28 January 2009

Wednesday Whine

- My number one pet peeve is when people take credit where it is undue. You know, that manager who presents your breakthrough idea as if it were his own, the co-chair who attends a committee meeting without you and attaches his name to your work, or the classmate who never showed up to half of the study sessions but hands in the group project as if he spearheaded the whole thing. It may sound like I'm not a team player, but in fact, I am very much a team player. I try very hard to give credit where credit is due*, which is why I am astounded, disappointed, and sometimes fuming when others don't play by the same rules.

- There are a few grammatical errors at which I literally flinch.

First, there's the it's/its confusion. It doesn't make any sense to me why that apostrophe is so liberally used when people intend to state it in the possessive. I mean, people don't throw a random apostrophe in there when using the possessive his. To me, hi's looks as ridiculous as it's when it's not a contraction of it is.

Another one that drives me batty is close proximity. As opposed to what? Far proximity? Proximity already means closeness...it really needn't be characterized by itself.

And let's move on to alot. You don't spell a little all scrunched up as alittle, please extend the same courtesy to a lot.

Finally, there's peruse, which means to read carefully. I realize that if enough people get it consistently wrong, it will go the way of decimate, but until then, peruse still means to read carefully!

I'm sorry. I sound like a snob, but it's only because I was continually placed in ESL classes until my senior year in high school! Because of a sweeping district policy to place all students who did not use English as their primary language in the home, I had to test out of the ESL track each and every single year. I know. Bogus, right? I could have easily lied and claimed that I did speak English at home, but I was am stubborn like that. So now, I'm strangely specific about my grammar and my ears perk when I hear errors.

* Isn't it strange and lovely when you've known someone for the briefest slice of time but you feel connected as if you've been buddies for years? I met the wonderfully talented, witty, sweet Hyacynth this summer, and through the miracle of Blogland have been able to keep up with her antics even though she's moved back to her native Midwest home. This Wednesday Whine post was shamelessly pilfered from her blog.


Hyacynth Filippi Worth said...

I love how you label this post "neuroses!" I have grammar pet peaves like yours as well; I think mine stems from all of the time I spent fixing those mistakes as a copy editor for our college newspaper.

Oh, I wish we lived closer! I just <3 you! But this gives me an added reason to get my butt back there and visit. As if the 19-degree high temperature wasn't enough ... ;)

Brett said...

I am sorry to say that its/it's is a losing battle. Some people just love to throw that apostrophe in with the s. I used to think it was ignorance, but even some well-educated, otherwise intelligent people just can't keep it straight.

The other one that I really detest, but have been worn down by over the years, is mixing object/subject case, such as "him and I."

LH said...

Hyacynth, drop on by! It's expected to be 76 degrees tomorrow!

Brett, I silently correct object/subject errors in my head, though sometimes I wonder if it's actually under my breath because people look at me like they can hear the edit! Oops.

It's not so coincidental that this post struck a chord with the copy editor/journalist and technical writer. :)

Ivan Chan Studio said...

Hey, you forgot "moot"!

I think for me, growing up with people assuming (oftentimes by talking louder) that I didn't speak English gave me that PTSD flinch when I hear grammatical errors, but I've been trying to counteract it by accepting these errors as mutations in the process of linguistic evolution (besides, I don't know all the rules myself).

The process may not always be pretty, and it rarely makes sense, but really, do artificial, 17th century grammatical rules forcing English (e.g., which can do split infinitives following its Germanic roots) to behave like Latin (which cannot) make sense, too? (I've also read that Webster, in standardizing the English language by creating a dictionary, was a man with OCD or OCPD. Hm...)

There are the occasional goof-ups (Hyacinth misspelled "peeves"), habitual mistakes (people should know the difference between it's/its by now), and errors of ignorance ("if" and "were" are paired together for conditional clauses but because of common use, "if" and "was" is the norm, at least in America).

Anyway, my point is still that I'm sensitized to rules, particularly grammatical rules, because (well, besides my own OCD proclivities) most native English-speakers weren't humiliated, shamed, bullied, or pathologized into assimilating a dominant tongue in order to show submission and to make the majority more comfortable with their diverse environment, and maintenance of power and privilege.

Okay, can you tell I've been studying multicultural counseling and therapy?

Back to your regular programming...


LH said...

Ivan, thanks for lending a scholarly feel to what would otherwise be me merely complaining! For some reason, I've let go of split infinitives and failure to conjugate in the subjunctive, but you're totally right about moot. That one still bothers me a bit.

I grew up thinking that proper English was essential to being more American but as it turns out, I was way off-base. It would be much more "American" to get it all wrong!

Hyacynth Filippi Worth said...

Ivan, you are totally right about most native English language speakers never having been shamed for not understanding the English language in most cases. When I was learning about writing and journalism while working for our college newspaper, though, I was definitely chastised for not knowing while I was still learning. I think that is one reason why I hate making mistakes when writing. (Also, I freakin' LOVE spell check!)What interesting thoughts.

LH said...

I maintain a fairly FOB-ish appearance, what with my long straight hair, no-makeup and barely matching clothes and all, so I think the automatic assumption when people first meet me is that I don't speak English--not well, anyhow. While I don't owe these casual observers anything, I still feel compelled to counter that assumption and shatter the stereotype by flexing my grammatical muscle.

I used to be so insulted when someone complimented me on my English because it confirmed their racial prejudice. But now I take it with humor and reciprocate, "Why, thank you! You speak English very well too." They're usually a bit perplexed, particularly since I do with such a big smile on my face. ;)

Ivan Chan Studio said...

Hi Hyacinth and Lam!

I used to get annoyed by those sorts of "you're a credit to your race (because you guys can't speak/do/think/achieve like we can)" sort of comments. I do turn it back on them these days because hey, not only do I speak English well, I speak it better than they do!

Language as a vehicle of culture makes me think that's why we and others have focused so much on understanding it so that we can be perceived as part of the group. I mean, I like hamburgers and stuff, but thank goodness White American cuisine couldn't compare to my mother's cooking, or I'd have taken that route to become more American!

I think how people teach language is also troubling, like Hyacinthy's experience at the college newspaper--it didn't have to be a bad experience!

Alternatively, I've known people who wanted to be writers but who couldn't write well (they thought that grammar, typos, etc. were for editors to fix; they were master storytellers too brilliant to be bothered), and to those I wanted to take a grammar hammer (nyuk nyuk) and just bang on their heads (and hands)--the arrogance was infuriating! (I'm countertransferring.)

Anyway, I think pet peeves are fun. I have a friend who can't stand the "where you at?" phrase so I try to say it around him, as well as end sentences on prepositions! Tee-hee!


Katheryn said...

I love learning more about grammer/punctuation, probably because I love(d?) writing so much and because I was never taught most of it (let's not talk about the general public school education around here). Re: peruse - http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peruse How can it have 2 opposing definitions? Both attentive and cursory? But what are the problems with decimate and moot? The one I hate is irregardless, although it's now listed at Mirriam Webster and will most likely be accepted eventually as a real word. Ah well - language continues to evolve, albeit slower than it used to.

LH said...


Wow, I wasn't aware that the cursory misinterpretation of peruse is now acceptable. I'm horrified. Though maybe a little less horrified than I am about irregardless. My ears bleed a little for that one.

People often use decimate to mean total annihilation but it really means to kill/destroy 1 in every 10. Get it? DECI-mate?

People often use moot to mean that there is no point in arguing...but it actually means debatable or arguable.

LH said...

Saw this and thought of you guys: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gqHbKAdUMsPIUMaJT-CAi1lIvt-wD961MQP00

Ivan Chan Studio said...