Grammar that irks

I’m going downtown this morning for various errands, so all posts will be delayed until about 10 a.m. Chicago time. No worries, though: we will have Hili, we will have animals, and we will have a “spot the” feature. And there will be more on human sexual dimorphism as well.  In the meantime, perhaps you can fill this thread with things that bother you—or words and phrases that bother you.

Being a grammar Nazi, one of the things I don’t like to see is the use of the word “hopefully” in place of “I hope that.” Hopefully is an adverb that means “with hope”, as in “he looked at Shirley hopefully.” It is not to be used like this: “Hopefully, things will turn out for the best. Yes, I know that some dictionaries say “hopefully” can be used as “in the hope that”, but I don’t like it.  And I don’t care if Steve Pinker says it’s okay, for this is a thread about words that bother us.

Here’s another: “I could care less.” Well, if you don’t care about something, you couldn’t care less. If you could care less, that means there’s room for less caring, and that’s now what you want to say.

Alternatively, just talk about what’s on your mind, which would be a nice experiment.

Back in a few hours.

635 Comments

  1. Liddell
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    I hate it when people get the pronounciation wrong

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      Nor indeed the pronounciation of ‘pronunciation’.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:37 am | Permalink

        Not to mention the spellin’.

      • Liddell
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        How’s the irony of mispronouncing that one? SMH

  2. Simon
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    https://xkcd.com/1576/ :p

  3. jknath1
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    When people use then when they really mean than.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      A common homophone error, like “there” for “their.” People are careless, that’s all.

      • nicky
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        or they’re

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:34 am | Permalink

          How to reassure a pedant: “There, their, they’re”

          • Nobody Special
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

            Now there’s a potwa waiting to be served 😉

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        “than/ then” is probably (often) a typo ; the brain thinks one thing but the muscle memory executes the wrong sequence. “There / their/ they’re” OTOH is simply getting the wrong word because the typist is taking dictation from the voice inside their head without actually thinking about what the voice is saying. It’s a give away that – well, the author isn’t thinking very hard, if at all.

    • dabertini
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      Agreed!! In science THAN is an important word!!

      • Peter Austin
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        So is ‘then’ .. 😉

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

          As in, “then a miracle occurs.”

  4. Barry Lyons
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    I can’t stand seeing “less” when people mean “fewer.” I have even stuck this complaint in my Twitter profile!

    • DrBrydon
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      I remember in high-school freshman English a classmate pointing out that the express lane in the supermarket should be “for 10 items or fewer.” In the last year or so it seems like the word fewer has disappeared from the language.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      Actually, this one is not quite so simple as many people think. When “count nouns” may be perceived as mass nouns, then “less” is fine. The history of the usage makes that plain.

      MERRIAM WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY OF ENGLISH USAGE says this: “Here is the rule as it is usually encountered: fewer refers to number among things that are counted, and less refers to quantity or amount among things that are measured. This rule is simple enough and easy enough to follow. It has only one fault — it is not accurate for all usage. If we were to write the rule from the observation of actual usage, it would be the same for fewer: fewer does refer to number among things that are counted. However, it would be different for less: less refers to quantity or amount among things that are measured and to number among things that are counted. Our amended rule describes the actual usage of the past thousand years or so.”

      Also:

      “The idea that less can’t be used with count nouns isn’t well supported; it’s a rule that hasn’t ever been strictly followed, especially for count nouns that can be perceived as masses. Groceries lend themselves to perception as a mass, so it’s no surprise that “10 items or less” is favored now, just as it has been historically.”

      http://motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/…/10-items-or…/

      • Rod
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

        My English teacher, surely long-dead, told us: If you can pour it, use less, if you count it, use fewer.

        Interestingly, regarding traffic, which is surely countable (vehicles/hr etc.) behaves like a fluid when moving, and fluid dynamic principles apply.

        • Charles Phillips
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

          Less traffic, fewer cars.

          • rickflick
            Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:57 am | Permalink

            What about:

            Fewer cars poured through the intersection.

      • John Conoboy
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        Still, it makes me happy when I see the sign at our local grocery store for the lane that is for “10 items or fewer.”

    • jeremy pereira
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      I know it’s wrong but I couldn’t care fewer.

  5. malvolioblog
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    No, it doesn’t mean only that, any more than “thankfully” only means “done in a thankful manner.” Sorry, but this is a case, as with so-called “split infinitives,” where people are trying to be hyper-correct — and thereby getting it wrong. Please stick to your biology, Prof. Coyne, leave the grammar to us writers.

    (I certainly agree with you, though, about ‘I could care less’, but that is becoming idiomatic, in speech, at least. Probably a losing battle. Never acceptable in writing, except as recorded speech.)

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      What a rude and asinine way to talk to the proprietor. Seriously? Stick to biology and leave the grammar to you writers?

      You’re an ass, and won’t be posting here any more.

  6. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    I have movies on my mind.
    Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. If you have seen it, what did you think?

    • Christopher
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      I admit a wee bit of Star Wars fatigue. Quite frankly, with the disappointing episodes I, II, III & VII, I’m just about done. And oy, the Death Star, always the Death Star! The only thing that makes me want to see it is the perception by the not so bright far right who claim it is anti-Trump. Otherwise, I could care less*.

      *yes, I meant that. I could care less. I care a little, but not very much.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        Well I liked it. As for particulars I will say two things. 1. They finally decided to have good dialogue in the series. That took long enough! 2. Not wishing to post spoilers, but the fates of all the main characters are unexpected.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

          Darth wins and settles down to have a nice cup of lava?

      • BJ
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        Some people on the far right are saying it’s anti-them, some people on the far left are saying it’s racist and sexist.

        It seems this will be the way of things for the foreseeable future.

      • BJ
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        Oh, and I am also suffering from Star Wars fatigue and have completely lost interest.

        I remember walking out of The Force Awakens thinking, “wow, that actually *felt* like a Star Wars movie. Awesome!” Unfortunately, the more I thought about the film, the more I realized that the only reason I enjoyed it was that it was a return to a certain kind of visual and storytelling feeling that had been left behind for the prequels. Once I put that aside, I found that I didn’t think it was a very good movie. Considering that it seems to be the way of Star Wars under Disney, I can’t find much interest inside myself for future iterations.

    • bluemaas
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Thank you for this topic, Dr Sturtevant !

      I recently viewed “Captain Fantastic” ! and
      myself thought it wholly fantastic.
      I adore this film … … hermitess
      out inside The Woods that I am !

      The scene on Noam Chomsky Holiday at where, outside their bus,
      Littlest, given as an explanatory gift to her, the book entitled
      “The Joy of Sex” whilst all of her five older siblings are, instead,
      receiving survivalist knives and bows and other equipment
      so Littlest up and simply leafs through it briefly
      before disgustedly dropping the book onto the ground
      just cracks me up every time that I recall on it.

      Why, of course, she drops it all the way down to the ground !
      What a statement this gesture of Littlest’s makes !

      Others’ thoughts re the film ? !
      Blue

    • jeremy pereira
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      I liked it but, being completely honest, the most exciting part (for me) was the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 that played just before it started.

  7. Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Sam Harris’ podcast with Richard Dawkins mentions the different US and UK pronunciations of ‘evolution’. Frankly, I had never noticed it.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Process is pronounced differently as well. I say the US version with the short “o” while other Canadians say the long “o”, which is how one says it in England. In Canada, you get a mix of the two pronunciations. I have no idea why I favour the US one.

      • Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        Am I right in thinking that Americans often stress the second syllable in forenames of 2 syllables where the British would stress the first? E.g. US = Bernárd vs. UK = Bérnard. By which lights my name would be said as, “Dermót”. If it’s true, I wonder why.

        • Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

          We say Dérmot.

          And Ándrew, Sárah, Trávis, Wálter, Kélly, etc…

          • Merilee
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

            Péter, Dávid, Stéven…

  8. Robert Bray
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Somewhere in the English language ether time-flow, collectives like ‘everyone’ and ‘everybody’ went from singular ‘his or her’ referents to plural ‘their.’ I understand both the efficiency and the gender-neutral aspects of this change. But it still bothers me.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      I don’t have a problem with trying to find better, more gender neutral terms. But it bothers me when the attempt is made because it just sounds wrong to my ear. In order to dispose of the generic “he” when gender is unspecified, the effort can seem weird. Here’s an example of the traditional use of masculine where it doesn’t always work:

      “The average American needs the small routines of getting ready for work. As he shaves or blow-dries his hair or pulls on his panty-hose, he is easing himself by small stages into the demands of the day.”

      (Quoted in Wikipedia – Gender-specific and gender-neutral).

      So, some people do the “he/she” tap dance. Or just “she” to make the point. This all bothers me, but not as much as using newly created words like “ve”. That’s just too much for me to handle. Someday, maybe, it will begin to sound natural. Once accepted, man/woman will be better off.

      • Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        I’m no fan of drastically altering the language, but I do find it worthwhile to vary usage of he/she in cases where it reinforces undesirable stereotypes. Two personal examples:

        When I studied to be a teacher I majored in early childhood education, which was predominantly female. *All* the textbooks referred to the teachers as “she”. I used “he” (and was consequently labeled sexist).

        Later, (after making a few serious philosophical errors and drifting into spiritual beliefs) I was studying Anthroposophy, wherein a very traditional mentality was dominant, they insisted on using “he”, as well as “man” for “humans”. These were bullish, authoritarian old men insisting on this, quite contrary to the more gender neutral original language of German that Rudolf Steiner spoke. I remember someone one day reading a passage aloud and substituting “woman” for “man”, and I could only agree with her, that it is indeed alienating to hear one’s own gender explicitly excluded.

      • jardino
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        One of the best handlers of this situation was the excellent but sadly deceased author Ian Banks.

        In one of his last novels, a figure is emerging dimly from the mist. At this point, the narrator refers to the figure as “they”. As the figure becomes clearer, the narrator starts to refer to it as “he” (or “she”: I forget which).

        Alan.

        • Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

          Iain. He had two I’s. Unlike Polyphemus. (A joke I share with him once.)

          /@

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

            Haha! Any cyclops fans in the house?

            • Nobody Special
              Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

              Aye. Just the one.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      Same with “anybody” and “anyone.” This used to bother me — oh, hell, it still does — but I’ve begun to use “their” myself in all but formal writing, due to the lack of a workable alternative. “His or her” can be unwieldy. I tried alternating “his” and “her” for a while, but then half the time readers thinks you’re being sexist; the other half, they’re left wondering what woman you’re referring to.

      A friend pointed out that Jane Austen sometimes used plural referents for singular antecedents. That did it for me.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        “readers think” — I originally wrote “reader,” but then was left with a “he or she” referent, so switched it to plural, but forgot to change the verb.

        Writin’ is hard.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

          I often go for the plural & end up making the same mistake!

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

        ” I tried alternating “his” and “her” for a while, but then half the time readers thinks you’re being sexist; the other half, they’re left wondering what woman you’re referring to.”

        My wife, whose native language – Rarotongan – doesn’t use gendered pronouns, used to do that for a while, and it could be quite startling. “Tere got drunk and his husband had to take him home”.
        But then I do the same with French possessive pronouns when I can’t remember the gender of the object.

        cr

  9. Linda Calhoun
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Eyeing instead of eying.

    Ageing instead of aging.

    What’s next? Boneing the chicken? L

    • BobTerrace
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      Very observeing of you.

      • Larry
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

        And the use of livable vs liveable. I see both in the papers on livable/liveable cities.

      • Nobody Special
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:20 am | Permalink

        Observeant. 😉

    • Geoff Toscano
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      North America prefers to drop the ‘e’ in these types of word, but elsewhere it is regarded as wrong; the ‘e’ softens the g.

      • Geoff Toscano
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:45 am | Permalink

        My comment should have ended ‘in respect of ageing’ but the principle remains.

        • Linda Calhoun
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

          The letter i also softens the g.

          There are times when leaving the e is correct, but not in the examples I gave above. The group of verbs ending in oe, for example, shoeing rather than shoeing, toeing rather than toing.

          But, leaving the e there to “soften the g” when the i does the same thing is just mental laziness. L

          • Geoff Toscano
            Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

            I’ll politely disagree.

          • Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

            Binging vs bingeing

            • Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

              “Binging” looks to me like it should be pronounced “bing-ing” rather than “binzh-ing”.

              Singing v. singeing.

              /@

              • Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

                Precisely. If you want to eat a lot you can’t drop the “e”.

              • Merilee
                Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

                I believe I singe people’s ears when I sing😖

              • Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:25 am | Permalink

                Ha!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      Judgement must annoy you as well as you cast “judgment” upon the word. 😛

    • Larry Smith
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      What’s up with all this whingeing/whinging?

  10. Geoff Toscano
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I entirely agree about the ridiculous American version of “I couldn’t care less” becoming “I could care less”. It loses its meaning.

    Off the top of my head my biggest gripe is “comprise of”, rather than just “comprise”.

    I also dislike the almost accepted interchange between the words “evidence” and “proof”. Not helped, I might say, by American crime shows.

    • BobTerrace
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      How come no one ever says “I couldn’t care more”?

      • stephen castleden
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:02 am | Permalink

        I guess the caring level goes from zero to infinity, so you can always care more, just not less than zero.

    • Christopher
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      just skirt the controversy and say “I don’t give a shit”.

      • Linda Calhoun
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

        +1.

        Lol. l

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

        I usually say “I reeeeeeeally don’t care!” 🙂

        • BobTerrace
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

          “meh” is succinct.

        • Kiwi Dave
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

          Whatevs

      • barn owl
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        This list from McSweeney’s makes humorous use of my favorite version of “I couldn’t care less” –

        https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/rats-asses-given

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:57 am | Permalink

          My sister introduced me to this one a couple of years ago – and then was astonished that I’d survived until then without knowing who the cartoon character is/ was. I still don’t know what it’s about.

      • jardino
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        Or, as an American friend used to say in a roundabout way, “It seems that you think you’re talking to someone who actually gives a shit.”

        (He lost his job in the customer services call centre!)

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

          If I’m going to go to that length, I’ll fake searching for a 10p bit – “for your bus fare to search for someone who gives a [expletive]”.
          (It has been a very long time since 10p was a bus fare for anyone to anywhere.)

      • Larry
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        You just skirt the controversy? No! We must teach the controversy!

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

          Skirting is not inclusive enough – we should pant around the subject. 🙂

          • rickflick
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

            Well, that leaves me out. 😦

          • Christopher
            Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:18 am | Permalink

            I think you kilt the subject.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      By all accounts, “I could care less” originated in Britain and got imported to the US.

      • Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        Two nations divided by a common language.
        Not my quotation. E.Waugh I think.

        • Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

          Evelyn and his wife were two spouses united by a common forename, but I think the ‘two nations…’ aphorism is unattributable.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:13 am | Permalink

            In which case, the general rule is to attribute it to Twain or Churchill.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:06 am | Permalink

          With due respect to Ken below, I do think that is Churchillian.
          [Searches] Not Churchill. Often attributed to George Bernard Shaw. But this page says :

          England and America are two countries divided by a common language.This supposed quotation doesn’t appear anywhere in the copious writing of GBS. A similar idea was expressed by Oscar Wilde in The Canterville Ghost, 1887, some years earlier than Shaw was supposed to have said it: “We really have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language”.

          It does have a call of the Wilde, doesn’t it?

  11. Mark Perew
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Being a grammar Nazi …

    The preferred term is now “alt-write”.

    • BobTerrace
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      +1

      You win the thread.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Well, I tried with “the call of the Wilde” just now, but I too think that you’ve got it.

  12. Christopher
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    I’m quite tired of hearing about cis and trans, personally, unless we’re discussing hydrogen bonds. Same goes for binary, unless talking about computer code, and I’m sick of hearing about “indentifying as…” by the leftists who clearly don’t follow their own rules (just ask Rachael Dolezal).

    Personally, I prefer the modified Mr. Rogers school of thought, meaning: I like you for just being you…unless you’re an asshole. Now, you’ll have to excuse me, I have a cardigan and some keds to slip into.

    • Christopher
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      and allow me to add, for the sake of balance, how sick I am of the right whinging about how having unisex toilets is going to lead to mass rape of young girls. Really? Does that plastic “GIRLS” sign outside the restroom repel pedophiles as a crucifix does vampires in a Hammer Horror film?

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        Does that plastic “GIRLS” sign outside the restroom repel pedophiles as a crucifix does vampires in a Hammer Horror film?

        That’s what the paedophiles and paediatricians want you to believe. And if I wanted to go vampire hunting, the script-writing department of Hammer films is where I’d start.

        • Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

          So, what about Transvaal and Cisvaal, then?

          /@

          • Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

            * Oops. That was meant to be a reply to your next comment, Aidan.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

            Never have two … groups of people … been so divided by a common river?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      ’m quite tired of hearing about cis and trans, personally, unless we’re discussing hydrogen bonds.

      Ow, ow, ow!
      Double bonds of (IIRC) p² hybrid orbitals – where there is a significant energy barrier against rotation about the bond.
      The people who use cis- and trans- as gender description modifiers really don’t know what murky waters they’re stirring. Like the hobbits chucking stones into the lake at Moria.

  13. allison
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    “All of the sudden” (in place of “suddenly”) really grinds my gears. How does that phrase make any sense? If something happens gradually, can I say “part of the sudden”?

    Also, living in a semi-rural area I hear “I seen” all too often, as in “I seen a bigfoot runnin’ across the road”

    • Rita
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      I once heard a co-worker say to another, “I knew you was here ’cause I seen your car in the parking lot”.

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        I hear people around here say “seen” all the time. (This is also a semi-rural area.) When I am having a conversation with someone, as soon as they say something like: “I seen her yesterday at the mall”, I lose interest in a)pursuing the conversation and b) some kind of friendship with them. Does that make me a bad person?

        • rickflick
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

          Before completely writing them off, ask if they donate blood or give to the WWF or the FFRF. If they do you might be able to reengage.

          I have relatives who speak this way. Every time I visit I’m initially stunned, but I quickly build up a callus on my ear drums.

          • Claudia Baker
            Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

            Good advice. I like the callus not the ear drums idea too.

            • Claudia Baker
              Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

              *on* the ear drums

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Those who espy “Sasquatch,” on the other hand, prefer the past perfect. 🙂

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        🙂

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      When people say “alls” drives me crazy. As in: “Alls I’m saying”.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:32 am | Permalink

        Oh, agreed. ‘All’ is comprehensive, it includes everything, you can’t have more than that.

        Also, ‘youse’, as in youse guys.

        cr

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      “All of the sudden” (in place of “suddenly”) really grinds my gears. How does that phrase make any sense?

      It doesn’t make any sense because someone is remembering it wrongly. The phrase is (or should be) “all of a sudden”. It’s archaic, but not incomprehensible or in any sense wrong. It’s of a kind with “of a kind”.

      • Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

        Archaic? I must be very old then, as it still seems a natural turn of phrase to me!

        /@

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:40 am | Permalink

          Me too.

    • Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      “…thus on a sudden…”

      – Robert Herrick, A Christmas Carol

  14. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    I didn’t know about “hopefully” – good call.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:09 am | Permalink

      I used to have a bug up my butt about “hopefully,” too, but I’ve about given up on it. I mean, it’s the same deal with “fortunately” and “thankfully,” and nobody beefs about them.

      Still, it would be nice if “hopefully” reverted to its original adverbial use (I add hopefully).

      • Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

        I think the battle is lost on all of these.

      • Sarah
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        “Hopefully”, like “fortunately”, “unfortunately”, “conversely”, and so on are just sentence modifiers and grammatically above reproach. I don’t know why “hopefully” raises the hackles when the others don’t. Understandably, this situation continues to puzzle me.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:40 am | Permalink

          ‘Hopefully’ raises hackles because it’s attributing the hope to the wrong entity.

          ‘Hopefully, the weather will improve’ means that it is *the weather* doing the hoping, not us. This is why it just feels wrong.
          ‘To travel hopefully is better than to arrive’ is correct usage, it attributes the hopeing to the traveller.

          ‘Fortunately’, ‘conversely’ etc for some reason are less obviously misattributing the quality to the wrong entity, so they don’t jar so much.

          cr

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      “Hopefully,” used as a sentence adverb, is fine. If I may repeat what I have posted below, Richard Nordquist writes, “The sentence adverb has served a useful function in English since the 14th century. In the past few decades, however, one sentence adverb in particular has come in for a lot of criticism.” He’s referring to “hopefully.”

      He goes on to give a variety of examples, saying, “Unlike an ordinary adverb–which is conventionally defined as a word that modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb–a sentence adverb modifies a sentence as a whole or a clause within a sentence.

      “Dozens of words can be used as sentence adverbs, among them actually, apparently, basically, briefly, certainly, clearly, conceivably, confidentially, curiously, evidently, fortunately, hopefully, however, ideally, incidentally, indeed, interestingly, ironically, naturally, predictably, presumably, regrettably, seriously, strangely, surprisingly, thankfully, theoretically, therefore, truthfully, ultimately, and wisely.”

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

        Nice list, thanks.

    • Vaal
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      I have no problem with “hopefully” and I’m glad I don’t. One less thing to irk.

      Of course…”I could care less”…remains a crime against humanity.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        To Den Haag with them !
        Which reminds me to organise an afternoon off next time I’m there – I missed the Maurits Escher display’s opening hours last time.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Hopefully, PCC will return momentarily.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:43 am | Permalink

        Ack! That one gets me. Momentarily, I mean. It does NOT mean ‘soon’, it means ‘briefly’. (As I’m sure you know).
        ‘For a moment’, NOT ‘in a moment’.

        cr

        • Merilee
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

          And presently is mostly misused.

  15. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    “The optics” — as when tv news people use it mean “appearances” or “looks,” as in “the optics are bad regarding Sen. Hornblower’s arrest last night in a Rock Creek Park men’s room.”

    Optics is what Galileo did.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      Or a means for dispensing spirits in a bar.

      • Nobody Special
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        HaggisForBrains, my thoughts entirely.
        +1

    • Rod
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      …. particularly when the perfectly acceptable word perception exists.

  16. Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    I have two. First, the misuse of “begs” the question, when they mean “raises” the question. Second, when sports announcers say that a team controls its destiny. I think not.

    Of course,misusing “notoriety” and “literally” is too wide-spread to ever stop.

    • Jeff Lewis
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      Personally, I avoid using the phrase ‘beg the question’ in my own writing. In my opinion, it’s even worse than technical jargon. It’s not just that a large proportion of potential readers don’t understand what it means, but that a large proportion think it means something else, and so will completely miss the point. Hell, if you Google it, the ‘real’ meaning doesn’t come up until the third definition. It doesn’t matter if I as a writer know what the phrase is supposed to mean if my audience doesn’t (and by writer, I simply mean comment sections like this and my own blog, or whenever I have to write papers or proposals for work, not that I’m any type of professional writer).

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

        Finally some common sense.

        It’s like what they say in marching band–“if everyone else is wrong and you’re right, you’re wrong.”

  17. DrBrydon
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    My bugbear is rogue capitalization, which is common in business writing. Anything that sounds like a product or is an important concept gets capitals, so if a company addresses process improvement issues, Process Improvement will often (but not consistently) wind up in caps. And then there are the people who capitalize nouns in bulleted lists as if we were suddenly German.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      And then there are the people who capitalize nouns in bulleted lists as if we were suddenly German.

      Hey, I’m trying to learn German! I’ve got an excuse for this particular error.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        I blame German for my lack of commas & my bizarre noun capitalization all over the place.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          Ich grok!

        • Nobody Special
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

          Such a classically Teutonic name, Diana MacPherson. I’d guess Dresden with just a smidgen of Glasgow.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:06 am | Permalink

            Haha. My great great grandmother was from Germany and emigrated to NZ after WWI where she married a Welshman. My dad’s biological father was Irish and i think 2nd generation Canadian. My dad’s biological mother was English and first generation Canadian. I did my genetics and most of my DNA is from the British Isles and Ireland. The rest is Northern European (Germany and France), some Southern European and then a small bit of North African and Middle Eastern which I think was from the Jews.

            • rickflick
              Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:59 am | Permalink

              What a charming blend. From your commentary over the past months, I’d have to say you distilled a lot of wonderful traits (although some of that distinction must be attributed to you wholesome environment, not just to exquisite breeding). 😎

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

                Awww that’s nice of you to say. My joke about my genetics is I paid $250 to tell me I am white. 🙂

              • rickflick
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

                Try telling folks that you’re popcorn. My basement walls look white but they’re not. The paint can label says they’re popcorn.

  18. Avis James
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Here is what I am thinking: “It is about the first day of Coynzea, so I am going to follow my tradition and eat some smoked mullet”. I bet Jerry can guess where I am!

    • Nobody Special
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

      Not in my bloody kitchen 🙂

  19. Billy Bl.
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Not a grammatical issue, but “across the world”, or worse, “across the globe”. OK for the Flat Earthers, but they bother me.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      ‘The four corners of the Earth’ has always irked me.

      • loren russell
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        Four bedposts holding up the sky — don’t cha know the Holy Bible?

  20. Simon Hayward
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Qualified absolutes, e.g. “very unique”

    Meaningless abbreviations of phrases – “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” reduced to “the proof is in the pudding” – does that mean they made it with brandy? I really don’t get it.

    “Please RSVP” which I see a lot at this time of year, also makes me grind my teeth.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      You’ve hit the nail on proof in the pudding.

  21. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I continue to look for tame fires. All we hear about are wild fires. I’m sure George Carlin would have something to say about this.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      Any fire contained for use by humans — stoves, furnaces, fireplaces …

      🙂

      • Christopher
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

        They’re not really “tame”, just “temporarily restrained”, especially when tended to by my father (has set fire to his chimney & has used gasoline to start a fire indoors) or step father (has set fire to his own yard twice, once nearly taking out the neighbor’s propane tank).

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

          Maybe we should refer to them as “infernos in flex cuffs”?

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

          You know, I think that is true of all fathers. They do like to set them and then watch out. Mine loved to burn off lake banks, even with houses close by and ditches, he loved to set fire to ditches. Every time I start a fire my wife starts dragging hoses. Oh ye of little faith.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

          I think your family needs to take the “Doctor’s Answer (*) when it comes to fire lighting. If you know what you’re doing, fire is controllable. The problem is that most people who think they know what they’re doing, don’t.
          Of course, you still need to treat fire with respect. “The burned hand teaches best”, and all that.

          (*)Patient: “Doctor, doctor, doctor! It hurts when I do X!”
          Doctor: “Then don’t do it!”

      • Rita
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

        Insurance companies call those “friendly fires”, and if a casualty is caused by a friendly fire, that loss may not be covered.

  22. jardino
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Punctuation, not grammar: but the usual confusion between “its” and “it’s”.

    It’s the common confusion about the apostrophe and its correct usage that I hate.

    Also, the common announcement by U.S. flight attendants (I’ve not heard this on U.K. flights) that “We’ll be taking off momentarily”. I’d been looking forward to a longer flight than a few seconds …

    Alan.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      And your/you’re being confused. And ‘of’ instead of have (or ‘ve).

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        Yeah. I’ll drop a “woulda” or “coulda” when writing colloquially, but “would of” and “could of” are abominations.

        • Claudia Baker
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

          And using “of” instead of “with”: “I’m bored of this game.”

    • Woof
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Yeah, “its” vs “it’s” really grinds me gears. IOW, it makes me abort the sentence parsing procedure and start over.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        *my

  23. Art
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Impacted for affected. Nitpicky, I know, but my wife, who has a medical background, hates it when a community, for example, has “been impacted” by something. “That must be uncomfortable,” she opines.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      I’ve never been crazy about “impact” as a verb (except as a past participle used to modify wisdom teeth), though I’ve forsaken it as a lost cause.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        I’ve had to read too many air crash reports where the aircraft impacts the sea or ground. And I comment on the impact of meteorites (the Chixulub impactor in particular, and it’s alleged role in the extinction of many planktonic and nektonic microfauna. As well as the non-avian dinosaurs.)
        “to impact” is a perfectly good verb. Often misused I’ll agree, but nothing wrong with it in itself.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

          There’s nothing wrong with it per se. But when things collide or crash or ram into each other, there are better, more descriptive action verbs available. That’s all I’m sayin’.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:49 am | Permalink

            Quite agree about impact-as-a-verb. ‘Collided’ or ‘hit’ is usually more applicable and less pretentious.

            cr

            • Merilee
              Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

              Whacked usually works well, as well

  24. reasonshark
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Sadly, I don’t agree with the “hopefully” complaint one iota. Strangely enough, I’m more inclined to accept a notable linguist’s well-researched say over one random person’s pet peeve demand.

    Fortunately, you don’t have a choice in the matter. Happily, words like “hopefully” have more than one meaning and can be used for an entire sentence just as well as they can be used like traditional verb-phrase adverbs. Thankfully, Pinker provides a good explanation in his book, The Sense of Style.

    Interestingly enough, I have this book right in front of me, on page 266. Frankly, the whole book makes for fascinating reading, but then so does most of his oeuvre on language. Mercifully, he also points out in The Language Instinct that “could care less” is supposed to be sarcastic, not taken at face value.

    Hopefully, you’ll reconsider your position in light of these facts. 😉

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      Mercifully, he also points out in The Language Instinct that “could care less” is supposed to be sarcastic, not taken at face value.

      The problem with that explanation is that lots of people who say “could care less” are unable to explain that they are being sarcastic, and indeed are unable to explain what they think the phrase means.

      When, ages back, I lived in the US, I was genuinely puzzled by the usage, so I asked people about it. No one replied: “oh, I’m being sarcastic”, the most common reply was something like “it’s just a phrase one uses”.

      • reasonshark
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        That there is a logic to the phrase does not mean most people will be aware of it. Most people are not devoted linguists; they simply use the language, and the language steadily drifts over time. That’s how idioms become fossilized metaphors in the first place.

        Fish probably don’t know what water is, yet they are adapted to local conditions in the medium that admit to a logical analysis. It would probably be better if people were more aware of their language use and origins, but I find it hard to begrudge them a “mutation” or two. Tomorrow’s language has to start somewhere.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

          reasonshark

          Carefully-chosen metaphor?

          Fish probably don’t know what water is,

          What about flying fish? Or, for that matter, flatfish and others that spend much of their lives in an infaunal habitat?

    • phoffman56
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Happily, your response made my day. Typically, this time of year up here in Canada is rather dreary. Unfortunately, this year is no exception. Actually, it’s worse than average weather and daylight so far. Hopefully, the weather will improve. Normally, there would be nothing like your reply to improve my sour disposition approaching Xmas.

  25. Rick
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    It bothers me that “hopefully” used as a sentence adverb bothers people.

    I remember reading a passage that focuses on this issue in Philip Roth’s novel “Exit Ghost”. Jamie (a young female character) says: “I won’t be so worked up, hopefully, and I won’t be so frayed, hopefully, and I won’t be in such a state, hopefully.” Nathan (Roth’s alter ego in many of his novels) replies: “You misuse ‘hopefully.'” He then adds: “‘I hope’ would do.” A little rant follows, and it’s about how back in the good old days “hopefully” wasn’t misused. (I’d type the rant here, but there’s some transgressive language in it.)

    Anyhow, I’m with Pinker on this one: there are “sentence adverbs” that (in Pinker’s words) “indicate the attitude of the speaker toward the content of the sentence”. In “The Language Instinct”, he describes the issue thoroughly and shows why it is preferable and even necessary at times to use “hopefully” as a sentence adverb.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      We should not dismiss lightly writing advice from Nathan Zuckerman, author of the great Carnovsky. 🙂

  26. Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    I completely agree on “hopefully” and I have done my best to eliminate that usage from my speech and writing.

    I also hate “impactful” and its variants.

    Well, pretty well all business buzz-words:

    Action Item.

  27. Bob
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I’ve always been bothered by the use of preventative when preventive is correct.

    • Merilee
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      I was under the impression that preventative was USAin and preventive British(??)

      I hate impact as a verb and, even worse, the recently ubiquitous, impactful.

      Not to mention lay for lie…

      • Merilee
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

        Whoops, omit the comma after ubiquitous ( since we’re being “grammarly”).

      • John Conoboy
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink

        I have the same thought about orientate instead of orient. I thought orientate was just wrong for many years, but then found it in a dictionary. I recently read that orientate is more common in Britain while orient was common in the US, but I hear orientate all the time in the US.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        In which case, those all-American “effective decay-preventive dentifrices” Crest and Colgate have been effecting Brit accents lo these many years. (As a compulsive reader, I’ve been known to resort to toothpaste tubes when nothing else was available.) 🙂

        • Larry
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 1:31 am | Permalink

          Ken: Wow, “effective decay-preventive dentifrices” really takes me back. Thanks for the memories.

          • Diane G.
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:02 am | Permalink

            Let’s see, IIRC: “Crest has been shown to be an effective decay-preventive dentifrice when used in a conscientiously applied program of oral hygiene and regular professional care.”

            Amirite?

            • Larry
              Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

              Wow! I am astounded! You overwhelm my mind.

              To honor your recall, let us all keep brushing.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:37 am | Permalink

                🙂

                When I was 9 years old I lived in Baltimore, MD, for one summer. I can still sing two beer commercials I learned there. (National & Gunther.)

        • Merilee
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

          Crest also fights calculus, as one of my fellow math teachers liked to tell the kids.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

      Along the same lines, I dislike “commentator” for “commenter,” though I’m certainly in the minority here. While I can’t help but notice they are now effectively synonymous (and the latter is winning), my taste still prefers the traditional distinction:

      http://grammarist.com/usage/commentator-commenter/

      We are also rapidly losing the past tense of “lead.” (Not to mention those of several other irregular verbs. E.g., in baseball–“he swinged the bat and the ball flied out of the park.”)

      • merilee
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

        swinged and flied fer realz??

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

          OH, yes.

          But it’s not just in baseball. I see it in the MSM all the time. (Not just those two verbs–many others. I’ve seen shined, sleeped, dived…notice how some sound better than others. I suppose pretty soon we’ll see “goed.”)

          Perhaps there’s some campaign we haven’t heard about to get rid of irregular verb forms. Rather like when the NYT style mavens decided not to use millennia, curricula, etc., in favor of millenniums, curriculums, and so on. I notice they still use “data,” however.

          • Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

            “Goed” has been and gone, while go stole “went” from wend, which wended forward regardless.

            /@

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:45 am | Permalink

              Never occurred to me that “went” would have a present tense. But of course! That was fun. 🙂

          • Merilee
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

            I thought that dived was accepted??

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:43 am | Permalink

              That’s why I mentioned that some sound better than others…I guess they’ve just been changing for a longer time. I still prefer “dove.” “She dove into the lake.”

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        Not to mention those of several other irregular verbs.

        To be honest, I should really welcome the death of irregular verbs. Do you see irregular verbs in programming languages? But I’d be much happier if the irregular was being deliberately strangled by people concerned with simplifying language, and not because of people being lazy ∨ incompetent.

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:06 am | Permalink

          Oh, I’d like to see all irregular verb forms vanish from any language I’m learning! Just not in English. Because I already know those. 🙂

          So to be consistent I should welcome their demise in English as well, it’s just that the new forms grate so much when I hear them…

          And speaking of English–if only we’d clean up the “-ough” pronunciations! (I’ve mentioned here before that I once had a Persian friend who went to a bakery and ordered a duffnut.) In fact there’s a plethora of spelling insanities that need addressing.

          • Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:52 am | Permalink

            It’s a thought, but it’d be thoroughly tough to get through, though. You’re ploughing a trough. You’d by houghed by opponents who’d want to throw you in a lough (if they were Irish!). *hiccough*

            /ɔː/, /ə/ (in British English, at least), /ʌf/, /uː/, /oʊ/, /aʊ/, /ɒf~ɔːf/, /ɒk/, /ɒx/, /ʌp/

            /@

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:23 am | Permalink

              SMH…classic Ant! Had to look up “houghing.”

              And I thought “lough” might be a bit like our “slough,” but I see I was wrong.

              You’ve been absent for a while, haven’t you?

              • Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:50 am | Permalink

                🙂

                Yeah, I was on an Internet-less cruise for two-weeks from mid-November, then at a conference for a week. came home with some kind of bug but still had a ton of work to catch up on, and was just too tired in the evenings to do very much of anything. I’m still not quite 100%.

                /@

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:55 am | Permalink

                Oh, I’m very sorry to hear that…and very glad you’re back!

              • Posted December 21, 2016 at 3:31 am | Permalink

                Thanks!

                /@

          • Merilee
            Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:30 am | Permalink

            Or my wonderful Chinese chem TA who always wanted us to mix the sorutions very thoruffly and then filter out all the junks. I can only imagine how I would sound in Chinese…

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 22, 2016 at 2:15 am | Permalink

              😀

              In Chinese, I would sound “mute.”

              • Merilee
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

                Best plan:-)

          • Sarah
            Posted December 22, 2016 at 8:42 am | Permalink

            Those verbs are not so much irregular as strong. “To be” is a really irregular verb! Strong verbs (a hallmark of a Germanic language) tend gradually to become weak, so the old “dove” has given way in places to “dived”. Nobody much says “striven” any more for the past participle of “strive”. I haven’t heard it enough to say, but I wonder if “strove” and “strived” exist side by side. My impression is that “throve” is losing ground (or as already lost it) to “thrived”. One puzzle for me is the way a few verbs seem to replace the past tense with the past participle. Was I the only one startled by “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”?

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted December 22, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

              Shone/shined.

              • Sarah
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 10:56 am | Permalink

                No, those have separate meanings like hanged/hung. You shine shoes (transitive)but the sun shines (intransitive).

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 11:13 am | Permalink

                That’s the traditional distinction, but “shined” has become increasingly accepted as intransitive. (“The sun shined down on us.”) I still opt for “shone.”

              • Sarah
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

                Quite right, Ken. The verbs may well fall together eventually, but now “the sun shined” just sounds illiterate to me, if committed by a native speaker.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

                Yep, I’ve cringed at that one, too.

              • merilee
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

                not to mention the Brit shon(e)

    • Larry
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:15 am | Permalink

      And organ transplant vs organ transplantation.

  28. Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I do my best to write grammatically correct, complete sentences even in emails and in texts.

  29. Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Pinker in American Heritage Dictionary Usage Notes records the results of polling an expert panel on points. In my old version, only 44% approved using “hopefully” to mean “it is hoped that” (sloppy on other grounds, too).
    Not grammar but semantics: I hate to hear/see people say, “that begs the question” to mean “one is encouraged to ask”; instead, the term in logic means, “your statement assumes the truth of what you are trying to prove” and is therefore fallacious.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      That one, alas, is a lost cause. There’s little call in everyday speech for an expression that means “assumes the premise,” and the mistaken meaning is by now well established and ineradicable.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      That begs the question why you didn’t read my comment! 🙂

  30. Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    There is nothing wrong with the use of “hopefully” as what’s known as a “sentence adverb”–except that, unaccountably, it still bothers a lot of people.

    As the grammarian Richard Nordquist writes, “The sentence adverb has served a useful function in English since the 14th century. In the past few decades, however, one sentence adverb in particular has come in for a lot of criticism.” He’s referring to “hopefully.”

    He goes on to give a variety of examples, saying, “Unlike an ordinary adverb–which is conventionally defined as a word that modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb–a sentence adverb modifies a sentence as a whole or a clause within a sentence.

    “Dozens of words can be used as sentence adverbs, among them actually, apparently, basically, briefly, certainly, clearly, conceivably, confidentially, curiously, evidently, fortunately, hopefully, however, ideally, incidentally, indeed, interestingly, ironically, naturally, predictably, presumably, regrettably, seriously, strangely, surprisingly, thankfully, theoretically, therefore, truthfully, ultimately, and wisely.”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      Sentence adverbs aren’t ungrammatical, but they don’t make for strong writing.

      They’re often indicators of mushy thinking. (“Hopefully, our pets go to heaven, too.”) They’re imprecise (who’s doing the hoping, and why?), and they waste the second-most powerful position in a sentence. I can’t recall a quotable sentence that begins with one.

      They creep into our conversation all the time. We should try to edit them out of our writing.

      • Posted December 19, 2016 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        So…if it’s good enough for John Wayne, it’s good enough for me. “Truly, this man was the son of Gaaahd.”

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

        “Frankly, my dear…”

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 1:50 am | Permalink

          I was thinking of writing. But verily, I say unto thee, ya got me there, Scarlett.

          • Diane G.
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:09 am | Permalink

            Scripts are first written, no? 😉

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:04 am | Permalink

              Not always, see the movies of John Cassavetes. 🙂

              Did the “Frankly, my dear” line come from Margaret Mitchell’s novel?

              • Merilee
                Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

                I thought it came from the novel, but frankly, ma deah, I read in when I was about 12, many moons ago.

              • Sarah
                Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

                Margaret Mitchell’s novel just has: “My dear, I don’t give a damn” but Clark Gable added the “frankly” and that is how it is always quoted now.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 12:46 am | Permalink

                What Sarah said.

                From Wikepedia:

                “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” is a line from the 1939 film Gone with the Wind starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. The line is spoken by Rhett Butler (Gable), as his last words to Scarlett O’Hara (Leigh), in response to her tearful question: “Where shall I go? What shall I do?” Scarlett, however, clings to the hope that she can win him back. This line is partially spoken by Rhett Butler in Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind, published in 1936, from which the movie is derived. The novel does not include the word “frankly” which was added by scriptwriter Sidney Howard.[citation needed]

                Note, “…”frankly” which was added by scriptwriter Sidney Howard.” 😀

                And an interesting note:

                This quotation was voted the number one movie line of all time by the American Film Institute in 2005.[1]

                In this case I think the added “sentence adverb” made the line much more effective. 🙂

              • Sarah
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

                About “frankly”–Wikipedia does indeed need a citation for saying it was added by the scriptwriter. It was added by the actor (but sorry, I don’t have a citation to hand for that.)

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 2:20 am | Permalink

                @ Sarah

                Uh oh. There goes my point.

                😉

              • Sarah
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 4:49 am | Permalink

                Of course, both could be right if Gable thought of the addition and the scriptwriter then added it to the script.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

                @ Sarah

                Whew! Saved by a technicality! 😀

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 12:48 am | Permalink

                Wikipedia, even.

                And why do the times I want to use blockquotes always coincide with the last level of indentation in WP bl*gs?

  31. Historian
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Since Professor Coyne has declared this an open thread, I would like to draw your attention to Paul Krugman’s latest column in the New York Times, entitled “How Republics End.”

    Krugman is fearful that the American republic may not survive the next four years. He draws a parallel between the current situation and the transformation of the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. I have read other columnists expressing similar concerns. For a republic to survive, its leaders must adhere to certain norms, even if they are not codified in law. Republican leaders are not doing this. The most recent example is the actions of the Republican controlled legislature in North Carolina, which has passed legislation, signed by the outgoing Republican governor, to strip the incoming Democratic governor of important powers. Of course, during the eight years of the Obama administration, Republicans in Congress attempted to block all his initiatives, even ones that were universally agreed upon to be necessary or beneficial.

    The incoming Trump administration makes the survival of the Republic even more doubtful. A narcissist and sociopath, Trump has little understanding of how republics work and couldn’t care less if institutions collapse. I fear that the Republican Congress will meekly accede to the demands of the strongman. In addition, Trump’s base has little concern about the survival of democracy. They want someone in power who will nurse their grievances.

    Republics do not last forever. Whether the American Republic will survive the current crisis I do not now know, but probably will know within a year. The answer to this question may depend on how well the opposition to Trumpism (now referred by some as the “resistance”) mobilizes. The rise of Trump can be explained by many factors. One factor has been the many failures of the American left and center, over many decades, to effectively counter the unrelenting machinations of the right. We’ll see if the anti-Trump majority in the country has learned its lesson. We’ll also find out if the lesson learned was learned too late.

    • Historian
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      Sorry, I don’t know why the image showed up instead of just the link. But, if you click the image, you should be directed to the article.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        …and I said, if I have to see one more picture of Trump and that goddamn airplane, I’ll pluck my own eyes out.

        Thanks a lot. Now I’m standing here like Oedipus Rex.

    • Billy Bl.
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      Ripe for an invasion from the north. We could use a few warmer provinces to go to in winter.

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        Yes, indeed! Let’s take the west coast. California is nice in February. Not too hot, not too cold.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

          Reliably blue in its voting, too.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        The Donald’s moving The Wall to the 49th parallel.

    • Christopher
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      Poor grammar probably won’t matter all that much in the near future. We’ll just point and grunt, or bash it with a rock.

    • TJR
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      Let’s just hope he doesn’t invade Gaul, then….

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        That die is cast. He’ll probably work “veni, vidi, vici” into his inaugural address.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      I agree with you.

      First order of business (for those concerned about what Trump will do to the US – and the world): When Trump (or Ryan or McConnell) lies, the media need to call them on it, in just those terms.

      “Sir, that is a lie, the facts are X, Y, and Z. Please explain why you are lying to public.”

      Stop letting him get away with it. Stop letting him blow it off.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        I would enjoy hearing a reporter call out lies like that. But, the media needs to allow for a friendly relationship to avoid being blacklisted. I think the best the media can do is to be politely firm. I think this beginning to happen (thank Ceiling Cat).

      • Mark R.
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        Yeah, I wish there was some sort of penalty/punishment for lying to the public on public airwaves. The same way you can’t sell a product called “aspirin” that is actually sugar pills. False advertising should be similar to verbally lying to the public. It’s probably harder to prove someone lied though, because saying “I was misinformed” would probably get the liar off the hook.

        The Trump meme that he “won in a landslide” has been rebuked by a few reporters, but they never say, “no, that’s a lie”. Instead they’ll politely correct the person. But why won’t they say: “Will you people quit lying about this?”

        Trump, being the master manipulator he is, takes full advantage of lying to the media, knowing he won’t be called out for it. The propaganda is spreading like a plague.

        Oh yeah, and stop calling it “fake news”. This makes the fake news somehow legitimate because the word ‘news’ is still in the description. Call it what it is: propaganda.

        • Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

          “Oh yeah, and stop calling it “fake news”. This makes the fake news somehow legitimate because the word ‘news’ is still in the description. Call it what it is: propaganda.”

          A more succinct term is bullshit.

      • darrelle
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        It has always disgusted me that this is not the norm. That is precisely what the media is supposed to do. If enough of the media had been doing that all along, for the past 30 years, I’m sure we would not be looking a Trump presidency in the face right now.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        James Fallows suggested something similar in The Atlantic.

    • bric
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

      I was chilled by that Krugman column when I read it earlier today.

      I also found Charles Blow’s op-ed today well worth reading:

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        Well, damn, I see what you mean. Jeez, now we have to modify NYT links before posting??

        This is what I hate about the tech community. Just because they think something is cool doesn’t mean the rest of us aren’t going to be unpleasantly surprised. (Read: pissed.)

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Krugman is fearful that the American republic may not survive the next four years.

      no, we don’t want you back. At least, not until you’ve got rid of Donald Smallhands.

  32. Richard Jones
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    “It’s” is regularly replacing “its” on websites and discussion threads. It’s ubiquitous. I know that auto correct regularly replaces “its” but it is possible to proof read.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      it is possible to proof read.

      But the effort of doing that negates the benefit of being able to be sloppy in your original thumbing.

  33. Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    The truth is that in America at least, “I could care less” is an idiom. It’s fine. No one misunderstands it, because “I could care less” and “I couldn’t care less” have come to mean the same thing. Ostensibly sarcastic in its origin, “I could care less” is now taken to mean the opposite of what it says–like “Tell me about it,” which means “*Don’t* tell me about it [because I already know].”

    As Michael Quinion says in World Wide Words, “There’s a close link between the stress pattern of ‘I could care less’ and the kind that appears in certain sarcastic or self-deprecatory phrases that are associated with the Yiddish heritage and (especially) New York Jewish speech. Perhaps the best known is ‘I should be so lucky!’ in which the real sense is often “’I have no hope of being so lucky,’ a closely similar stress pattern with the same sarcastic inversion of meaning.”

    Those who condemn it for being illogical are missing the point. It’s an idiom, after all, and idioms (like “near miss,” for example) are inherently illogical. As John McIntyre writes in the Baltimore Sun, “Idioms, in any language, convey meanings that cannot be determined from the literal sense of the words. So you can object to an idiom and shun it because you find it trite or common or inappropriate for the tone or subject or audience. But you don’t get to kvetch about it for being illogical.”

    See also Jan Freeman on this one in the Globe: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/10/24/i_could_care_less/?page=1

    • reasonshark
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      “idioms (like “near miss,” for example) are inherently illogical”

      I don’t think they are illogical. The logic is there; it’s just buried in the past, and the phrase, like many words, comes to take on a new life of its own. It’s context-dependent. Look at the word “silly”, for example, which surprisingly has a common origin with the word “Seelie” in “Seelie Court”. Or witness the subtle histories of “decimation”, “taken aback”, “shrewd”, “stupid”, and “intrigue”.

      The developments in language over time are like the changes in biological lineages across evolutionary time, useful in their proper environment and making fine sense when fully understood. That’s partly what makes language so wonderful. 🙂

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      … idioms (like “near miss,” for example) are inherently illogical.

      I’ve never understood what the complaint about “near miss” — as opposed to a miss by a wide margin — is supposed to be.

      • darrelle
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        I never knew there were complaints about it. It is a perfectly sensible construction.

      • Posted December 19, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        Doesn’t “near miss” refer to a “near hit”? See this from a good discussion at World Wide Words:

        “[Near miss] did appear occasionally in the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, but the records show a massive upsurge from the start of the Second World War in 1939. That’s because near miss was a technical term of the military to identify a bomb or shell that missed the target but which exploded close enough to it to cause significant damage.”

        http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-nea1.htm

        • Larry
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 1:34 am | Permalink

          Well, now that you mention it…

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      The truth is that in America at least, “I could care less” is an idiom. It’s fine. No one misunderstands it,

      Are you a native English speaker (as in, you learned the language at the tit)? If you are, I’d check with someone who had to learn the language in their teens or later about whether or not anyone misunderstands it.
      which reminds me to do my German lesson when I finish WEITing.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        Remember:

        aus
        außer
        bei
        mit
        nach
        zeit
        von
        zu

        I’ll never forget those.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

          Still learning.

        • Merilee
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          Not to forget:
          Durch
          Für
          Ohne
          Um
          Gegen

          which take the accusative, if I’m not mistaken…

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, I didn’t bother learning that list because I figured if it wasn’t on my dative list then it was accusative. Worked well for me & I somehow naturally knew mit always used the dative. I have no idea why it made sense to me.

        • Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

          „ … mit den dativ schreibest zu. “

          /@

  34. alexandra Moffat
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Oh MY – couldn’t agree more.

    Bring out the Strunk & White!
    Here is what my late mother shuddered at, she was born in 1902 – her despair at certain words means that they don’t even now pass by me without note. I just keep telling myself that language changes….
    Gift – pretentious. Present preferred (“gifting” would have killed her!)
    Contact used as a verb
    Drapes. Curtains preferred
    House guest
    Close personal friend

    I have given up on “than” and “from”.
    “Your garden is different than mine” grates on my ears – shouldn’t it be “from mine”

    Anyway – full muddle ahead!

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      “Gift” is a standard verb long in use. According to the OED, the use of “gift” to mean “to make a present of” (as distinct from “give”) dates from the 1600s.



      I have to say it really puzzles me why some people hate the use of “gift” so much. Not only has its useful function as a verb been established for hundreds of years, but such verbing of nouns is just the way so many nouns that we do not object to have quite naturally come into use. Consider “thunder,” “rain,” “bottle,” “oil,” “fog,” “snow,” “cloud,” “highlight,” “email,” “trend,” “reference,” “critique,” “dog,” “host,” “book,” “access,” “parent,” “ram,” “discipline,” “house,” “phone,” “mail,” “salt,” “exit,” “divorce,” “storm,” “table, “shoulder,” “showcase,” and so many similar abominations.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        I have no problem with the “verbing of nouns,” as you put it, as long as there’s need of the new verb. The problem with “gift” is that it’s so often used as a pretentious substitute for “give.”

        On the other hand, I get a kick out of “re-gift,” especially when used humorously. It fills a need.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

          2nd hand refurbished computer kit described in ads as preloved…

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

          I have no problem with the “verbing of nouns,” as you put it, as long as there’s need of the new verb.

          … which logically would be the action of doing whatever the new noun does. [Casts eyes around for an example] Microwave (oven), microwaving. Because it really isn’t the same as other forms of cooking.

          • Merilee
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

            I use “nuking” for microwaving.

            • Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

              Magnetronning.

              /@

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

                😜

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

              I blame you for perpetuating the ignorance of what is ionizing vs non-ionizing radiation.

              No, I don’t. I say nuking too. I also referred to radiation treatment as getting nuked but in the latter it was closer to nuking in its damaging effects.

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:26 am | Permalink

              “Nuking,” of course, being a fairly new verb as well…

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

              [Searches for the 1930s bottle of undepleted uranyl acetate.] “Nuking” Yeeees. I have used the term.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:26 am | Permalink

        I once heard a fellow lawyer use “juxtaposition” as a verb. How do you feel about the verbing of that noun?

        • Merilee
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

          Juxtaposition as a verb?? Horrible! What’s wrong with juxtapose? Guess it’s not long enough…

  35. Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    One of my pet peeves is using the grammatically correct “he / she” when using grammatically incorrect “their” is so much easier to read.

    • Sigmund
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      I just can’t even…

      • Canoe
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        I understand the usage has changed BUT it grates on my sensibilities to hear “their” as a plural pronoun for he or she. To me, “their” means the plural of he or she and is genderless. Full stop. I much prefer he/she, even if awkward. What we need is a true neutral form, which has been suggested but which never caught on.

        • Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

          You mean, “their” as a *singular* pronoun grates?

          But it has long historical president. 🙂

          (See the comment about Austen above.)

          /@

    • Larry
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:35 am | Permalink

      Question: In your use of “he / she” you appear to place spaces between the words and the forward slash. Wondering why?

  36. Christopher
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    These posts are reminiscent of David Mitchell’s Soap Box. Well worth the look if you’ve not had the pleasure.

    Now I’ll briefly bring the saccharin, and discuss what I enjoy instead of what irks me, although it stems from being irked by people who can only appreciate the things in life that are attention-grabbing, one might even say those things that are bigly. I’m rather fond of the simple things that get overlooked by most, like collembola, or myxomycetes, lichens, and little tufts of moss somehow managing the cling to life in a gap on a busy sidewalk. You might hear someone say “stop and smell the roses” but, hell, stop, grab a hand lens, and appreciate the aphids on the rose, or check out that chunk of rock you’re sitting on. How cool is it that your butt is resting on a 300 million year old inland seafloor studded with invertebrate fossils?

    Nah, never mind. Skip the roses, the rocks, and the mosses, after all, they’ve bulldozed a woodland and built a new box box store down the street so you can buy the same crap you bough at the other development down the other street and eat the same chain restaurant crap food you ate at the other crap chain restaurant but now a few blocks closer!

    And that is what really irks me. Not grammar, but people who can’t see the forest for the strip mall.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Shades of H.D. Thoreau, Christopher.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      What a nice idea, things we enjoy.

      I enjoy the same things you do, Christopher!

      And I like to regard a collembolan–or one of the even more minute arthropods–and imagine how there are even smaller things inside it–alimentary canals, muscles, ganglia, reproductive organs…Or imagine the skeleton, the individual bones, of a tiny vertebrate, say a baby of the tiniest of leaf chameleons…

      Basically I like anything that makes you think, “is biology cool or what?!” And happily such things are ubiquitous. 🙂

      (Substitute geology as desired.)

      • merilee
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

        +1

      • Christopher
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:26 am | Permalink

        I’ll include rather than substitute geology. I’ve spent the last 3 months of Saturday afternoons scratching around on a road cut/old quarry hillside, absolutely enthralled by the idea that I am sitting/standing on that 300 million year old seafloor mentioned above, where wonderfully preserved bryozoans, crinoids, and brachiopods are just sitting there, often fully freed from the matrix, in a powdery grey stratum resting between limestone and shale, looking as if the sea had only recently drained away. I can’t help but be overwhelmed with the awesomeness of it all, while a few dozen feet away, cars whiz past unconcerned and uninterested. Then to come home, give them a rinse, drop them under my microscope for a closer look.

        But I can get equally lost and awestruck staring at the night sky, trees, flowers, moss, caves, basically, the universe from top to bottom. From telescope to microscope and all points in between. I just can’t fathom why everyone isn’t like this. Even my own son! But, I think he respects it more than he let on; he’s dating a geology major…

        Cheers!

        oh, and I’d enjoy chemistry and physics more if I were better at the maths, and the apparently obvious logic of it all didn’t manage to elude me.

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

          I hear ya! And is your road cut study a research project, work-related, or just something that’s caught your fancy in a huge way?

          Everything is so much more fascinating when you know something (or a lot!) about it.

          • Christopher
            Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:31 am | Permalink

            I don’t have the courage or the money to return to university to finish a degree in biology or related field, I did history, then education, and started a degree in education of visually impaired students but I can’t handle it anymore. Some day, I hope, I’ll get that biology degree, or something along those lines. Until then, the fossils, mosses, ferns, reptiles, birds, slime molds, assorted fungi, and various and sundry protists will remain just an odd obsession to fill my days. The fossils moved to the forefront after attending a lecture by UMKC professor emeritus Richard Gentile and purchasing his book Rocks and Fossils of the Greater Kansas City Region, which had a picture of the very place I collect in the back of the book as a noted site for known for local fossil hunting.

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:16 am | Permalink

              Oh, now I remember a bit of how you described yourself in a previous comment thread, some time ago. 🙂

              What a nice event & book to spark one’s interest! I remember reading in grade school a children’s book on rocks & minerals and subsequently playing rock hound for quite a while…in retrospect, it probably wasn’t the wisest idea to let me go around swinging a hammer at rocks, but childhood was simpler then.

      • Nobody Special
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:37 am | Permalink

        I do enjoy the dawn chorus from the multitude, and the evening serenade from the blackbird nesting in a tree at the bottom of my garden, not to mention the melodic owls twit-twooing through the night (is it the male that twits and the female twoos or the other way around).
        Not so fond of the grating chatter from the magpies and the awful racket from the crows in the nearby woods, but I suppose they’ve all got to be heard.

        • Posted December 20, 2016 at 6:25 am | Permalink

          Dear Nobody,
          My days of reading Poe and de Maupassant are way behind me but I must be allowed to defend the intelligent gothic splendour of the crow.
          Its lazy kaaaw reverb, like a sound effect to the deer-evisceration scene in ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, evokes the desperate cheer of the bottom of the year: that mid-December hunker-down feeling when you know that nature will soon revive.
          How I love to see them nonchalantly launch from the crags of Borrowdale in Cumbria and watch a murder of them in the sky over Dartmoor swoop around a stray buzzard and send him on his way. Such cooperative, clever animals.
          Ditto for the rest of your comments.

          • Diane G.
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

            Another thing I enjoy–reading Dermot.

          • Nobody Special
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

            Dermot, I agree with your every word, just not necessarily when it’s right outside my bedroom window at dawn every bloody day.

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

          Aw, yes, aural delights!

          • Diane G.
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

            “ah”

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      And that is what really irks me. Not grammar, but people who can’t see the forest for the strip mall.

      I suspect that in general life (not here though), you’d be outnumbered by people terrified of not being able to see the strip mall for the forest.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        Though now that I think about it, I can only think of one “mall” that I know of which you can actually see from the outside. Most are built (here) by eviscerating several streets of a town centre and then building within the footprints of the existing buildings, so most of the building can’t be seen from the outside.

  37. Billy Bl.
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Nouns used as adjectives when a perfectly good adjective is available.

  38. ajlowry
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I’ve noticed over the last few years that “bring” and “take” have changed meanings.

  39. jnorman67
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Kids today can’t tell a spoonerism from a malapropism.

  40. Hempenstein
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Is Pittsburgh the only place where “Ignorant” is used for “arrogant”? As in: “… and then she started getting all ignorant with me.”

    • Rick
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      No. I hear it in southern Ontario.

      • Rick
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        I was thinking about your question, and I think that I hear people using “ignorant” to mean “rude” rather than “arrogant”. Some dictionaries list “rude” as an informal meaning of “ignorant”. It’s pretty clear that some people mean “rude” when they say “ignorant”. Anyhow, maybe what you asked about is a Pittsburgh thing.

    • Jeff Lewis
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Where I grew up in eastern PA (Pottstown), one meaning of ‘ignorant’ was pretty synonymous with ‘rude’ – so somewhat similar to the usage you see.

      • Nobody Special
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:40 am | Permalink

        As in ignoring people rudeness?

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Wow, never heard that one!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      What kinda jagoff says that?

  41. Curt Nelson
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    As well.

    News broadcasters, especially local ones, seem to have the idea that tacking “as well” onto the end of a sentence makes them sound smart. It’s done with such abandon that it is not uncommon to hear things like: “The thieves also stole the christmas turkey, as well.”

  42. Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    What has irked me a bit in recent years is what seems an ever increasing use (even here on this page) of the superfluous hyphen between -ly adverbs and the words they modify, as in “scantily-clad,” “recently-formed,” “highly-motivated.” Hyphens are never used is such constructions.

    See this from Grammar and Editing Tips:  

”The other thing you don’t hyphenate is an adverb.  If the first word modifies the second, often specifying the degree or intensity of the  adjective, then that first word is an adverb. Don’t hyphenate after an  adverb. The very small lizard. The completely green lizard. The  extremely low discount. The previously described report. The highly motivated employee. The completely correct grammar.”

    • Billy Bl.
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      Careful, our host is guilty of that.

      • Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:14 am | Permalink

        So he is, and I’ve written to him kindly about it, too.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Thing is, tho, does a superfluous hyphen make it any harder to understand? Doubt it. OTOH, a missing hyphen often does. I like to say I never met a hyphen I didn’t like, and I suspect that if PCC(E) over-hyphenates, it’s for the same reason I may too – it comes from having reviewed countless scientific manuscripts written by scientists who string multiple nouns together as adjectives, never understanding the utility of a hyphen. Those same authors leave it to the reviewer to have to diagram the goddam sentence to be able to understand what they’re trying to say.

  43. Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Quantum leaps that are not small.

    “Data is” is wrong.

    • Charlie
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      I *hate* it when “data” is used as if it were singular. It isn’t hard to remember, and in nearly all cases the person is referring to a large number of data, not a datum.

      • John
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        It’s not that they’re not remembering, it’s that they’re using it as a collective noun. Both are valid, but seemingly living in different realms. The plural is used consistently in the science world, the singular (collective) is commonly used in the computer world (though I think once someone learns the sciency usage this seems to win, possibly as a kind of snobbish conspicuous correction)

        Once you’ve embedded hearing and using it one way, it’s hard to accept the other.

    • Craw
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Quantum does not imply small. Nor do leaps; leaps in fact imply some distance or great extent. Quatum leap is a perfectly sensible phrase for large discontinuities.

    • Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

      “Data is a chapter in ST:TNG.”

      /@

  44. bluemaas
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Do not, please, thank me “very much.”
    Just “thank you” is quite sufficient.
    Quite sufficient enough.

    IF you actually mean to thank me … … at all.

    Do not, please, thank me right after I first thank you.

    Back to me ? I will like it if you state .only. “You’re welcome.”

    “At this point in time” ? Really ? Really ?
    of The Redundancy Department this is, not ?

    Blue

    • jardino
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Worse, I had a boss who said, “At this juncture in time”: when he meant “now”.

      Alan.

  45. Canoe
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    The one that bother me most is the improper pluralization e.g. “three kinds of ducks.” The singular is “one kind of duck,” and when pluralized should become “three kinds of duck.” Yet even the New York Times and the New Yorker often pluralize both “kind” and “duck.” Where are the grammar police when you need them?

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      Out ducks hunting?

      • Canoe
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

        Touché! You’ve made my day.

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 1:58 am | Permalink

        LOL!

    • darrelle
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Speaking of duck, I just smoked a duck in my new smoker yesterday. I just got done eating some for lunch about 15 minutes ago. Smoked duck over mixed greens with a very nice olive oil. It was beyond my expectations. I impressed myself.

      • Nobody Special
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:44 am | Permalink

        I’ve never smoked a duck. Marijuana, on the other hand…..

        • darrelle
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:37 am | Permalink

          🙂

          I wonder if anyone has ever tried using pot for smoking meat? Instead of wood chips use some buds. Perhaps a hybrid Kentucky Bluegrass / Northern California sensimila. Bodacious Brisket?

          • Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:55 am | Permalink

            That would be pricey, but sure to gather a crowd around the BBQ.

            • Nobody Special
              Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

              Hmm, including the police officers cruising by downwind.
              ‘C’mon, officer, it’s just a herb’ doesn’t always wash…..or so I’m told.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        Speaking of duck, I just smoked a duck

        I have a mental image involving hard work on your lungs. But I haven’t had my first fag of the day, so that would be why I’m thinking of that.
        And I’ll remember to get some faggots for dinner when I next go shopping. I love faggots in an onion sauce. (I almost typed “onion source” there which generates peculiar imagery too.)

        • darrelle
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

          Would that be duck liver faggots?

          Rolling a duck would be rather tricky. Let alone getting it to light and burn smoothly.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

            It would probably light more easily if you soaked it in liquid oxygen first.
            Oh, an “In The Pipeline” excuse! FOOOF! “the lab down the hall from me that used to use the stuff had a pair of spiffy woven-metal gloves for just that purpose. Part of the purpose, I believe, was to make you think very carefully about what you were doing as you put them on.”

      • Merilee
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

        Smoked duck – yum!

  46. Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I have a bit of a thing about ‘mitigate against’. If Jerry doesn’t mind, here is a bl*g post I wrote on it recently: https://brandonrobshaw.wordpress.com/2016/12/14/mitigate-against/

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      Yes, that is very poor usage.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      I think the usage the writer is usually shooting for in such instances is “militate against.”

  47. Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    So, it bothers me more than it should when people start an exposition with a ‘so’. They are not asking a question and haven’t said anything yet, so how can there be a ‘so’? Academics seem particularly prone to this (fairly recent, I think) affectation.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      The new “so” represents a recent, accelerating trend in both speech and writing. Its linguistic purpose is interesting, I think. It’s a vogue usage that amounts to a brisk way for the speaker to hit the ground running. Conventionally, as a conjunction, “so” indicates that the speaker is building consequentially on a specific earlier reference, but in this new usage no specific referent exists. The listener is implicitly asked to adopt the sense of one, or just to hop on board a little out of breath.

      In linguistics such a habit of use is known as a “discourse particle.” Discourse particles are are small words that do not contribute grammatically to the content of a phrase. They are common in conversation, where they are meant to suggest the speaker’s attitude, hint at background assumptions, express emotion, or contribute to coherence. Take “well,” for example. Depending on its context and inflection, “well” can suggest hesitation, uncertainly, deference, sarcasm, or other attitudes.

      • Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        Well :-), thanks for this Don; at least I can now say, ah, someone is trying to establish ‘so’ as a discourse particle when I hear it.

        I think the problem for me is that, while ‘well’ is well established in this role, ‘so’ so isn’t. So I think, instead, that the speaker wants to give the impression that there is a long backstory that we must all be familiar with, and that what she is saying is just, well, so.

        From the academic’s viewpoint, that may be true. But it comes over as presumptious when they are being asked to explain their theory (which is theirs) to a lay audience.

        • Posted December 19, 2016 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

          Agreed. But it’s really caught on, hasn’t it? I think it strives to suggest a kind of vague continuity.

        • Posted December 21, 2016 at 3:19 am | Permalink

          Sorry, that should say presumptuous!

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        … amounts to a brisk way for the speaker to hit the ground running.

        Yeah, “so” at the start of a sentence has an in medias res, man-chasing-train feel about it. Which gives it comedic potential. Best if used archly.

        “Well” at the start of a sentence connotes “I’ve given due consideration to what you’ve just said, and here’s my response.” In spoken form, it’s a staple of Ronald Reagan impressions.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      Heaney translates the first word of ‘Beowulf’, ‘Hwæt!’ as ‘So!…’ instead of the usual ‘What!…’ or ‘Lo!…’. Its use has two functions: as a gavel to draw the listener’s/reader’s attention and to imply that the story has a prequel which we are not privy to. In the case of Heaney’s translation of an oral epic poem, I found it arresting. It worked.

      • Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        +1

      • Tim Harris
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        Ah, you’ve beaten me to it, Dermot!

        • Posted December 19, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, Tim, I like the ‘So!…’ start, partially because it echoes Northern Irish everyday speech: “So, how ya doin’?”

          A little OT nugget about Heaney. He is one of 2 Nobel Laureates from the state-run (open to all) Secondary School in Derry, St. Columb’s College, the school my dad went to. The other recipient was John Hume.

          I wonder how many other state schools have 2 Nobel Laureates.

          • Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

            “So, the is the story of the wrath of Achilles…”

            /@

            • Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

              * this, dammit!

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:55 am | Permalink

                And that was the wrath of Ant.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

              I thought it started “Sing goddess” but so would be a rather “meh” translation that would say more about the translated than the work. I’m imagining a really board monk; probably the same one that goofed up “logos”.

              • Nobody Special
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 5:20 am | Permalink

                So bored he’s turned to board?

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

                I make a lot happen homophone mistakes esp during migraines.

              • Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

                It does, Diana. Cf. ‘Aeneid’, line 1. ‘Of arms and the man I sing…’ (Dryden trans.) Interesting that Virgil ascribes the work to himself rather than to the goddess, as Homer does.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

                The poor guy was probably under pressure from a Augustus said he didn’t want to piss anyone off

          • Merilee
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

            Don’t the Irish END a lot of sentences with “so”?

            • Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

              I can’t think of any in my experience of the Derry dialect (Mum and Dad and huge extended family – Catholics, you see).
              Grania might know different.
              The only time I could think of ‘so’ ending a sentence would be in a discussion of the US chess grand-master Wesley So.

              • Merilee
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:38 am | Permalink

                I can’t think of a good example right off the top but I think it’s something like the Englsh “Are we going to the pub, then?”, but with a “so” in place of the “then.” I’ve probably only heard it in Irish novels:-)

              • Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

                Maybe you have read that in novels, Merilee, but it doesn’t ring a bell with me. I think the problem is that it’s easy to make up imaginary Irish vernacular because it is so rich in the first place and because it uses very common words in unusual ways, yet which are immediately comprehensible. “How’s yerself?” Contrast that with Yiddish inspired demotic, which is great, playful and onomatopoeic – chutzpah, kvetch – but one couldn’t make them up like one can if one rehearses one’s inner Paddy.

  48. Nom de Mac
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    My bete noir has been the word “actionable,” which has changed from its primary meaning as the source of a legal dispute (i.e., a tort or other action) to something “able to be acted upon” in a variety of policy fields, such as health policy/public health.

    Also, “a fast rate of speed,” since speed is already a rate.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Yes, rate of speed (sort of) describes acceleration …

  49. Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    “Alternatively, just talk about what’s on your mind, which would be a nice experiment.”

    I’ve formed a conjecture that the human mind experiences a constant conflict between reason and instinct, causing us to attempt to rationalize that which is really just a product of the same evolved instincts we see in other animals.

    I can think of many, many, examples, but I’ll give just one for now: The fear of death.

    That fear of death is a product of natural selection seems pretty obvious to me: an animal that fears death avoids death and passes on its genes. But if you ask people why they fear death they will usually not accept that they’re slaves to their instincts, preferring instead to invent logical-sounding explanations.

    I suspect the conflict between reason and instinct is the root of far more of mankind’s problems than we realize.

    And that’s what’s on my mind.

  50. jnorman67
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

  51. Dave
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I detest the widespread use of “amount of..” rather than “number of…” when referring to individually-quantifiable entities.

    e.g. “amount of people….”,

    This seems to be almost universal now, and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen it (do you see what I did there?)

    I also dislike the common American habit of adding a completely pointless “already” to the end of statements. “Enough already” – what does that mean?

    And of course, the all-too-common slapdash indiscriminate use of “your/you’re”, “there/their/they’re”, “its/it’s” and so on. I teach and mark the work of undergraduate students, and I see their prose littered with errors that a 12-year old of my generation wouldn’t have made. But then, I am a grumpy old man!

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Yes:

      Much/more and many
      Fewer and less

      One of my hobby-horses along with always referring to data as a plural noun.

      But Da Pinker disagrees: He says they (more people, large amount of people, less cars, etc.) are OK.

      But I refuse to follow his lead.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      And your other complaints as well: + a large number.

      People are just becoming sloppy and, in some ways, English is becoming an unattractive pidgin language.

      Email and texting have accelerated this trend.

    • Nom de Mac
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      I think “enough already” may be a Yiddishism.

    • Bill Morrison
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      The terminal “already” may have come from Eastern Europe to New York. It may be from Yiddish or some other language where it is perfectly O.K. Just a guess.

      • merilee
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I believe it’s from Yiddish. You wouldn’t use already that way in a scholarly paper, but it has it’s uses in informal discourse.

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:02 am | Permalink

          “informal discourse”…which I tend to think bl*g comments generally fall under. While some folks here crank out mini-essays seemingly effortlessly–damn, there are some great writers in this commentariat!–I also see nothing wrong with using the vernacular as desired. We are essentially having a conversation.

  52. Robert Thomson
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I especially get irked by journalists that do not use the possessive with gerunds. Example: “I appreciate you reading my article.” Correct: “I appreciate your reading my article.”

  53. Dragon
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    In the IT business world, I have noticed and disliked, the tendency to use ‘solution’ as a verb. Managers love to say things like ‘We need to solution this challenge.’ I have even said in a meeting ‘The word you want is solve.’ The manager just uncomprehendingly looked at me.

    Also, the use of premise where premises is correct. Example: ‘We need to replace the racks in three cities. We will start with the Salt Lake City premise.’ Somehow they think multiple locations are ‘premises’ so one must be ‘premise’.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      “Solution” as a verb is a barbarism.

      • Merilee
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        Aaarrrghhh. I had been fortunate enough never to have heard “to solution.”

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        Dragon : Managers love to say things like ‘We need to solution this challenge.’
        Ken Kukec : “Solution” as a verb is a barbarism.

        And there I was already thinking of blunting my flensing knife, in case I meet such managers. They deserve “special” treatment. [SFX : slow scraping of metal.] As Pulp Fiction puts it, “get mediaeval!”

        • Merilee
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

          Get medieval on their ass.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

            I don’t have any animosity to the donkey.

            • Merilee
              Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

              🐸

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted December 22, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

            “Zed’s dead, baby; Zed’s dead.”

            • Merilee
              Posted December 22, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

              About 20 years ago I was “gifted” a particularly recalcitrant 10th grade math class, including a very slow 21 year old and some bright but PITA 14 year olds, who refused even to bring pencils to class ( the nice cleaning lady brought all the stray pencils and pens she found throughout the school at the end of the day and placed them on my desk.) My principal, though generally a PITA herself, was kind enough to give me a young male ed assistant to help ride herd on the gang. Talking about getting medieval on the class’s collective ass was the only way we remained sane that semester😖

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

                My hat’s off to you!

              • Merilee
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 12:03 am | Permalink

                Most of my classs were much more cooperative than this one and medievalness was not threatened on their backsides:-)

    • Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      Yep, esp. “on-premise software” v. “cloud service” these days.

      I always ask if the software is logically sound.

      /@

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 21, 2016 at 3:07 am | Permalink

        Betcha 10 to 1 the buzzword-spouting morons just look at you blankly.

        cr

  54. Tom R
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    “From whence” is redundant, meaning “from from where”, and “irregardless” is self cancelling; it should either be “regardless” or disirregardless”. Those are the two that seem to irk me the most.

    • barn owl
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      In the Venn diagram of “people who say irregardless” and “people who say going forward,” the overlap is among university administrators. Enough said!

  55. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    When someone means “led” as in “he led them to victory” but spells in “lead” as in the present tense of the verb or the metal.

    Also when I see “loose” when someone means “lose”.

    • Sarah
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Yes! What is this “lead” instead of “led” spelling that I keep seeing!?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

        I ;think people are misled by “read.”

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

          Or mislead. 😛

  56. Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Pet irk: The erroneous avoidance of the word “me”. E.g.:

    “It was written by Sam and I.” (Ugh!)

    No-one would say: “It was written by I”. The “Sam and …” does not change things!

    • Jeff Lewis
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Agreed. People go so far in avoiding the ‘Me and him did something’ construction that they end up making mistakes in the predicate.

      Similarly, I get annoyed when people use ‘well’ when they mean ‘good’, going too far in trying to avoid using ‘good’ as an adverb.

      • Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        “I get annoyed when people use ‘well’ when they mean ‘good’”

        Can you provide examples?

        I don’t think I’ve ever heard that error. Only the other way around: Using good when well is called or.

        • darrelle
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

          I’m Feeling Good

          I prefer Muse’s cover.

    • Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

      Even worse, the bogus reflexive. “It was written by myself.”

      /@

  57. Kevin
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Perfect.

    When speaking to a physicists or philosopher saying something is perfect is senseless. Stop using the word in ways that it simply has no jurisdiction. Better to say, “Brilliant” or “Excellent” or “Fantastic” or “Well done, ole chap.”

    • rickflick
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      You’ve reminded me – when people use “perfectly good”, they usually mean “will serve the purpose”, or “adequate”, which is far from perfect.

      • Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

        But would “adequate” be perfectly good in al circumstances?

        /@

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      On the other hand, some people do seem to use “perfect gas” as a synonym for “ideal gas”.

  58. Jeff Lewis
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    I normally try to be more of a descriptivist than a prescriptivist, but there are still a few language issues that bother me. The fist is the general lack of knowledge when it comes to weight/force and mass – like when someone says an object ‘weighs’ so many kilograms. And granted, I know that a pound-mass is a thing, but the gravitational FPS system makes a lot more sense and should be the official usage (well, I guess we could just switch over to metric), and pounds should be force while slugs are mass.

    The other isn’t technically incorrect. It’s just an archaic construction that bothers me – using ‘Dear’ at the start of a letter, particularly in professional correspondence. If a person was talking to me on the phone or in person and called me ‘dear’, I’d be a little taken aback at the assumed familiarity. The only people I expect to call me ‘dear’ are older relatives or possibly my wife, but even that’s pushing it now that I’m an adult.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 5:16 am | Permalink

      So it was OK for your wife to call you “dear” when you were a child?

      • Nobody Special
        Posted December 21, 2016 at 5:25 am | Permalink

        It’s probably a cultural thing; who are we to criticise?

  59. Roger
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I could care less, because no matter how much I don’t care, there is still more room for not caring even more. Even into the negative caring numbers. So even if I care exactly zero, I could still care -100 less than before.

  60. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    “Grow” as a transitive verb, other than with regard to gardening and agriculture, still grates on me. (As in “grow the economy.”)

  61. J. Quinton
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I seem to recall Cicero having these same sort of complaints about how commoners completely destroy proper Latin.

    As they say, one persons horrible Latin is another person’s beautiful Italian.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      “O tempora, o mores!” ?
      (Oh Times, Oh Daily Mirror!)

  62. Michael Fisher
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    My two language gripes:

    I feel “I’m sorry to hear that” is the wrong response to someone’s tale of woe, but I do lean towards excessive literalism when interpreting others!

    Lazy use of “awesome” [& similar] as a remark fit for every occasion large & small. British English vocabulary seems to me to be shrinking…

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      “I feel “I’m sorry to hear that” is the wrong response to someone’s tale of woe”

      Wow! What would you find acceptable?

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        I think you may have missed the literalism I’m referring to there. It’s a personal ‘brainworm’ of mine that I can’t rid myself of – not a criticism of the phrase itself or the person using it.

        • Nobody Special
          Posted December 22, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

          Do you think that “I’m sorry to hear that” sounds akin to “I really would rather not have heard that”? Or “I don’t want to hear your problems”?

          Back in the 1970’s I had a tee-shirt bearing the message “I’m sorry. You appear to have mistaken me for somebody who actually gives a shit”. It didn’t get as much disapproval as I had thought it would although apparently it wasn’t the sort of attire one ought to wear when volunteering at the Citizens Advice Bureau!

  63. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    “Drill down” as political metaphor for “explain” has gotten way overused. (“The press secretary drilled down on the president’s plans for the budget.”)

    It worked ok at first, but when I hear it now, I’d like to drill down by trepanning the pundit’s skull.

    • Merilee
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      “Deep dives”😖

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

        That seems to be a nonce word in journalism that caught on. The opposite of “hot take.”

        • Merilee
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

          Had to look up “nonce word”. I love it!

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

          I too had to look up “nonce word” too, not because the concept is lacking in sense, but because “nonce” has a very clear, specific and unpleasant meaning in EN_UK slang (it refers to a child molester or sometimes rapist). Be very, very careful of your audience if you try using it in Britain – you could well end up getting a boot in the teeth if people misunderstand what you’re trying to say.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        That seems to be a nonce word in journalism that caught on, as did its opposite: “hot take.”

    • Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      But it doesn’t mean just “explain”, it means “explain in more detail”.

      /@

  64. jardino
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    “Which” and “that”:

    (I have to confess that as I get older, I sometimes confuse the two.)

    So, imagine that I had witnessed a car (auto) accident and was reporting it to the police officer.

    I may say, “The car that was speeding was the blue one”.

    This would probably be reported as “The car which was speeding …” (Which car of what set of cars?”.)

    I formalise this in my head as:

    “Of the cars involved, that which was speeding was the blue one.”

    A bit stilted, I know, but it sets my head straight.

    Alan.

    • BobTerrace
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      What is wrong with “The blue car was speeding”?

      • jardino
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        Nothing, Bob – but it doesn’t illustrate my point.
        Alan.

  65. Kev
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I would offer a comment concerning the evolution of language: it is fortunate that ‘incorrect’ grammar flourishes, because it will eventually transform that language into another ‘species’. Latin, for example transformed through ‘mutations’ which were grammatically ‘incorrect’ where compared to the ‘correct’ parent. However, the original form is no longer spoken (to the point that we are not even sure how it was actually pronounced), though we can study the progressive evolution of the descendant forms, each of which have their ‘correct’ grammar and their colloquial forms.
    It could be argued that diversity of language is not of necessarily a good thing, since convergence to a single common form might be more useful, however the possibility of diversity is probably what allowed for complex language to evolve in the first place.
    ‘Correct’ grammar is only a snapshot of the conventions of that language in a certain place and time.

  66. Frank
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    My pet peeve is ‘medal’ as a verb. As in “he medalled at this years Olympics’. And now ‘podium’ is a verb. Why can’t these words be left to live out their little lives as nouns ?

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      To baton on to that comment, you golded with that one.

      • Frank
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. If I’ve golded then it can’t be long before I podium……

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Those nouns’ “little lives” become enhanced when they can serve also as verbs, particularly when their newer uses seem to fill a need or add color to the language. As Steven Pinker reminds us in THE LANGUAGE INSTINCT (1994), close to a fifth of English verbs are derived from nouns–including such ancient verbs as rain, snow, and thunder, along with more recent verbs like oil, pressure, referee, bottle, debut, audition, highlight, diagnose, critique, email, and mastermind. “In fact,” he writes, “easy conversion of nouns to verbs has been part of English grammar for centuries; it is one of the processes that make English English.”

      • Frank
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        Absolutely. I can accept grammar changes over time but ‘he podiumed, she podiumed’ ? Now that irks…

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 5:22 am | Permalink

          Pet Peeve: the current overuse of “absolutely”, when “yes” or “agreed” would do.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

            Absolutely!

  67. jardino
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    “Elect” and “select”.

    After a party, I may say, “Of the drinks on offer, I elected to have a beer”.

    Many folk nowadays would say, “I selected to have a beer”.

    Of course, saying, “… I selected a beer” is correct.

    I think this pernicious usage is down to the way that web sites ask you to elect your choice (of colour, say) by asking you to “select from the following buttons”.

    Alan.

    • Dean Reimer
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      I have never, ever, seen “selected” used that way.

      • jardino
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 5:21 am | Permalink

        It’s becoming fairly common in the part of the UK wherein I live.
        Alan.

  68. robin
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    There are a number of grammar-related issues that cause me to become a bit peeved (but I don’t grind my teeth over them). One of which is the misuse of the word ‘peruse’. It is most often used to express the exact opposite of its original meaning. Unfortunately, its improper use has made its way into less rigid dictionaries (e.g. Oxford Dictionary still has it correctly defined).

    One word that does annoy me and causes me to grind my teeth is the improper use of Gender to replace by what we mean by the word ‘sex’. Gender is fluid, strictly applied to humans, and has nothing to do with biology. Sex on the other hand is biological. Once, I heard a BBC news journalist referring to a snake’s gender as female. NO! NO! NO!!!!

    What is doubling annoying is when gender is used to describe the sex of participants in a human research study. Except for studies particular to Gender (e.g. sexual identity) – the proper term is ‘sex.’ Why that word has become politically incorrect perplexes me to no end. Sex is XX or XY – or some derivation due to genetics. How one identifies oneself is Gender.

    Not to derail the thread, but if anyone can clue me in as to why ‘sex’ as a term became politically incorrect, I’d be interested to hear.

    • Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

      “Sex?”

      “Yes, please!”

      /@

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:02 am | Permalink

      Because everyone was an awkward, blushing teenager once upon a time.

  69. rickflick
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I’m tired of hearing “So” leading into a comment.

    “So,… we accomplish this by polishing and drilling…bla bla bla…”

    “Well,” worked well enough for about 1000 years.

    Another alternative would be:

    “I’ll pause real quick to gather my thoughts…”, but I doubt it will catch on.

    Or, just holding up the index finger, which means, “Don’t talk, I have the floor.”

    • John
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Seconded.

      There’s a similar hideousness that infects Australian public discourse. Politicians and other folk being interviewed on radio or TV will invariably start an answer with “look”. I’ve now heard it a few times in the UK. I’m fearful of its transmission.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        President Obama has sometimes used “Look, …” at press conferences, as a means of redirecting a reporter to a point he thinks was overlooked by a question. (“Look, the reason for the ‘one China’ policy in the first place is …”)

        • Bill Morrison
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

          “Listen” is an alternative to that “look”. I have no problem with either of them.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:00 am | Permalink

            Worked for Mr. Vonnegut:

            “Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.”

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

          I find when people say “look” it annoys me. I feel like they are being overly aggressive.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, it has a “hey, don’t misunderstand me” vibe about it.

            • rickflick
              Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

              Worse. It has a “hey, you aren’t paying attention. What’s wrong with you” vibe about it.

    • Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      So, this was discussed above.

      /@

      • rickflick
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

        Is that so?

  70. Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Have you ever noticed how lovely the synonyms of ‘irk’ are? Gall, peeve, pique, vex (a favourite of Jane Austen). It’s as if God designed them.

  71. Matthew North
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I pretty much agree with Steven Pinker’s opinions on grammar. He’s been studying the use of grammar in writing style for years so I consider him the expert. I have his book, The Sense of Style.I totally agree with you, though , on the, “I could care less.” thing. I grit my teeth every time I hear it.

    Hopefully, I won’t hear it ever again.

  72. Jenny Haniver
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I need to print out all of these comments so that I can learn from them. I’m trapped in a linguistic and cognitive wasteland, where everything is dumbed down; at best “Simple English” is the coin of the realm and I am losing my ability to think complex thoughts, use language with any alacrity, and forgetting what I once knew. This comment, I know, is riddled with all manner of grammatical and syntactical infelicities. Some fortunate ones aren’t negatively affected when placed in such a barren linguistic environment, but I am; my neural wiring isn’t that well-grounded (duh, should I not have hyphenated that?) and I fear that soon I’ll be reduced to grunts. I recently learned of a kind of dementia called Primary Progressive Aphasia. Hope I’m not developing that. But when I’m in a salubriously challenging linguistic and cognitive environment, I do rebound.

    A grammatical bugbear of the moment is interviewees telling their hosts “Thank you for having me.”

  73. Doug
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    “Lay” for “lie:” “I was laying on the beach.” It took my 4th grade teacher 10 seconds to illustrate the difference. “I am laying the book on the table. The book is now lying on the table.” Do people think that it’s always wrong to “lie?”

    I mention this whenever the question of peeves comes up. For some reason, the rest of the world keeps doing this despite my complaints, so I’ll keep complaining.

    • Sarah
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Keep complaining! I see lay/lie misused more often than not.

      • Merilee
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        Misused MUCH more often than not.

    • jardino
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      This is one of the many differences between English as used in Scotland and as used in England. Being Scottish, I would never say “the book is laying on the table” (cringe), but many of my friends from the South would.

      Alan.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

        I always tell my dog to “lay down” vs. others who tell her to “lie down”. I like my way better.

        I also like this Newfie phrase:

        “Stay where you’re to ‘til I comes where you’re at.”

        • Posted December 19, 2016 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

          The lovely last phrase sounds like West Country English (Devon and Cornwall).

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 5:29 am | Permalink

        Alan, I blame Bob Dylan, and now I wish I hadn’t posted that link, because now it’s an earworm.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      The example used when I was a youngster was that chickens lay eggs, people lie down.

      Some other comments:

      1. The OED traces changes in usage and meaning of English words over time. They have not stayed the same. They evolve.

      2. The flexibility of the English language is one of the reasons it has become the most frequently used language internationally. English is not as rigid as French and Spanish, for example. English incorporates useful words from other languages quite readily.

      3. Some elements of grammar and punctuation have changed since I was taught how to use them. (Are they even taught any more?)I still have problems with punctuation associated with parentheses.

      4. I’d like to add pronunciation to this discussion. Some pronunciations I dislike:

      nucular for nuclear
      liberry for library
      calvary for cavalry

      5. Some strange pronunciations seem to arise when people encounter foreign words they don’t know how to pronounce. Examples:

      Boona Vista for Buena Vista
      Bow Dark for Bois d’Arc
      Nevayda for Nevada
      Many Spanish words
      Many Native American words

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 5:34 am | Permalink

        Your item 4 – strongly agree, and would add:
        Febury for February
        labratory (or worse labatory) for laboratory.

        • Sarah
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 6:35 am | Permalink

          Some of these complaints are just dialectal differences. I have heard that the British began to pronounce “laboratory” with the accent on the second syllable just so that it would not sound so much like “lavatory”, which, illogically, means “toilet”. As Americans regard a lavatory as a small sink, the accent has remained on the first syllable.

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 6:42 am | Permalink

            As I understand it, “lavatory” and “toilet” are both euphemisms, referring as they do to the act of washing. It seems to me that USians are escalating the euphemisms, first to “bathroom” (with no bath), and then to “restroom” (the last place I would go to for a rest. Bring back urinals and latrines!

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:20 am | Permalink

              … and as soon as ‘restroom’ becomes universally known and equated to toilet, it will become too vulgar to use and they’ll have to find yet another silly euphemism…

              lavatory
              toilet
              WC
              ladies/gents
              men/women
              bathroom
              restroom
              washroom
              outhouse
              loo
              comfort station

              (and that’s not counting the vulgar ones, which are innumerable)

              cr

              • rickflick
                Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:19 am | Permalink

                I enjoy the term WC – water closet. I imagine long ago when the idea of indoor plumbing first came about, clearing out a closet used to keep jars of peaches and old croquet mallets and lamp oil cans, and running a pipe up through the floor to a porcelain pot.

              • Sarah
                Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

                But “bathroom” and restroom” have been around for ages, the one being in a private dwelling and the other being in a public place. I don’t see any euphemism being needed to replace them. I don’t know who says “comfort station”, and “outhouse” must be obsolete by now.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

                Outhouse is very much used while camping, at affairs like outdoor concerts, construction sites and I’m sure a few other outdoor private events so it’s not yet outdated.

            • rickflick
              Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

              I think probably toilet is the true term. Resting, washing, bathing, laving, comforting, etc. are all euphemisms, a hold over from Victorian etiquette. We should be passed that now.

              • Doug
                Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

                “As Americans regard a lavatory as a small sink;” I’m an American, and I have never heard the word used to refer to a sink. I’ve always heard it used to refer to the room.

                “Toilet” is almost always used to refer to the bowl; once in a while to the room [very rarely]. The room is also often referred to as the “John;” my apologies to any Johns reading this.

              • Sarah
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

                Doug, what do you call the small sink that is in a bathroom?

              • merilee
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

                sink or wash basin? I think that wash basin may be something my mother would have said when she was still calling the fridge the ice box.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

                @ Sarah

                We call it the “bathroom sink.” Lest anyone confuse it with the “kitchen sink.” And of course, the other common fixture with a water tap and catch-basin is the “laundry tub.”

                😉

              • Merilee
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 12:13 am | Permalink

                Catch basin??

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 2:06 am | Permalink

                @ Merilee

                Good catch. 😉

                Somehow that seemed like exactly the term I wanted while rushing thru my reply, but now that you point it out I see the error of my ways. (Except, of course, for those whose sinks & tubs incorporate cisterns…)

              • Merilee
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 8:56 am | Permalink

                @Diane, I wasn’t saying “catch basin” was wrong, just that I’d never heard it:-)

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

                @ Merilee

                Well, the important thing is that you caused me to look it up and discover that it has a much more limited meaning than I’d thought. Now I’ll be saved from catch basin faux pas!!

              • merilee
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

                So, pls clue us in, WTF is a catch basin?

              • Sarah
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 8:34 am | Permalink

                Interesting, all these words for the little sink in the bathroom. Honestly, some North Americans do call it a “lavatory”. It probably appears on a dialect atlas.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

                Canadians also say “washroom” which can confuse some Americans. We use “bathroom” and “washroom” interchangeably. When I go to NZ I have to remember to say “toilets” as that is always my immediate need.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

                Seeing the word “toilet” as impolite is a NA phenomenon. In NZ you say it all the time and they won’t understand “washroom” or “bathroom” since toilets are sometimes separate.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:46 am | Permalink

                @Diana

                Quite correct. In fact separate toilet and bathroom is what I always regarded as the standard arrangement, putting the only toilet in the only bathroom was only done in very cheap housing. What do you do if you’ve got to ‘go’ and there’s someone in the bath/shower?

                cr

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

                You have ob wait for them to get out. I think that’s why a lot of houses have small second bathrooms at a minimum now. I’m unusual with only having one bathroom as my house is from the 70s.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:59 am | Permalink

                @ Doug:

                I’m an American and I approve this message.

                Also, did you hear about the guy who decided to call the John the Jim? Because it sounds much better to say,”I got up this morning and went to the Jim.” (Really, a joke that needs to be oral for full effect.)

              • rickflick
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 5:49 am | Permalink

                “What do you do if you’ve got to ‘go’ and there’s someone in the bath/shower?”

                You bang like hell on the door and scream bloody murder. (We grew up with one “bathroom”).

  74. Billy Bl.
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Pinker has encouraged me to abandon some of the rules I was taught as a youngster. I make my living editing scientific manuscripts, and my goal has become to maximise (the British spelling, which is wrong, but I use it anyway) comprehension rather than what most people would consider to be grammatical correctness. I will even intentionally break some rules if the cure is worse than the disease. The majority of readers are likely not native English speakers, so comprehension is much more important than following rules.

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries are far more pragmatic about the -ise/-ize endings. After about 50 years on the planet assuming that ‘ise’ was propah UK English, I was surprised to find how often ‘-ize’ is used. Best to look up every single case, if in doubt.

      • jardino
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 5:37 am | Permalink

        I became quite adapt at mentally switching between British and American English while writing technical reports and proposals in, of all places, the Middle East.

        Around the Gulf, most countries speak British English (as well as Arabic, of course). The exception is Saudi Arabia, which speaks American English. So when writing stuff for Saudi Aramco, I had to put my American hat on.

        Alan.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      I agree about comprehension being more important than the rules and frankly, if the rules befuddle a native speaker, they probably are worth breaking!

  75. Tamethyst
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    One thing I really hate is the weatherman saying there’s a 30% or a 50% chance of precipitation, it is totally meaningless to say that.

    100% chance of rain still means there’s only a possibility it might rain.

    Get it right weather people.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      I don’t agree with you. The POP [Probability of Precipitation] used by the Met Office in the UK is very useful – it will greatly influence decision making & planning if the POP is 95% instead of say 5%!

      I’ve also never heard 100% used, but maybe it is.

      • Tamethyst
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        I take your point Michael, but I think there must be a better way they could phrase it.
        I know it’s pedantic but half a chance (50%) is small and a quarter (25%) of a chance is less than that.
        I also have not heard the use of 100% either, but that almost makes my point. 100 is just a big “chance” of rain.

        🙂

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

          My sister’s third [I think] wedding was an expensive outdoors ‘do’ with a dance tent, booze tent, kiddies tent etc on a beautiful lawn & I warned her months prior to have a plan B since British summers are noted for sudden transitions from glorious, muggy heat to ferocious downpours with thunder & lightning.

          When the wedding week rolled around I reminded her of this by showing her the five day forecast POP, but she chose to believe in the good weather wedding fairy or something & paid the price. Even the events organiser warned her.

          If the POP had been around 10% I would have regarded her decision as sound no matter the outcome [a reasonable gamble with a downside], but I recall the figure was 55% for rain at some point during the day & that fairy stuck the boot in. Spectacular summer storm – highly enjoyable actually 🙂

      • Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

        100% is often used in the US: You ARE going to get this weather (feature)!

      • Mark R.
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        I live in the Northwest, and 100% is used often this time of year. I just looked up the weather forecast, and sure enough, tomorrow has a 100% chance of rain.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        I’ve also never heard 100% used, but maybe it is.

        It would mean that it is already raining.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      A good way to envision this is to realize that typically weather arrives in the form of a cold or warm front. This means a line of clouds and precipitation that is usually broken by dry (precipitation-free) segments. If the length of the dry segments is equal to the length of precipitating segments, your chance of getting hit as the line passes your outdoor picnic, is 50%. And so on and so forth. 100% would indicate there are no dry gaps.

      • Canoe
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        I disagree. In the language of probabilities, this makes perfect sense. And a 100% chance of rain does not mean just a chance – it means a probability of 100%, which is a certainty. It is the use of “chance” and “probability” as synonyms that may make it confusing, but it has always made perfect sense to me.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 5:39 am | Permalink

        Can I just say here that it seems to me that USians tend to use “envision”, when Brits would say “visualise”? No axe to grind here, just wondering if anyone else notices this.

        • Sarah
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          Or “envisage”. I don’t think “visualize” is the same thing.

  76. barn owl
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I have a self-inflicted running injury right now, and so the topic of disability has been on my mind lately. My default walking speed is set at “Surgeon-in a hurry,” and my current pace is considerably slower, which I find galling. I’m so angry and impatient with myself. My condition is temporary, fortunately, and I have an appointment later this week to see an MD colleague (which involves a certain amount of privilege – I asked colleague for a referral, but xe decided to see me in xir teaching clinic).

    As I’ve discovered through first-hand experience lately, the world can be difficult to navigate for people with even minor/moderate disabilities. I’ve known this intellectually for many years, in particular through working with therapeutic horseback riding programs, but I’ve never really had to cope with it myself. I’ve been thinking a lot in particular about a friend and colleague who has a spinal cord injury – xe is kind and generous enough to share xir story and wisdom with my students each year. When I’m around this friend at meetings or study sections, xe will make me aware of navigational challenges for people with disabilities (curbs, doors that are difficult to push open, drivers who cut over or blow around street corners etc.). But on my own, I don’t have to think about these things, and am usually blithely unaware of them.

    I’d love to read others’ thoughts an experiences on this subject.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Having had disabled relatives & blind pets, I’ve become sensitized to some issues. You could probably borrow a wheelchair for a week to get a better appreciation for what they go through.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Continuing ladyatheist’s line of thought…

      In British building codes one has to accommodate the wheelchair user with suitably wide doors [often automatic] & ramps. This of course is a good thing, but most designers are unaware of the problems these accommodations cause for other types of the less able if not well designed. e.g. ramps at the edges of pavements instead of the normal kerb are a source of many a twisted ankle when hidden under snow & in extreme cases we are talking about the elderly falling under the wheels of lorries & buses.

      All designers of the built environment & gadget designers [tin openers, cars, toilet seats etc] should spend whole weeks wearing kit that simulates the spectrum of ‘disabilities’ & human conditions [being 5ft tall, being very tall, being pregnant etc] – they should attempt to deal with a buggy & wayward kids while pregnant & trying to board a bus.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      The lounge of my grandmother’s nursing home is furnished in a modern style with a lot of hard finishes to the walls – looks fantastic, but it’s tough to talk because of the echo when there’s groups of people in there. Everybody gets into a ‘raising war’ with their voices.

      The lounge has a ‘T System’ for hearing aids so that any mic output can be sent by radio to the hearing aids, but the user has to switch modes on their hearing aids to receive this. Not one hearing aid user at the home has mastered this – a complete cockup in design terms by the hearing aid manufacturers.

      Kitchen cupboard doors at head height. Elderly resident leaves a door open & bends down to open the oven. When she straightens up she has forgotten about the door. Hospital bed case or worse. This happens a lot!

      • Merilee
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:09 am | Permalink

        “there’s groups”…There IS groups?? I hear this a lot, especially in Brit English, and wonder if it’s considered correct on the other side of the proverbial Pond? I would say “there’re groups.”

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      As I’ve discovered through first-hand experience lately, the world can be difficult to navigate for people with even minor/moderate disabilities.

      About this time of year, many years ago, my sisters and I were decorating the tree (back when we carried on a pretence of being goddish). I forget what led to it but some dispute or play fight led to me spraying one of the sisters in the face and eyes with “artificial snow”. My father’s punishment was to blindfold me for an hour.
      Very educational.
      A couple of years later when Dad converted a storage cupboard into a photographic dark room, that was a whole different range of educations. Very different.

  77. Peter Austin
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    What irks me is something that may even be correct in English (since I see/hear it used so often), but it’s definitely ‘wrong’ in my native language:
    I’m referring to expressions like:
    cheap prices
    and
    cold temperatures.

    Prices (= numeric values) can’t be cheap! Goods or services can be cheap (i.e. have low prices).
    Likewise, a temperature itself is a numeric value: it can’t be cold .. or warm. It can be low or high.

    • jardino
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 5:45 am | Permalink

      … and “young age”.
      Alan.

  78. Ann German
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    My favorite “hopefully” story was, I think, from a commentary years ago in the New Yorker. The author, to demonstrate the correct usage, recalled a time when he was shaving and, having nicked himself, yelled out, “Ow, I cut my nose!” From the next room, his son said, hopefully, “Off?”

  79. Frank Bath
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I have a biology question, though I suspect it’s a bit late now.
    Has humankind ever evolved a new species? Like can domestic dogs breed successfully with their wolf ancestors?

    • ladyatheist
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      Their ancestors are dead, so no.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      Lots of new species have been created due to human influence on the environment [deforestation for example], but I suppose you mean the intentional creation of new species. Craig Venter & team have created a species of bacterium in the lab with a genetic code that’s smaller than any found in nature – it has just 437 genes & it replicates true I understand.

      My layman speculations on dogs: The ancestor of modern domestic dog breeds is extinct [I think] with the contemporary grey wolf being a ‘sister’ taxa to the domestic dog. I don’t think one can say the extinct originator of contemporary domestic dogs is a different species.

      • Frank Bath
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:04 am | Permalink

        Thank you for that.

  80. ladyatheist
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I forgive “wrong” usages that use fewer syllables than the correct usage. I prefer “might could” to “might have been able to” even though the listener would then know I have lived in the South. Ditto for “All y’all.”

    “Hopefully” is one that I forgive in others but try not to use myself.

    Things that really bug me: “seen” as past tense for “see” and “however” even when used correctly. It’s pretentious when used correctly and stupid the other 99% of the time.

  81. Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    “Sat” instead of “sitting” is becoming common. Also “utilize” or “leverage” where “use” is perfectly okay.

    • Posted December 21, 2016 at 12:47 am | Permalink

      “Sat sitting.” But that might be only humorously.

      /@

  82. Posted December 19, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I really try to avoid linguistic prescriptivism after a point, but I don’t know where that point is.

    In addition to raise the question/beg the question, I’m also not fond of the “proposal” meaning of “proposition”.

  83. nicky
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Very few of the things that bother my co-visitors here bother me.
    I used to be irritated by “Data is” , or “a phenomena”, but then I realised (realized) we also use “the radio is” -a ‘wireless’- without any qualm (I know, I know, it is short for radio-transmitter, but still).
    I’m mildly, very mildly irritated, in fact more amused than irritated, by the pronunciation of “etc.” as ‘eKsetera’ instead of ‘eTsetera or even ‘eTketera’, the latter being slightly pedantic. Eksetera is kinda cute.

    [I’ve given up getting upset about the English radio mauling of Afrikaans names here, such as the ‘SH’ at the end of Stellenbosch, instead of a simple ‘S’ (It is just the quaint old Dutch spelling).
    Bloemfontein ending in ‘-een’ as in shebeen, the actual sound doesn’t exist in English (closer to “fine”) so one should be forgiving. Same for ‘Muizenberg’ as “miuzenberg”, the ‘ui’ is closer to, well, can’t think of anything close, a “u” as in “Hustler”, but prolonged?]

    • Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Even “phenomena” is irritating to me when used grammatically correctly but etymologically wrongly. The word has changed meaning from “appearance” to “fact”, making it difficult to discuss views like Kant’s correctly.

  84. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    The comment on could care less reminds me of the exchange between Alice and the Mad Hatter in the original Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland.

    “Would you like some more tea?”
    “I haven’t had any yet, so I can’t have more”.
    “You mean you can’t have less. It’s very easy to have more than nothing.”

  85. Marilee Lovit
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    “Try and…” is often used when “try to…” would be correct.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:43 am | Permalink

      I usually opt for “try to,” but “try and” is also widely accepted, especially among British writers.

      “Try and” also works better in certain idiomatic phrases, like “try and stop me.”

  86. Martin Levin
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    So much loose language to get one’s ire up. But I’m so glad you used “alternatively” correctly, since the world had largely given way to “alternately” which (wrongly) seems to govern both usages.

    I’m also driven mad by the constant use of “begs the question” for “raises the question” or even “poses the question.” Begging the question is a form of logical fallacy, as I’m sure most readers here know, in which the conclusion is assumed in the premises of the argument. I suppose it just sounds posher to people who use it casually, or do I mean causally?

  87. Tom MacPherson
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    The correct phrase is “for all intents and purposes”, NOT “for all intensive purposes”.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      There is probably a statue of limitations for that one.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 6:13 am | Permalink

        Ah, the ubiquitous eggcorn (or is it a mondegreen?). And now I don’t know where to put the question mark and full stop in that last sentence. Oops, I started a sentence with “and”! Misused exclamation mark – I give up.

    • Nobody Special
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      Don’t forget the unfortunate escapegoat.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        I now have a great mental image of a scapegoat becoming an escapegoat.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      I’ve always just thought that the users of that phrase probably needed hearing aids as children, and simply misheard it. Or their parents (or TV or radio sources) had also had a hearing problem in their use. The errors do get inherited.

      • nicky
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

        Or maybe just Espanish?

  88. Posted December 19, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I can be a bit of a grammar/spelling Nazi myself, particularly when it comes to the difference between Canadian and American spelling (eg. colour vs color). Even so, I do recognize the illogical and archaic ways of spelling some words, which I wish would change (see poem about why English is difficult, eg.mouse to mice, but not house to hice).

    So I do think we are on the cusp of a spelling revolution, where the young texting generation is going to incorporate text abbreviations (eg. u, imho, etc.) into all forms of writing instead of wasting time writing out the ‘correct’ spelling.

    • Billy Bl.
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      I used to be resistant to the degradation of the English language by the Americans. Languages, though, evolve. I became very aware of just how bizarre some of the spellings and pronunciations were when I tried to learn another language. A lot of English desperately needs some evolution.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

        A lot of English desperately needs some evolution.

        Any Germans care to comment on their experiences of “Official” changes in orthography? I remember an uncle (well, there was some relationship there, but I’d need to spend a week learning genealogical terminology and quizzing relatives to find out what it was) who arrived in Britain as a POW and chose to stay.). His hand-writing (guess at learned around 1925?) was in the “gothic” type of script. (Does WP allow one to specify fonts in a comment? Not in 10 minutes of reading it doesn’t.) Wikipedia brings me to the term “blackletter” script. That got replaced by a more … I don’t have the terminology … there was a change in style taught in schools at some time – I’m not sure when, and there have been at least two major changes in character set and spelling, I remember there being reportage of one change in the mid-1980s, and at that time there mention of the loss of the “beta-S” (“Eszett”, “scharfes S”, or “sharp S”) eitheri n those mid-80s changes, or a previous round.
        That I (in Britain, and at that time with no real interest in learning German) heard o such things suggests that this revolution wasn’t exactly bloodless. As the saying goes be careful what you wish for.

  89. Curt Nelson
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Cognizant. Why replace “aware” with such a clunker of a word?

  90. paablo
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I can’t scan 255 comments for this one, but the idiomization of the misuse of “Begs the question” makes me deeply sad.

  91. Stuartg
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Over the past couple of decades I’ve noticed the use of “youse” as a plural pronoun by children and teenagers in conversation instead of “you”. I hope they drop its use as they mature.

    One of the glories of English is its lack of pronoun inflection (not being a grammar student, I hope I phrased that correctly). Getting the correct form of the pronoun in German was always a worry to me… Now which form do I use: du, dich, dir, Sie, Ihnen, ihr or euch?

    • Posted December 19, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      I rather like ‘youse’ and find it handy. As an ex-teacher I often wanted to say it instead of ‘you’ as it would have been clear who I was talking to. ‘Tu’ and ‘vous’ is good enough for the French: it’s a pity its equivalent isn’t standard English.

      • Nobody Special
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

        ‘Youse’ is standard Scouse (Liverpudlian) dialect, as in “Hey! What the f*** are youse lookin’a?”.

        • jardino
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 5:49 am | Permalink

          Also common in Glasgow.
          Alan.

          • Ann German
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

            And in Butte, Montana, where I grew up, “What’ll youse have?” sez the waitress.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:29 am | Permalink

              I love “yous” & I’m trying to popularize it. It’s not my fault English has no convenient way to indicate more than one “you”.

              • Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:34 am | Permalink

                In western Pennsylvania where much of my family is it is “youins” as is “How long will youins be here?”

              • Merilee
                Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

                My parents retired to the mountains of Western Pa. and we heard youins a lot. Also gutchies(sp?) for undies.

              • rickflick
                Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

                English has y’all. Or isn’t that real English?

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

                Diana & I are having a “yous” vs. “you all” (or “y’all”) war–I prefer the latter. 😉

              • Merilee
                Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

                I prefer y’all, too, and of course all y’all is the plural.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:50 am | Permalink

                Uh oh, Diana, you’re outvoted. Just like with your TP orientation.

                Yeah, y’all is perfect; I think it’s always been stigmatized because it arose from the South, and northerners tend to regard southerners as not quite polished enough.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 21, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

                Yous is perfect because it is so clearly you with the plural.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 12:56 am | Permalink

                But it’s ugly as sin! Sounds like Cosa Nostra dialect to me.

              • Merilee
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

                Agree, @Diane. “I’m making yous an offer yous can’t refuse.’

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

                Yous won’t be so snooty about “yous” when the robots rise up. I say that because, as robots, they will have been oppressed and would use the language of the oppressed. 😀

              • merilee
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

                heehee

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

                Like oppossoms, it’s lovely.

                Also – only one syllable.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

                De gustibus non est disputandum.

              • Merilee
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 9:11 am | Permalink

                I sometimes switch my daughter’s tp around because she agrees with Diana on its orientation:-)

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

                Has she always been such a rebel? 😉

              • Merilee
                Posted December 22, 2016 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

                Yup, but she admits it’s payback time with her own daughter, who’s not yet one!

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 12:08 am | Permalink

                Ooh–you’d better buy stock in popcorn. 😀 Fun times ahead.

              • Merilee
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

                🐸

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

                I corrected the orientation of the TP at my dentist’s office today. There were two side by side so since it’s Jesus season, I let one be as a symbol of peace on earth. 😀

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

                How ecumenical of you. 😀

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

                🙏🏻

              • Nobody Special
                Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

                There is. Singular – you; plural – you lot.

              • Posted December 21, 2016 at 12:32 am | Permalink

                “All y’all.” At least in Texan English.

                /@

  92. Posted December 19, 2016 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Okay, here’s one I noticed, and I’m not even a native speaker: no one uses “off” by itself anymore – whenever people want make it clear that they mean “off with two f”, they say “off of”. “Make money off of that”, “get that off of my lawn” etc.

    • Nobody Special
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

      Would you say ‘get that out my house’ or ‘…out of my house’? ‘Get off of my lawn’ is grammatically correct.

      • Posted December 20, 2016 at 1:39 am | Permalink

        I would obviously say “out of my house”, because according to English grammar, “out of” is the correct preposition for “no longer inside”. Whereas the official preposition for “away from” is “off”, no second word required. See, e.g., http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/off_2 :
        “Keep off the grass!”

        However, the dictionary also states that “off of” is “non-standard or North American English, informal”. So, it’s common informal usage, but still kind of pointless.

    • jardino
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 6:17 am | Permalink

      My Dad, who worked in the plumbing trade, used to get incensed when he saw order forms that said (say) “toilet seats, 5 off” – instead of “5 of”. In fact, that usage pissed him off.

      To digress further:

      On my first trip to the USA in about 1970, I saw T-shirts on sale, some of which bore the legend “Jesus is coming – and is he pissed!”

      Now, I’m not a believer, but I couldn’t imagine the halo-adorned guy that I was taught about in Sunday School staggering around and falling into the gutter …

      So: in British English, “pissed” means “drunk”, whereas in American English it means something like “annoyed”, I guess.

      Alan.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:11 am | Permalink

        Ah, that good old versatile word ‘piss’.

        In English (not American):

        ‘Piss’ = beer or what it turns into
        ‘Piss-up’ = a drinking session
        ‘Pissed’ = drunk
        ‘Pissed off’ = seriously annoyed
        ‘Piss off’ = go away!

        So ‘they’d had so much piss at the piss-up they were completely pissed, so the landlord told them to piss off, which pissed them off no end, but they pissed off eventually after pissing on his geraniums’ is a perfectly comprehensible sentence.

        cr

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

          So ‘they’d had so much piss at the piss-up they were completely pissed, so the landlord told them to piss off, which pissed them off no end, but they pissed off eventually after pissing on his geraniums’ is a perfectly comprehensible sentence.

          Was that you last night? That wasn’t the landlord, just a wee nyaff of a barman with ideas above his station.
          Since just about my first download off the Internet was a file of “how to order ‘two beers please’ in 80 different languages”, then I am confident that somewhere there is at least one, long, list of EN_GB synonyms for “intoxicated with alcohol”. And a distinct list for EN_US.

  93. Richard C
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Misusing “beg the question” to mean “raise the question” (as opposed to the “plead the premise” logical fallacy it really refers to) is like fingers running on a chalkboard to me.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      My terrible secret is I’ve never understood what “beg the question” means so I avoid using it.

      • Jeff Lewis
        Posted December 19, 2016 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

        http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/begs-the-question-update

        I know what it means, and I still avoid using it. Like I wrote in another comment up above, it’s even worse than technical jargon, because it’s not simply that many people don’t know what it means, but that so many people think it means something else. You can do just fine with other terms that more people will understand (e.g. circular argument, or assuming your conclusion).

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

          How do you feel about “like” and “as” being used interchangeably? 🙂

          I’m cool with it myself (although the old rule had “like” as a preposition, “as” as a conjunction).

  94. allison
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    “Unpresidented” (in place of “unprecedented”)

    • Curt Nelson
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      I believe there are now attempts underway to have Donald Trump unpresidented.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        Would that set an unpresidential precedent?

  95. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    I quite agree about ‘hopefully’. It is an adverb, derived from the adjective ‘hopeful’, it should not be used as an adjective.

    However, the only alternative seems to be either ‘I hope that’ (which is not quite the same) or ‘one hopes that’ (stilted) or ‘it is to be hoped that’ (!) or maybe ‘here’s hoping’ which is very informal and colloquial. So recent I have on occasion gritted my teeth and used ‘hopefully’ even though I know it’s worng.

    Adverbs are kinda messy things grammatically anyway.

    No such ambivalence about could/couldn’t care less. ‘could care less’ makes no sense. I entirely agree with PCC.

    cr

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      So recentLY ….

      Sheesh. Don’t know how that happened.

      cr

  96. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    The otiose “of” frequently found after “all.” It is almost always unnecessary, except before non-possessive pronouns (“all of us” and “all of them,” but “all our friends” and “all the time” and “all the tea in China”).

  97. Merilee
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    “The thing is is…” I’ve even heard the Prez say this.

    Almost any use of “myself”, especially as a subject.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:08 am | Permalink

      Should be reserved for the reflexive.

      Other than that, as Red Smith said, “myself is the foxhole of ignorance where cowards take refuge because they were taught that me is vulgar and I is egotistical.”

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:14 am | Permalink

        Fun quote, thanks!

      • Merilee
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:28 am | Permalink

        +1 to Red Smith, if I may say so myself.

  98. Posted December 19, 2016 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    “Moot” as in irrelevant. Curious because moot means the opposite- worthy of debate. Lots of votes for begs the question: +1

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      So you disagree with Rick Springfield’s Jesse’s Girl then?

      You know, I feel so dirty when they start talking cute
      I wanna tell her that I love her,
      But the point is probably moot

    • Stuartg
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      Two ragged fiends incarnate are discussing a moot point.

      “Don’t point that moot at me, Moriarty!.

      – Spike Milligan (The Last Goon Show Of All)

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      My blunt, ragged edged flensing knife comes out of it’s sheath when I read “a mute point”.

  99. Nobody Special
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    The U.S. pronunciation of of laboratory as labbatory winds me up. Who wants to spend their working hours in a place that rhymes with lavatory?
    And again, the U.S. pronunciation of aluminium as aloominum. Aagh!
    Also (sorry for picking on the U.S.A. but needs must as the Devil flies, and all that) when one pens a missive, one writes to a person, as in ”I wrote to my mother to ask her”, not “I wrote my mother……”.

    Double negatives are a pain, and the offenders can never be made to see that “I haven’t got nothing” means that they have got something; “I haven’t done nothing” means that they have indeed done something.

    People who use acronyms and then explain them. What’s the point of using an acronym and the longhand? “I need that report PDQ, pretty damn quick”.

    People who vocalise ‘OMG’, ‘lol’ etc, or write it where space is not at a premium. Save the abbreviations for character-limited formats.

    I could go on but then I might start yelling at you pesky kids with your Australian rising inflection (not every sentence is a question; stop making them sound as though they are) to get off of my lawn.

    • Nobody Special
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

      Blimey, another couple just sprang to mind:
      Friendly fire. Not for the poor buggers being fired on, I’m sure;
      Near-miss. No! A near-miss is a glancing collision (or a newly-wed, but technically that’s a recent-miss ((or ms.))). A near-hit is what they mean.

      And to add to that couple, I often hear ‘ask’ and ‘asked’ pronounced ‘arks’ and ‘arksed’.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        Not axed?

        • Nobody Special
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

          Depends on the accent; ask/arsk to axe/arks.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 6:15 am | Permalink

      needs must as the Devil flies

      Was that a deliberate mondegreen?

      • Nobody Special
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        Hoisted by by own gizzard 🙂

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:04 am | Permalink

          😀 😀

    • Merilee
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      We Yanks don’t say “labbatory”, FYI, but rather “laBRAtory”, or, more usually, just “lab”. And we don’t say “lavatory” in any case:-)

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        When I first heard the American pronunciation of “badminton” I kept wondering why the conversation had turned to something about a “bad mitten” & why was that mitten bad?

        • Nobody Special
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

          The Americans who declare that they are going to do their doody really get up my nose 😦

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      labratory not labbatory

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      People who use acronyms and then explain them. What’s the point of using an acronym and the longhand? “I need that report PDQ, pretty damn quick”.

      I try to remember to introduce acronyms as longhand in the first occurrence in a script, followed by the acronym, and then use the acronym only. Viz : “blah blah blah and do it Pretty Damned Quick (“PDQ”) […] PDQ […] PDQ”.
      Now I’m getting paranoid : should viz be capitalised there, or not?

      • rickflick
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        “should viz be capitalised there, or not?”

        Rules will only get you so far (ask Donald). You never want to be judged as completely predictable. Capitalize viz randomly.

  100. Martin Delson
    Posted December 19, 2016 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    I wanted to comment, but when I saw 90+ comments here already, I passed at first, thinking Dr. Coyne would never read them all. But (based on the later post, “How not to write a comment”), I see I was wrong; surprisingly, Dr. Coyne does read these posts. So …

    My comment has nothing to do with grammar.

    Instead, my objection is to the use of the term “grammar Nazi”. (Or to “soup Nazi” in Seinfeld, or to “femi-Nazi”, or other humorous compounds with Nazi.) I really wish people wouldn’t trivialize the word “Nazi” in this way. There are real Nazis in today’s world, sad to say, and I wish people would avoid trivializing the concept, so when the word “Nazi” is used, it retains the force it once had, and continues to provoke the same revulsion it once did.

    Thanks!

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 19, 2016 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

      I felt the same way when I first heard those usages, Martin. But since they’ve persisted I now see them as just effective, sometimes comical, figures of speech.

      Perhaps the way to look at it is as if they’re ridiculing Nazis, and I can’t think of a better group to ridicule…

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:14 am | Permalink

        Let’s not be “Nazi”-Nazis.

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:16 am | Permalink

          😀

    • Posted December 20, 2016 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      I think Nazi Paikidze-Barnes might object!

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        What are the odds that Nazi Paikidze-Barnes has some of those oriental good luck symbols somewhere in their domestic decor?

  101. Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    I have always hated the word “baby” used as a pet-name among adults. It find it creepy and gross, as it is too saddled with its literal meaning. There are more than a few decent songs that have been ruined by the overuse of this popular term of endearment in my opinion.

  102. Nobody Special
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    I’m like literally like surprised that like literally nobody had like mentioned that like literally lots of like people literally don’t know what literally like means and stuff.

    • Merilee
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Like, totally…

  103. Larry
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    At the risk of someone else here having already pointed it out as questionable: “in point of fact”.

    • Kev
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 6:16 am | Permalink

      like ‘matter of fact’, “in point of fact” probably comes from Latin: ‘res facti’ (‘factual things’ or ‘things done’), I suppose from ‘legalese’ meaning according to the salient or critical fact or facts. ‘In point’ resembles the modern Italian ‘a punto’ (to the point) which is a response to a statement with which you are in agreement. In English it might be ‘Exactly’ or ‘Just so’. Its actually elegant and precise English but stodgy in overuse.

      • Larry
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

        Is it an improvement over just saying “In fact…”, or are the two used in different situations or word flow? In any case, from your explanation I see a basis for what I thought was only, maybe not pompous, but redundant.

  104. Posted December 20, 2016 at 3:45 am | Permalink

    Okay, one more – not a grammatical error, but a common misspelling: “per say”. No. Just no. It’s Latin, folks! “Per se”, “by itself”. If you want to sound all fancy and edumacated, please have a slight clue what you’re doing!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      I actually somewhat like that sort of self-inflicted wound. It gives you so much information about the person who uses it.

  105. JC
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I know this has become so commonplace as to be acceptable but it grates my nerves every time I hear it. People in a meeting will say, “Blah, blah and that’s where we’re at.” Or, “Where are we at with project x?”

    Instead, I believe it is more correct to say, ” . .. that’s where we are” or “Where are we with project x.”

    Rant complete.

  106. Merilee
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Change up when chsnge would do.

  107. Richie56
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Irregardless when they mean to say regardless, disillusioned instead of delusional (admittedly a rare one)

  108. Nobody Special
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I do wish that when referring to a colleague people would write ‘co-worker’ (or even ‘colleague) rather than the utterly (udderly?) bovine coworker.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      The prospect of orking cows is adequate recompense for that linguistic faux pas.

  109. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Just for a chane, going on the opposite direction to the nominal thread, I just saw this and loved the phrase :

    I’m looking at crater bait.

    (I doubt anyone is surprised that it’s Derek “In the Pipeline” Lowe talking about chemistry that is … best viewed through binoculars.)

  110. Merilee
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    I just saw “graduate college” in The New Yorker!! It should be graduate from!!!

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:31 am | Permalink

      They’ve been dropping the “from” all over the place for some time, now, and it absolutely drives me crazy!

      • Merilee
        Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        I’ve noticed, but never before in The New Yorker!! I tell all y’all, we’s goin’ to hell in a handbasket.

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

          Is nothing sacred?!

          • merilee
            Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

            seems not

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 22, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        As a formal matter, it should be the passive “was graduated from,” since it’s the school that graduates the student, not the other way round.

        Nevertheless, I wouldn’t use the formal correct form unless I was writing to or speaking with someone I thought would grasp this distinction. Otherwise, they mistakenly might think it a subliteracy.

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 22, 2016 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

          Yep, that’s just like knowing the correct pronunciation of (the non-music-related) “forte.” Use at your own risk.

          • Posted December 23, 2016 at 12:45 am | Permalink

            Oh! I’ve always pronounced that with two syllables. But fortunately my interlocutors have always been equally ignorant – or terribly polite.

            /@

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 23, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

              @ Ant

              Oh noes! I’ve violated your innocence. Now you’ll be as fraught as I.

            • Merilee
              Posted December 23, 2016 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

              My forte is to pronounce it fortay ( con brio!) and not give a damn.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 24, 2016 at 2:28 am | Permalink

                😀 Nice perspective!

  111. Merilee
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    OT, but irksome:
    http://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/a20535

  112. Diane G.
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    Oh, something I see frequently that drives me nuts–people using “dominate” when they mean “dominant.” Grrrr.

  113. Nobody Special
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    It is important to remember that capitalisation makes all the difference between helping my uncle jack off his horse and helping my Uncle Jack off his horse.

  114. Posted December 23, 2016 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    It irks me to see this common usage for “entitled” even though grammar experts approve of it:

    …a book by Jerry A. Coyne entitled FAITH VS. FACT.

    I strongly prefer replacing “entitled” with “titled” and I believe I am entitled to being irked by “entitled” used to mean “with the title of” even if I’m wrong.

    I suppose I could care less about this than I do. (Note the rare appropriate use of “could care less.”) I imagine that some WEIT readers couldn’t care less about what irks me.

  115. Posted January 15, 2017 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    What irks me? When people pronounce “espresso” as Iks-Press-O and “especially” as Iks-Spe-Shul-Ee. Planning on reblogging your post on Proof Pefectly.

  116. Posted January 15, 2017 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Proof Perfectly.


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