Language and its discontents

I almost missed a wonderful op-ed piece in today’s WSJ about the fact that the candidates’ grammar, unfortunately, tends to show both cowardice and ignorance.  I admit to having one or two grammatical blind spots myself, not to mention a proofreading deficiency so extreme I probably qualify for federal aid, but my grammar is, most of the time, pretty good.  In speech, I’ll slip into the colloquial occasionally just so that I don’t sound offputtingly formal, but I know the rules.  My kids, too, know the basic rules:  They can apply “well” and “good” correctly in a sentence (“we do things well and things are good” is my mnemonic) and they’re pretty strong on “me” and “I” when another person is added to the sentence mix (“Bill and I went to the store,” because, if Bill wasn’t there, you wouldn’t say “me went to the store”).  Because I’ve got a handle on the basics, it grates on my ears when public speakers get things so terribly wrong.  In addition, as James Taranto points out, Hillary has the horrible “you know” twitch, which is up there with “like” and “um” when it comes to auditory irritation.

6 Responses

  1. Good ones — and then there’s my personal favorite: “It was so fun!”

  2. How about fewer/less? This one drives me crazy.

  3. A professional re-writer is someone we should listen to when it comes to the mechanics of language, *even* when their thinking, otherwise, relies on templates of opinion, rather than original expression.

  4. I don’t regularly read the WSJ, so I would have missed Collin Levy’s piece, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I particularly liked Levy’s insight that using “myself” seems safe to those who are shaky about whether “I” or “me” is correct.

    I wrote something similar on my blog, but didn’t tackle the issue of “myself.” The use of “I” and “me” was No. 6 in my post “Ten Common Writing Mistakes Your Spell Checker Won’t Find.” Actually, these kinds of mistakes have nothing to do with spelling, but instead, are about proper usage. Is anybody teaching proper usage any more? (Maybe they can’t squeeze it in between Self-Esteem 101 and Eskimo Pride Studies.)

  5. Judy, Judy, Judy (in my best Cary Grant imitation): It’s Inuit Pride Studies, not Eskimo Pride studies. And no, I don’t think they teach much usage anymore.

  6. BW, I went to school before there were any “pride” studies, so forgive my ignorance.

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