DON’T ASK WHY

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DAVID VOGEL
Today, here at the National Institute of Correct English, we are proud to announce that the world-renowned English Language Expert, Professor Talkgood, will be joining us today. Talkgood will be answering some of the most-asked questions about the correct ways to use the English Language.

Q. How do I use grammar good?

A. The best way to use grammar good is to pay attention in English class. Otherwise, you might not be able to talk real good. Even as a professional, I often think that I should of paid more attention, because I ain’t always using good grammar. Maybe the following questions will help explain this one better.

Q. How come “inasmuch” is one word, instead of three?

A. Inasmuch means “because” or “to the extent that.” Basically, the three words were put together because people don’t use that phrase in every day chitchat, so the Honorary English Language Patrol (HELP) figured it would make better use of the words just to put them together, instead of saying “in as much.”

We might also want to consider putting other short phrases like that together, such as “nowthatyoumentionit” and “itdidn’tdothatthelasttimeItried.” It’ssomethingtothinkabout.

Q. When is it correct to say “whom” and “who”?

A. “Whom” is generally only used in settings with high social class. For instance, if you were attending a banquet with the Queen of England, she might look at you and say, “Whom invited this scum-ball to my palace?”

However, when you are at a party with normal people, “who” is a perfectly fine word to use.

Q. So basically only snobs use
“whom”?

A. Yes.

Q. How about “a” and “an”?

A. In a sentence, “a” is used before saying a word that starts with a consonant. For example, “a dog ate my homework.” “An” is only used around teachers (the same ones that make you say, “May I go to the bathroom?” instead of
“Can I go to the bathroom?”), such as, “an dog ate my homework.”

Q. Is “irregardless” a word?

A. Unfortunately, yes. “Irregardless” is perfectly acceptable, although it means the same thing as “regardless.” In my opinion, by adding an “ir” to the beginning, you’re just using double negatives, which isn’t no good at all.

Q. Does that one Schoolhouse Rock song that goes, “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function” get stuck in your head, too?

A. All the time.

Q. When is it appropriate to say “My sister is in the front of the theater picking her seat?”

A. Only when your sister isn’t within hearing distance.

Q. No, really.

A. As you can see, “My sister is in the front of the theater picking her seat” leaves out some key details, which makes it sound like you mean something totally different. Instead of saying that, be more specific. For instance, “My sister, who is in the front of the theater, is having a wardrobe malfunction.”

Q. What’s with all those restaurants and places with names like Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe?

A. Basically, this is an attempt by the owners to make the establishment more classy. By adding a few extra letters, their idea is to make their business sound more Olde English and inviting so that costumers can trust and rely on their business, even though Olde English royalty consistently got their heads chopped off.

Q. So, can I make my business sound Olde English, too?

A. Yes, just buy a couple extra vowels.

Q. I know there’s a difference between narrative and persuasive essays, but I don’t care.

A. It depends on the topic.

Q. Which is correct: “willy nilly” or “nilly willy?”

A. It would be smart of you to say neither of them unless you want to sound like a complete dweeb. But technically, “willy nilly” is correct. I don’t know why.

Q. What do i.e. and a.k.a. stand for?

A. I.e. stands for “id est,” which is Latin for “that is.” You could say, “Id est one big dog you’ve got there.”

A.k.a means “also known as.” It probably isn’t Latin, but I don’t know for sure; I’m an English professor, not a Latin professor.

Both abbreviations are acceptable.

Q. Does that mean that “LOL” is proper English, too?

A. To most teenage girls, yes.

Q. Am I supposed to use a comma before “and” when writing a list within a sentence? Example: “The flag is red, white, and blue.”

A. It depends what you are writing the sentence for. If the piece will be appearing in a publication that uses the AP Style, do not use a comma before “and.” This newspaper, for example, uses AP Style, “AP” standing for “Associated Press.”

However, if you are someplace else, such as high school, you ARE supposed to use a comma before “and.” High schools use the RS-or Really Stupid-Style. This can get very confusing, so we should all feel very sorry for teenage journalists.

Q. If a train leaves Boston going 75 mph, heading west, five minutes after a train leaves Los Angeles going east at 203 mph, is there a chance that the eastbound train will derail?

A. Subordinate clause.

Q. Which is correct: “The IRS noticed that your right and is giving you you’re money back,” or “The IRS noticed that you’re right and is giving you your money back?”

A. Neither. First of all, the IRS never admits its own faults, and second, there’s even less of a chance that they’ll give money back.

Q. What’s your opinion about the word choice of this opening to one of Hilary Duff’s songs:

“There’s people talking

“They talk about me

“They know my name

“They think they know everything

“But they don’t know anything

“About me.”

A. Hilary Duff should have stuck with the part of Lizzie McGuire on the Disney Channel.

Q. How can you tell the difference between those words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings?

A. You mean homophones?

Q. Whatever.

A. The best way to see if you’re using the right word version is to add it to a high school essay, and if it comes back circled in red, you know you got the wrong variation.

Some commonly mistaken words are hear and here, break and brake, two, to and too and they’re, their and there. Eye hope ewe sea watt that miens now.

Q. What about homonyms, homographs and heteronyms?

A. And that concludes today’s session.

Today’s Grammar Tip: Never attack a guy just because he poked fun at the English language.

Do you have a question for Professor Talkgood? We don’t doubt it.

* * *

UFO: According to Snopes.com, dictionary-makers do make mistakes from time to time. One of the more famous errors was the appearance of the ghost word “dord” in the second edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary in 1934. Dord-stuck between the entries for Dorcopsis (a type of small kangaroo) and doré (golden in color)-was listed as a noun meaning “density” in the fields of chemistry and physics.

Don’t ask why.

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