It is a blessing and a curse at the same time. I guess I was born with it. I have never lost it. I?m not sure where I would be without it. But, it is always there, running in my head like the operating system of a Mac or PC.
Whether I am in church, at a school faculty meeting, listening to the radio, watching TV, reading a book or even attending a family reunion, my internal editor is always operating. I listen to what people say and correct their speech in my head. Fortunately, I long ago learned not to make those corrections out loud. That filter has served me well.
But, the fact that I don?t always have to verbalize what I am thinking does not mean the decline of the ?King?s Eng?lish? does not have the potential to drive me crazy. I am, after all, a former managing editor of a newspaper and an instructor of language arts at the high school.
So, once in a while, I just have to get the perceived destruction of our native tongue (post 1600s, at least) off my chest. This is that time. If, gentle reader, you don?t care about grammar (and I would guess you are in the majority), I grant you permission to stop right here and go back to watching the new season of ?The Walking Dead.?
For those who choose to stick with me, I shall present my top 10 most prevalent grammatical and syntactical errors. This is a purely unscientific and decidedly anecdotal observation by one person?me. If I make a misstep in this or any other column or formal communication, please forgive me and note that I don?t claim to be perfect. But, at least I am still trying.
10. Further vs. farther. ?Further? means taking something to the next level. ?Farther? indicates a distance. The most recent Ford ad campaign says: ?Ford: Go Further.? If I had been asked to work on the tagline, it would have been: ?Go further; go farther. That would tackle both meanings cleverly, at least in my humble opinion.
9. Alright. Purists among (note: not amongst) us bristle at the use of this informal degradation of the term ?all right.? It has come to be a substitute for ?OK,? used to indicate agreement. I might be able to live with that usage, but it should never be a substitute for ?fine,? as in ?I believe I will be all right.?
8. Play angry. I have mentioned this one before. For some reason, it is all the rage these days to follow an action verb with an adjective. This is a violation of the agreement that ended the Battle of Webster, fought in 1172 (OK, I just made that up). This is a further symptom of the disease that has plagued sportscasters for untold generations: ?They played good.?
7. Got. This word has gone viral in modern English. A local TV station proclaims: ?We got your back.? An area daily newspaper touts: ?Want more? We got it.? What?s wrong with the word ?have?? Lots of people still like it. As a matter of fact, many prefer the combination of the two, as in ?We?ve got to get out of here.? Totally unnecessary.
6. Less people. Technic?ally, if there were ?less people? at a meeting, there would sadly be only partial people, perhaps a group of amputees. ?Less? in this context means ?not whole.? The correct term would, of course, be ?fewer.?
5. Freshman parents. This one is more fun than annoying. I always get a kick out of an announcement such as, ?All freshman parents are invited to an orientation meeting.? I know times have changed, but I would not expect this to be a large gathering here in Hillsboro. The speaker is actually calling for a meeting of parents of freshmen. Big difference in my book.
A similar faux pas is the use of ?naked photos? or ?nude photos.? Who cares if the picture itself is not clothed? What we are really talking about here are photos of naked people. Again, completely different.
4. For him and I. This is wrong on a couple of levels. First, if you believe the objective pronoun ?him? is correct, using the subject or nominative form ?I? cannot possibly be right. They are performing the same grammatical function in the phrase.
Second, people often apparently think ?I? sounds more accurate, I guess, so based on their experience with high school grammar, they sense that if it sounds wrong, it must be right.
For some reason, people go brain dead when using a compound subject or object. Would you say ?for I?? No. You would say ?for me.? Unfortunately, this becomes even more complicated because either a subjective or objective pronoun could follow ?for.? But, I can assure everyone that mixing the two forms is not ever permissible.
3. Hopefully. This is so ingrained in modern language that I don?t think it?s salvageable. When someone says, ?Hopefully, it won?t rain at my wedding,? he or she is actually using an adverb as a substitute for the clause ?I hope.? Try this: ?It won?t rain hopefully at my wedding.? Doesn?t make sense any more does it? Technically speaking, this would be like saying, ?Care?fully, I will not have an accident on the way to the mall.?
2. At. Oh my gosh, this one would drive me to drinking if I could afford booze and liked the taste of alcohol. There is no advantage to any sentence, whether in clarity of meaning or in terms of syntax by proclaiming, ?Tell me where you are at.? Leave that two-letter word off, please. If anything, the meaning might be even clearer.
If you want to know why this drives grammarians nuts, ?at? is a preposition, and, by definition, all prepositions need objects. When that pesky little guy is placed at the end of the sentence, no object for it exists. It has no visible means of support. Lose it and help me maintain what little sanity I have remaining.
1. Anyone?their. Let me ask the mathematicians out there: If a billion people insisted that two plus two equaled five, would that make it true? Everyone seems to think it is permissible to refer to a singular noun or pronoun as a ?they.? This will never be OK to me.
I can prove that the following words are singular: anyone, everyone, someone, somebody, anybody, everybody. Here?s the test. Would you ever find yourself saying, ?Everybody are late for the meeting?? I think not. Therefore, ?everybody? is clearly singular. Why is this so difficult?
Similarly, an athletic team, such as Tabor College, is considered singular, so why is the plural pronoun ?they? acceptable when referring to the institute of higher learning?
I can guess at the history of this grammatical violation. We?ll just call it laziness. ?It? sounds stupid, so rather than reconstruct the sentence to make it more clear, writers and speakers simply choose to take the easiest route. They believe nobody care(s). And, they are mostly correct. But, just so they know, at least one of us still does.