Stop Butchering The Language!

13 03 2008

This is going to seem like a random topic to bring up, and to a large extent it is, but I couldn’t care less. It was bugging me, as you all know by now, if it’s bugging me, it’ll be bugging you too. So, without further ado, don’t you just hate it when people misuse the English language? Not the complicated stuff, I’ll grant you, my grammar isn’t always perfect, but the basic stuff.

My current pet peeve, just because I’ve been hearing it a lot recently (mainly from Americans) is the misuse of the word literally. To give you an example, someone says “When such and such happened I literally felt sick”. Did you? Did you really? I didn’t see any puke anywhere. I didn’t see you collapse in a heap because you had a horrible fever or some flesh-eating disease. I wish I had though, you cretinous piece of…

Ahem, apologies, I got a little sidetracked by my rage there. Who knew there were that many feathers in my pillows? It’s just I have no idea what these people think “literally” means but clearly, whatever it is, it’s wrong. For those of you who don’t know it means “without embellishment” or “actual”. The irony in all this is that it’s often misused used to mean precisely the opposite, it is used as a form of embellishment or hyperbole.

This is a rather funny blog all about the misuse of the word “literally” so I’m not alone.

Another one is the misuse of the word irony. Seriously, it does not mean coincidence. I blame the Alanis Morisette song “Ironic” for starting this craze of misusing the word. Ed Byrne, the comedian, once famously (and correctly) said that the only thing that’s ironic about the song is that none of the things mentioned in the song are actually ironic.

Which, given the song is called “Ironic” is pretty ironic. Even more ironic is the fact that many use this as justification for why Americans don’t get irony. Alanis is Canadian, obviously, and one irony in all this is that the Canadians often look down on the Americans for being their stupid neighbours but have plenty of their own stupid people.

Although it’s rather long I can highly recommend this Guardian article about irony. It’s actually quite funny and I have to say makes some very good points. Much as I like to berate the Americans for not getting irony (and granted, a lot of Americans, particularly the less educated ones, don’t) there are plenty of Americans who do get irony.

Moving on, my last pet peeve for today is people who try and be “ultra-correct” with their grammar but actually end up being completely incorrect. One example is when people who, having been corrected when saying something like “John and me are going to the meat market” (obviously that should be “John and I”), then use it every time. You’ll hear them say something like “He’s a good friend to Jill and I”. Is he really?

Quick tip to those who don’t understand how to do that. Split the sentence into two. The first example would be “John is going to the meat martket” and “I am going to the meat market”. Therefore it’s “John and I”. The second example would be “He’s a good friend to Jill” and “He’s a good friend to me”, therefore it’s “Jill and me”. Simple really, isn’t it?

What about you, what are your pet peeves when it comes to spelling and grammar?


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8 responses

13 03 2008
jayne d'Arcy

The word LOOSE being used in place of the word LOSE. You might as well stick an icepick in my eardrum, it’s that irritating. Literally. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one).

13 03 2008
1dumblonde

Or how about, between you and I?

13 03 2008
Mr President

Jayne: YES! That’s very irritating, I agree. Don’t worry, I’m more than happy to literally stick an icepick in your eardrum.

1dumblonde: That’s another good one. Of course the reason why “you and I” is not appropriate after “between” is because “between” is a preposition, and after a preposition accusative is appropriate.

14 03 2008
rws

The disappearance of the personal address comma. For instance: “I heard that dude!” instead of “I heard that, dude!” (the first saying the speaker heard some dude, the second exclaiming, “I heard that!” to the dude).

Writing LIGHTENING to mean lightning, a misspelling that apparently spread via the web, people seeing “lightening” and assuming it was correct because, after all, there it was written on a page in the web.

The growing confusion re: YOUR and YOU’RE.

15 03 2008
Mr President

Yes! Definitely. Without context it’s impossible to work out which of the two is meant, unless people remember to correctly use the comma.

Generally people seem unable to correctly use punctuation, commas, colons, semi-colons and apostrophes. The latter is clearly why people are so confused between YOUR and YOU’RE, and ITS and IT’S. I really do hate how people misuse HERE and HEAR, or THERE, THEY’RE and THEIR too. It’s quite a shocking indictment of the education standards.

That misspelling of Lightening [sic] is new to me. Thanks for pointing it out. I did have an ex who insisted on spelling chocolate chocolatte, even after I told her how to spell it correctly. Immensely frustrating.

I blame improper pronunciation for that, and a lot of problems people have. They pronounce things the wrong way, then compound the error by spelling things how they sound. Whatever can we do? A cull?

16 03 2008
well, actually..

“God bless that little non-irony song! The sweetest irony is that it’s a song called “Ironic” and it’s not filled with irony. The best moment I had surrounding that song was in a bookstore in New York. Someone came up to me and said, “You do realize that song is not filled with ironies.” I just nodded my head silently. And she said, “Is that the irony?” I just nodded my head and she walked out! [Laughs] It was such a sweet moment.”

Alanis Morissette

17 03 2008
Mr President

I’ve heard that before but the cynic in me doesn’t buy it. Seems like a cover up, one of those situations where you screw up but say “see, I meant to do that all along!” when it works out.

Even if she did mean I still blame the song since it’s lead to a generation of idiots who’ve heard it, and don’t understand that none of those things are ironic, to misunderstand what irony is.

27 04 2008
It’s Just Wrong! « Textual Relations

[…] proud of. Those of you who’ve read Textual Relations for some time now will have seen this sort of thing before. Should he follow through with his goal of emigrating to the US he will no […]

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