So I do have a few...

grammar pet peeves.

Last entry, I boldly proclaimed myself as a descriptivist of language. Now I am going to counter that and sort of backpeddle a bit. The descriptivist in me has taken note of a few grammar points that I see broken every day, and I expect I will continue to see even more.

Apostrophes: people love them. A little too much. Well, I think what is happening is that people have been so bashed for leaving them out in "it's" (contraction) and mixing up "your"/"you're" and "their"/"they're"/"there" that they have become hyperzealous about the punctuation mark, so afraid of leaving it out that they stick it in everywhere. Plurals are commonly taking on apostrophes.

I was first outraged to see a sign at my high school talking about "ID's" (as in identification cards) several years ago. My professor speaks of his "TA's," and I have even seen it recently with non-caps plurals too. It perplexed me because there is no cause for an apostrophe -- they're used for possession and contractions -- but I think it makes people nervous to see especially capitalized plurals and then that naked "s". And the more they see it misused, the more it will *be* misused.

Adjectives vs. adverbial phrases. My friend Lee, a Spanish linguist, is embarking on an incredibly interesting study. At the risk of letting the cat out of the bag, she is looking at how people misuse time phrases such as "every day." "Everyday" -- one word -- is an adjective.

"Misusing these words is an *everyday* occurrence" (everyday modifies occurrence).

Every day -- two words -- is an adverbial phrase.

"No, really, it happens *every day* (every day modifies happens)."

There are several other phrases that I wish I could remember, but the point is the lines are being blurred through analogy ("although" is one word; is "eventhough"?). I had not noticed this phenomenon at all until our discussion, but now I see these mixings-up every day (or is it everyday?) in reputable sources. I saw it one day on a Dove candy wrapper.

I also wonder this: language changes. Grammar changes. We no longer say "thee" and "thou." How long will it take for these errors to become standardized? And at what point would AP change their standard? It's too early to call the changes standardized right now, far too early, but will AP be ahead of the curve or behind it?

1 comment:

  1. I loved this entry, and I completely agree. I find many people being overzealous with apostrophes, and even more with commas. There seems to be a lot of confusion on when a comma is necessary. I always have to stop and ask myself if the clause is dependent or independent. "Anytime" is another word often confused. It would be interesting to see the final results of your friend's study!