Sunday, December 27, 2009

These Are a Few of My (least) Favorite Things

I'm making a New Year's Resolution this year to stop letting the petty things in life get under my skin like tiny shards of glass. I let so many little things irritate me that I feel it's become a distraction. So, I've decided that between now and the new year I'm going to rant. I'm going to take the opportunity to stand high and lofty on my digital soapbox and let spew a few things that bother me on a nearly daily basis.  Sit back and enjoy.

Volume One: Twelve Common Abuses of Our Wonderful Language

I love the English language. This could be in part due to the fact that it's the only one I know. After all, anybody who hates their only verbal form of communication may have other issues they need to work through -  but I do love words. I love the way they (if allowed) can work together to form a picture in a beautifully constructed sentence. I love the way they can change form and meaning if one simply places them in another context, or how spoken meaning of said words changes depending on which word is stressed. I love puns, I love poems, I love lyrics. I love my language, and am therefore very defensive of it.

It breaks my heart when I hear our language casually ripped apart - and with simple errors, errors that if you stand back and look at them you can see how they can ruin an otherwise wonderfully crafted sentence. Listed below are a few common (and most annoying) of crimes against English I hear on a daily basis.

1) Improper use of "myself"

There is a very well-respected, otherwise articulate individual at our hotel that does this on a nearly daily basis. He will say "Come see (insert name) or myself if you have any questions," etc.

If you do this, this is directed at you. Stop it. Look at the sentence and simply remove the inserted name, then read "come see myself if you have any questions." If you're still not seeing the issue, think of it this way: direct the sentence elsewhere, as in: "Go see Bob if you have any questions." Now remove Bob and replace with "himself."  "Go see himself if you have any questions." Do you see now why it's so damn annoying?

2) Too, to, and two

The most common place I see this is on Facebook. I am going to lobby for a grammer-checker application for use in status boxes. This is really, truly, asinine. I'm just going to use one example, as it's the most common.

Too and to: Too - as in, "also," "as well," "in addition to." Most people actually don't put this one out of context - it's "to" that gets put in its place. So - if you want to say, "I will go too," that implies that you're going with someone, or are going as well. If you say "I want to go to," I'm just left wondering to where you would like to go.

Two: It's a number. It means one plus one. Nothing else. Please.

3) The misused apostrophe.

An apostrophe denotes ownership, not pluralization. There is the rare occasion when an apostrophe may be used to shorten a word, or represent multiple letters. For instance: I work daily with something called a BEO, standing for Banquet Event Order. What it is is not important right now - what is, is the fact that I often need to speak of them in multiples. For a while I was refusing to type "BEO's", as I would be lead to think "the BEO's what?" However, after researching this, I've discovered that when pluralizing acronyms, it's generally accepted to use the apostrophe.

Now for the inexcusable. Someone I know - and I will end it there becuase I really like this person - had a sign made for my sister's door - it reads: "The Vaughn's."  Okay - the Vaughn's what? And is there only one Vaughn?

I see this on marquis signs, I see it printed. I see it commonly referring to a family name - why? Where did this get picked up? Please think before you print.

4) Linguistic redundancy.

To follow is a list of phrases that make me want to yell profanity.

-Eye sight
-Bread roll
-Foot bridge
-6AM in the morning
-Tuna fish
-Over exaggerating
-Accidental mistake (yes, I hear this often)

5) Multiple exclamation and question marks

One does the trick.

6) Its and It's.

"It's" means "It is," while "Its" denotes ownership. So quit getting it wrong. You look stupid. I understand the occasional type-o, I'm guilty of it myself, (note the usage of "myself" here), but when I see it in emails day - after day - after day, I tend to kick things.

7) The spelling of common items changing due to corporate labeling

For instance, "donuts." More than once has this been spelled this way to me. I recently saw it on a buffet label. And while we're talking about buffets, as a banquet manager I was once asked to bring out another dish of "McMuffins." They were English Muffins with eggs. We were in a Marriott, not a McDonald's - we did not provide "McMuffins."

8) Me and I
"Me and Joe went to the store." Let me pick this one apart slowly and painfully so you might understand my annoyance. Suppose we take Joe out of the equation. The sentence becomes "Me went to the store." You sound like a three year-old.

"James and me went to the store." Once again - "Me went to the store."

"Are you coming to the movie with Mark and I?" Reworded: "Are you coming to the movie with I?"

"Sarah, Michelle and me do not like grapes." Reworded (adjusted for tense): "Me does not like grapes."

If you're ever unsure, remove the additional subject and you have your answer. Otherwise, you really do sound idiotic.

9) They're, there and Their

Yes, I'm going there.

"They're" is a contraction of "they" and "are." "Their" is plural possessive - multiples showing ownership, as in - "their flowers." "There" is a preposition, or a description of location. Get it right.

10) Ain't and Y'all

There are those who believe the abomination that is "ain't"  is officially working its way into our language. I will never, ever, ever use it. Never. Not if you paid me. (If you paid me I might. Might). Here's why I hate it:

This is supposedly a contraction of "are not," but if you were to apply this definition, it wouldn't be broad enough, as it's commonly used for "is not" as well. So this word would need to be the only contraction flexible enough to be unchanging given any context, singular or plural. English does not work this way, but if one were to apply rules to this accident of a word, it would still be misused. Trust me.

On the other hand, we have "y'all." I've actually made a few attempts over the past ten months back in South Carolina to use it, and while it still does not come out the same as it leaves my lips, (my lack of any particular accent makes it strange-sounding), when taken as a contraction of "you all", it makes an odd sort of sense. This one actually doesn't piss me off all that much. 

11) Ending sentence in prepositions

I realize there's a growing consensus that this is okay. But I still find myself at times performing verbal acrobatics to get around it. Winston Churchill famously said that "ending a sentence in a preposition is something with which I will not put." Fair enough. It can make you sound a little like Yoda if you take the rule too seriously.

That being said, it still irks me somehow. In previous entries on this blog I've done this, and have to fight the urge to go back and correct. However, hearing someone ask me where something is "at" almost always causes my stomach to turn. No, I do not use the "behind the at" adage as a response, as sometimes I think this is reserved for users of "ain't." (Sorry to my dear family who do use this "corrective" phrase - and the word "ain't"). No, typically I either won't answer, or I'll fire a glance, either at them or when they can no longer see me.

12) The term "reverse racism"

Okay, I realize this is more specific, and may not belong here. But as long as I'm ranting, I'll bring this to the table.

Racism is racism. As a gay man, I can tell you that calling someone a reverse racist is the same as calling me a reverse sexual. It doesn't apply. Calling someone a reverse racist to me sounds as if they're anti-racist. Stop using that one. No, please.

13) Alot

It's two words. And it doesn't say a lot. Use it sparingly.

There are so, so many more. I may add to this as I think of it, but please, let me know what else you can think of. Misery loves company, fellow English lovers, so let me know what common crimes against the written or spoken word make you want to scream.

So ends my rant. For now.


Anonymous said...

I just came across your blog and enjoyed it very much. I'm a banquet manager and write a blog about the daily aggravations that go with my job...from cranky chefs to nasty customers and everything in between. I hope you enjoy it. Please visit and leave a comment. Have a great day!
So You Want To Be a Banquet Manager

Anonymous said...

P.S. I hope my grammer was correct...

Will Shealy said...

Fantastic! I was a banquet manager for years, and gratefully moved out of operations - though I do miss it sometime. I'll follow your blog. Thanks for reading!

Eric said...

I was once in a seminar concerning Native Americans and was thought to be a major ass for pointing out that there is no such thing as reverse racism. That "racism" is the same independent of the shade of the person who committed it. No props in my hippie school that day!

DickDeadeye said...

Very Nice!
Although, I'd always understood "ain't" to be slang, it was my impression that it's most correct use is as a contraction for "am not", which doesn't have a convenient Modern English contraction (amn't?).