apples is the one that gets the apostrophe, but Pears does not? What is the logic?

3. At least this one is understandable, given that there is already a word, the metal, that is spelled and pronounced LEAD. I get it.

4. I am constantly astounded by the fact that these two words have become not only interchangeable, but identically pronounced. WHAT IS HAPPENING? WHO IS DESTROYING MY LANGUAGE AND WHY?

5. Shtart. Shtop. Shtraight. Exshtreme. Shtrict. Why are some people pronouncing these words this way when they are not spelled this way?  This phenomenon started at about the same time as the Vocal Fry and Uptalking. It is with great regret that I must name First Lady Michelle Obama a major  offender in this.

6. I don't hear it often, but when I do...daggers.

7. I blame lazy text messagers for this one, primarily.

8. Always use the last comma before the conjunction for items in a series. Always. How bothersome is it, really? Just do it.

9. Pretty much, I've come to the conclusion that being able to choose the correct its/it's is genetically predetermined. It cannot be taught. You either have it, or you don't.

10. This idiom will needle me until the day I die. Probably at my deathbed, some nurse or bystander will walk by and remark to another stranger something about the weather or the upcoming elections or the latest gossip, and the last thing I hear before I Cross Over will be, "I could care less." And at that point I will be too weak or sick or dead to say, "NO, YOU IDIOT. IT IS 'I COULDN'T CARE LESS. BECAUSE IF YOU COULD CARE LESS, THEN WHY DON'T YOU GO AHEAD AND DO SO? IT IMPLIES THAT YOU DO, IN FACT, CARE SOMEWHAT." How ironic, right?

So, tell me in Comments which Language Lapses irk you.


  1. #5 I've never heard anyone say, so I'm fascinated by it.

    My two pet peeves: 1) it is "library" not LIE-BERRY; and 2) it is "washing machine" not WORSHING MACHINE.


    1. Ally Bean--Oh, please find any speech or television ad by The First Lady and you will. (re #5)

      Your pet peeves: 1. This is such a juvenile pronunciation that any adult speaker sounds downright silly saying it! 2. My uncle said worsh and gorsh (for gosh). Also poleesh (polish) and mayzhure (measure). My mother says Michikan for Michigan, and that makes me absolutely want to tear my ears off.

  2. Oxford comma is my big buggaboo. As you say, just use the damn thing! I must admit that sometimes I have problems with "it's" and "its". I really do.

    1. phoebes in sf--I'm not sure why or when the Oxford Comma ever became optional. I'm going to research it and then start a campaign to mark that date--if there is a Date Certain--as a Day That Shall Live In Infamy. If it can be attributed to A Person, I am vaulting him/her to the top of my Should Be Smacked List.

      Re: it's/its--admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery and redemption.

  3. Then/than - Just today saw someone I respect a lot (and who is smarter than I am) use "then" when she meant "than." Sigh.

    I think that I myself said #10 incorrectly recently - and in fact, I'm pretty sure that I WROTE it somewhere. At the time I thought, "Hmmm - this doesn't look quite right..." But I went and did it anyway :)

    Back when I was really into Weight Watchers I used to belong to a group on one of the message boards. Loose/lose was SUCH a huge problem there! I felt like WW should have just put a large note on every webpage: You have a screw loose if you use "lose" incorrectly!

  4. Bug--Then/than is another one that trips a lot of people up. I don't see it too terribly often, but when I do...ouch.

    STOP IT IMMEDIATELY re: #10. Please.

    I want to think that the whole Loose/Lose thing is what made you stop Weight Watchers.

  5. Believe it or not, Canadian accepted punctuation when I was learning to write was NOT to use the Oxford comma. It seemed logical to me to do it, but generated a lot of red pencil on what I turned in. And I still don't use it if I don't proofread.
    My screamers I think you know. 'Fewer' and 'less'. So often fried on the radio or TV. Subject case after a preposition. "Give it to David and I". You can have a PhD (in science) and still blow this one. Subject/preposition agreement, often blown away by the politically correct attempt not to use the masculine to cover both. Rather than say 'he or she', the sensitive darlings make it plural. "Each student must have a lock on their locker.'
    I won't go on.
    I love you, I truly do.

    1. Mary G--I share your woe, especially on the Newly Accepted Usage Of They, Their, Them For Indefinite Pronoun Or Unclear Gender Antecedents. I made the "between you and I" error briefly in conversation yesterday with my retired English teacher aunt. Corrected it in the same breath. She, of course, interrupted me to thank me for doing so but only after expressing shock that I committed it at all. Sigh. I was mortified.

      I love you, too. XXOO

    2. I guess I would have been equally embarrassed. My wretched 12 year old grandkid corrects my grammar from time to time, whenever she can catch me. I think it is a game. But my worst personal error is saying 'liberry' for 'library'. So did my father - tin ears seem to run in the family, sometimes. Sure skipped the grandkid's generation, although I can catch either of my daughters slipping on something on a regular basis, causing me to ask myself what I did wrong raising them.
      Comfort yourself that your written English is impeccable. I can't even do that.

  6. I guess I'm a product of the too-PC early 90s, because I prefer to err by saying their than calling a woman a man. It's a conscious decision that I make, though.

    I have a darling friend with bad grammar, and it does sometimes hurt when she types loose when she means lose, or says 'me and my friend'. I'm a crummy speller, though, so I try not to hold myself above anyone if I can manage it.

    I dislike "I could care less", and REALLY dislike the fact that in the dictionary, they both mean the same thing, when of course they shouldn't. I am a big fan of the oxford comma. Life gets confusing without it.

    A current frustration is effect vs affect. My boss uses the wrong one all of the time. I have to let it go, because it is not my job to correct my boss's grammar. But it's difficult.

    1. J@jj--But, "their" is plural. It is far more egregious to imply that he or she is a group. Simply use "he or she" or the objective "him or her" or the possessive "his or her": Each student must bring his or her lunch.

      Is "I could care less" accepted in an ONLINE sort of dictionary of idioms? Which one? It may be listed as colloquial or substandard, but it's still not acceptable TO SMART PEOPLE LIKE READERS HERE.

      Affect and effect are constant challenges to so many people. Complicating this is "affect" the psychological term, which is a noun, and "effect" used as an infinitive verb(al), such as "It was difficult for the substitute teacher to effect any real change in student behaviour."

    2. Nance and J - if you plot the sentence, you will not have to make the politically correct error. Use a plural subject!
      All students must bring their lunch. Or, wait, should that be lunches?
      Picture Mary G running screaming through the night.


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