Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
David

Shurely Shome Mishtake

Recommended Posts

Inspired by Bill's recent correction of his linguistically errant nephew, I thought I'd invite BGOers to share their pet hates about abuse of the language. I think we can assume that apostrophes are a given here, although as a curiosity I once saw a clothes store for children called Your Kidding. I couldn't decide if this was ignorance or some form of cleverness. It irritated me, anyway.

 

I suppose it also has to be stated that split infinitives are now apparently kosher, so Star Trek's "To boldly go where no man has gone before" turned out to be ahead of its time in other ways than was presumably imagined.

 

Still, anything that gets your linguistic goat - maybe even people in the public eye who should know better - why not indulge in a little therapy and vent your spleen here?

 

I think my own number one is 'different to'. This seems to have become virtually universal and many TV and newspaper journalists who otherwise seem to be quite grammatically savvy have allowed it to slip in. The whole concept of 'similar to, different from' never seems a particularly difficult one to me - you can even conceptualise it spacially in terms of something similar being close to the object whilst different is far from it, but it has flooded into popular language use like the coming flu pandemic.

 

Another is the fallacious use of the subjective form of the first person, 'I' in sentence constructions that demand the objective, 'me'. All done in the erroneous belief that it is somehow socially elevating. E.g., "It came as a complete surprise to my wife and I." No, my wife and me. The classic manifestation of this error would be at the end of joint news bulletins, along the lines of "And a very good night from Trevor and I." No: 'from' - it's the objective case.

 

I have more - if there proves to be much interest in the thread I'll post them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, indeed, 'The Things People Say' thread looks at bizarre or nonsensical statements. I was actually thinking of things a little more grammatical, but by all means branch out back to that if you like. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

'Things People Say' ended up with a couple of people (rightly) complaining about the memos of illiterate bosses. However - grammatically, the biggies seem to be:

 

'Different to' (For Christ's sake, how can something differ 'to' something else?)

'Might of/could of etc' (That well-established verb 'to of' again...)

'Pie's and chip's, 60's and 70's etc' (Simple. There is no English word that employs an apostrophe 's' in its plural form.)

'To not want' (Or indeed any other split infinitive. Lazy, if you ask me.)

'Definately' (Are we allowed spelling? The root is 'finite' - thus, it should be pretty obvious how it's spelt...)

 

Anyway, we've been here..!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think there is mileage in this thread, even if we've been over similar territory before. There are a few recurring grammatical and spelling mistakes (as opposed to typos) made on this board, often by some of the most intelligent posters. The last thing I would ever want on here is posters following others around correcting their grammar and spelling. So rather than a negative thread berating people, perhaps this could be a home for pointing some of the common mistakes, and explaining what is right and what is wrong.

 

Deino mentions a good example: I have a theory that 'definitely' is the most commonly mis-spelled word in English.

 

The most common mistake on here has to be the confusion of 'its' and 'it's', so common that I have seen a few examples recently in The Guardian. I even read a sentence yesterday in which the word 'its' appeared four times, spelt correctly twice and wrongly twice.

 

So, 'it's' is short for 'it is'. If you read out the sentence and subsititute 'it is' for 'it's' and it no longer makes sense, then it's spelt wrong. There is no other use of 'it's' apart from as an abbreviation of 'it is'.

 

As Deino knows, I have a problem with 'less' and 'fewer', as I've been saying 'less' when I should have been saying 'fewer' for years, and am trying to wean myself out of the habit. I do know the difference, but perhaps someone else could explain it.

 

BTW, split infinitives are - as David says - perfectly acceptable now, and quite rightly in my view. I've never had a problem with them, but perhaps they still sound wrong to some our more, let's say, traditional members.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The most common mistake on here has to be the confusion of 'its' and 'it's', so common that I have seen a few examples recently in The Guardian. I even read a sentence yesterday in which the word 'its' appeared four times, spelt correctly twice and wrongly twice.

 

So, 'it's' is short for 'it is'. If you read out the sentence and subsititute 'it is' for 'it's' and it no longer makes sense, then it's spelt wrong. There is no other use of 'it's' apart from as an abbreviation of 'it is'.

 

I appreciate Bill's concern about pointing fingers on a thread like this (which, you'll all be amazed to learn, I'm not really about, either) - but I think Bill Gates needs a kicking here. Microsoft Word spell/grammar check seems to have little grasp of the correct use of 'its/it's'. I think people become confused because other possessives use the apostrophe ('Bill's nephew's grammar', as a double example).

 

BTW, split infinitives are - as David says - perfectly acceptable now, and quite rightly in my view. I've never had a problem with them, but perhaps they still sound wrong to some our more, let's say, traditional members.

 

I think that can only be a matter of opinion - many aberrations of grammar are considered 'acceptable' nowadays, it seems. If splitting an infinitive is okay these days, then there's not much I can do about it - but it still looks/sounds ugly to me. But you knew I'd pick up on that one. (Now then, where are all the traditionalists who insist on writing 'Mr Jones's' etc, eh? ;) )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My pet hate - using the wrong "there", "their" or "they're". Ties into David's "Your". These get drummed into you in primary school. How come so many people do not know how to get the right one?

 

Sign in my local community centre - "Smile! Your on camera!". I want to pull it down every time I walk past. Local Council have just produced a newsletter, and I was reading it yesterday - a headline about services read "How do we improve there lives". GRRRRRRRR!!!!!

 

(I know I am guilty of not putting an apostrophe in its and thats, but that is more laziness than lack of knowledge. I will try harder!).

 

Personally, I blame most of the common mistakes used these days on "txt spk"!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As Deino knows, I have a problem with 'less' and 'fewer', as I've been saying 'less' when I should have been saying 'fewer' for years, and am trying to wean myself out of the habit. I do know the difference, but perhaps someone else could explain it.

 

The way I understand it is that less is for quantity, fewer is for numbers -

 

hence - there are (n) fewer people here than yesterday

 

but - there is less treacle tart then there was last week.

 

HTIOSA

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What annoys me is when people say 'I haven't done nothing!' (usually of the chav variety) and it's so annoying, because they are literally admitting that they have done something, because to do nothing means you have done something.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think my own number one is 'different to'. This seems to have become virtually universal and many TV and newspaper journalists who otherwise seem to be quite grammatically savvy have allowed it to slip in. The whole concept of 'similar to, different from' never seems a particularly difficult one to me - you can even conceptualise it spacially in terms of something similar being close to the object whilst different is far from it, but it has flooded into popular language use like the coming flu pandemic.

 

That's very useful, I will remember that! I like little rules which make little grammar things like this make sense instead of being arbitrary!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That's very useful, I will remember that! I like little rules which make little grammar things like this make sense instead of being arbitrary!

Glad it helped! Years of English teaching mean I've got quite a few of the 'shortcut' tips. Probably should have said in my opening examples that there's an easy way to tell what's right with the subject/object first person dilemma. It only really crops up when there are two objects that include the first person, because that seems to create ambiguity, so all you need to do is take the other one out. So, to use my earlier examples:

 

"It came as a complete surprise to my wife and I."

"And a very good night from Trevor and I."

 

Just take out the 'other':

"It came as a complete surprise to I."

"And a very good night from I."

 

Immediately it's clear that's wrong and you need 'me'.

 

Glad I haven't completely wasted people's time bringing this theme back. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think my own number one is 'different to'.

 

Or the awful American version 'different than'?

 

I have trouble with 'due to/owing to'

 

e.g. 'I was late today -due to/owing to- a spillage of treacle from a tanker on the bypass.'

 

Perhaps i should just stick to 'because of'?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The french 'a cause de' just flows better, I think, but unfortunately I can't use that instead of the clumsy sounding 'because of' unless everyone else decides to too, which is unfortunately highly unlikely!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The way I understand it is that less is for quantity, fewer is for numbers -

 

hence - there are (n) fewer people here than yesterday

 

but - there is less treacle tart then there was last week.

 

Absolutely so. For 'fewer', think in terms of something that you can count (marbles, potatoes, copies of the Radio Times etc). For 'less', think in terms of a 'mass' (work, soup, gold bullion etc).

 

As for the above, I'd go with either:

"I was late for work today owing to a spillage of treacle..."

or:

"My lateness for work today was due to a spillage of treacle..."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The french 'a cause de' just flows better, I think, but unfortunately I can't use that instead of the clumsy sounding 'because of' unless everyone else decides to too, which is unfortunately highly unlikely!

 

And what is wrong with attempting to make Franglais the modern lingua franca ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just take out the 'other':

"It came as a complete surprise to I."

"And a very good night from I."

 

Immediately it's clear that's wrong and you need 'me'.

 

Ah, if I only I had read and digested before "Test the Nation" tonight!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ah, if I only I had read and digested before "Test the Nation" tonight!!!

 

'Test the Nation' - the 'know your english test' that doesn't give 'English' a capital letter. I assume this was deliberate irony.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, apart from spending much of the programme being singularly incompetent and unable to answer the most simple questions being posed to her by studio guests (now there's irony!), Anne Robinson was pretty grouchy about teachers e-mailing in to complain about things that were wrong. Well, the nerve of the people, eh? Fancy informing an 'educational' programme that they are mis-educating people! I don't know how they dare show their faces on the streets!

 

My only personal gripe was at the St James's Palace question. Whilst this version is the more conventionally correct way to write it, in modern rules St James' is considered acceptable. I therefore think it's unreasonable to set it as a question.

 

That said, I misread a couple of questions and submitted howler answers before realising what I'd done as the clock timed out. I was also hopeless on the collective nouns section (only got the ostentation of peacocks) so I was an unhappy chappie by the end! :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×