Aaargh! The grammar nazi rants…

Okay, people, listen up–the next time I read something in LiveJournal, on a newsgroup, or in an email that makes one of these mistakes, someone’s getting stabbed. Fair warning.

1. It’s “Lo and behold,” not “low and behold.” The word “lo!” is a Middle English expression of surprise. “Lo and behold” is kind of the equivalent of saying “Well, hey, look at that!”

2. It’s “Nothing fazes me,” not “nothing phases me.” To “faze” is to disturb or frighten. “She was unfazed” means “she retained her composure.” “He was unphased” means “he was not made of a number of waveforms that were in synchronization.” Big difference, folks.

3. It’s “etc,” not “ect.” “Etc” is an abbreviation for “et cetera” (two words), which is Latin for “and so forth.” “Et” means “and,” which is why “etc” is sometimes written “&c”. “Etc” is correct. “&c” is correct but archaic. “Ect” is not, never has been, and never will be correct.

4. The abbreviations “ie” and “eg” do not mean the same thing! You use “ie” when you mean “in orther words.” It’s Latin for “id est,” which means “that is.” For example: “He is a businessman; ie, he makes his money by operating a business.” On the other hand, “eg” is used to mean “for example.” It’s Latin for “exempli gratia.” “I do not like spectator sports–eg, football and baseball.” For example: eg. In other words: ie.

5. And while we’re at it, “insure” and “ensure” do not mean the same thing either! “Ensure” means “to make sure of.” Double-check your math on your tax return to ensure you don’t get an embarrassing phone call from the IRS. “Insure,” on the other hand, means “to provide insurance for,” you insure your house in order to ensure that you won’t be financially ruined if it burns down.

6. To be caught “between the devil and the deep blue sea” does not mean “between two unattractive options.” It means “to be in a position where you have no room to manuver.” The ‘devil’ on a wooden sailing ship is the main spar of the ship–a brace that runs the whole length of the ship from front to back, around which the frame of the ship is built. There is a very narrow space–typically less than 3′ high–between a ship’s devil and the bottom of the hull; this was sometimes the space where the most lowly members of a ship’s crew slept–“between the devil and the deep blue sea.” It’s a very, very tiny space.

7. “Too” means “also” or “to a great extent.” “To” means “in the direction of” or indicates an infinitive. Get these two wrong, and you might end up in the position of the unfortunate street racer I saw yesterday whose vanity license tag reads “TO L8 4U”. “2 L8 4U” or “TOO L8 4U” would’ve communicated the idea that he was trying to convey; the idea conveyed by “TO L8 4U” is “Hi! I’m illiterate.”

Don’t even get me started on “accept” and “except,” or “affect” and “effect.”

Any typos in this post are a feature, not a bug. We now return you to your regularly scheduled friends list.

44 thoughts on “Aaargh! The grammar nazi rants…

  1. 8. It’s “I couldn’t care less,” not “I could care less.”

    9. Loose and lose are two different verbs. You do not “loose your keys,” you “lose your keys.” Or your temper.

    I’m right with you on the stabbing, unless you’ve seen me committing #4. I frequently can’t remember the difference, and usually wind up rephrasing my writing to avoid having to use either.

  2. 8. It’s “I couldn’t care less,” not “I could care less.”

    9. Loose and lose are two different verbs. You do not “loose your keys,” you “lose your keys.” Or your temper.

    I’m right with you on the stabbing, unless you’ve seen me committing #4. I frequently can’t remember the difference, and usually wind up rephrasing my writing to avoid having to use either.

    • Neologisms can be useful, fun, and efficient; often, they’re the playground and laboratory of language. On the other hand, when a neologism fails, it fails dramatically; whoever coined the thankfully short-lived term “waitron” as a gender-neutral version of “waiter” and “waitress” needs to be run over with a steam roller.

  3. Neologisms can be useful, fun, and efficient; often, they’re the playground and laboratory of language. On the other hand, when a neologism fails, it fails dramatically; whoever coined the thankfully short-lived term “waitron” as a gender-neutral version of “waiter” and “waitress” needs to be run over with a steam roller.

  4. FYI, Florida plates can only contain seven characters which may explain the missing “o” in too. Otherwise, they would have had to remove all of the spaces, TOOL84U. Not to mention, things are often misspelled in license plates for this very reason (to or too often being substitutes with the numeral 2). The goal is to get the owner’s point across, so you shouldn’t expect proper grammar in that medium.

    I do, however, agree with your usage gripe otherwise.

    Where I tend to err is in whether to include a period at the end of the latin/greek abbreviations.

  5. FYI, Florida plates can only contain seven characters which may explain the missing “o” in too. Otherwise, they would have had to remove all of the spaces, TOOL84U. Not to mention, things are often misspelled in license plates for this very reason (to or too often being substitutes with the numeral 2). The goal is to get the owner’s point across, so you shouldn’t expect proper grammar in that medium.

    I do, however, agree with your usage gripe otherwise.

    Where I tend to err is in whether to include a period at the end of the latin/greek abbreviations.

  6. Thanks for venting all of our Grammar-Nazi frustrations! If I may add one to the list, I can be at you “beckon call”, but not your “beck and call”. I got into an argument about this once. The argument ended with “OK, use ‘beck’ in a sentence without immediately following it with ‘and call’!”

    Don’t get me started on “their” vs “there” or “your” vs “you’re”. We should all learn Esperanto and call it a day.

    • Actually, it is “beck and call.” “Beck” is an archaic term, from the Middle English root for modern English “beckon;” the term “at one’s beck and call” means “ready to obey one’s command immediately.” It’s documented by looking up “beck” at http://www.m-w.com (entry 3, definition 2). πŸ™‚

      • Well smoke me- you’re right! I learn something new every day!

        Thanks. I still say we should all learn Esperanto. I’ve read that English is the second most arbitrary language, spelling-wise. Gaelic is the worst.

        2 more peeves, both food-related: There’s no “x” in “espresso”, and only one “r” in “sherbet”.

  7. Thanks for venting all of our Grammar-Nazi frustrations! If I may add one to the list, I can be at you “beckon call”, but not your “beck and call”. I got into an argument about this once. The argument ended with “OK, use ‘beck’ in a sentence without immediately following it with ‘and call’!”

    Don’t get me started on “their” vs “there” or “your” vs “you’re”. We should all learn Esperanto and call it a day.

  8. While all of these are quite interesting, and the reminder on proper usage of common phrases and grammer is useful, please keep in mind that all of the mediums you mention (particularly LJ) are considered informal modes of communication.

    Especially LJ, being a journaling tool, is more about self-expression than being grammatically correct. And butchering the language is entirely my right to do in my space. No one is paying to read my content, I’m not communicating with clients and trying to prove my professionalism, I’m not being graded by my professors and I owe no one editting services on my writings. It’s the reader’s choice to read or not read my postings. If my grammer and incorrect use of the language turns someone off from reading my personal postings so much that they can’t get the content, then it’s their loss, not mine. I write for me, not for others, generally.

    But thanks for the reminders… as I do at least attempt to not butcher the language so badly as to turn folks off from at least grasping the content of my writings. But please don’t threaten physical harm to me for not meeting your standards for my informal writings. Just don’t read if it angers you so much.

    • It’s true that informal modes of communication have less-stringent grammar requirements than formal writing do. It’s also true that people are free to ignore grammar if they so choose.

      However, there’s a difference between knowing the rules, but choosing to ignore them, and simple ignorance. My ire is pointed at the people who write things like “I went over thier with my friends, and low and behold, my sister said she wanted to go to. So I told her ‘your not aloud to go out with us’ but it had no affect on her.” This kind of writing says something about the writer, but probably not what the writer intended. πŸ™‚

      • It indicates that the writer isn’t very good at differentiating between the way words sound and the way they are written. Since a lot of schools taught spelling using phonics, and a lot of people don’t have good memorization skills (which is what you have to do to learn how to spell things in English), a lot of people spell things the way they sound and are wrong. In the case of your example of ‘Lo and behold’, Lo is archaic and people may not know that it’s even correct.

        It’s fine to let them know that they spelled something incorrectly (privately) or are using the wrong form of the word, if it’s in an effort to help them out. However, it shouldn’t be done by telling them that they are ignorant and that their ideas and thoughts are worth nothing simply because they are using words wrong.

        There’s no need to be derogatory or mean when one tells the person because one must consider how one would feel if one were on the receiving end. I would be very upset if I wrote something meaningful, and then someone else came along and without commenting on anything else at all, ripped apart my writing because I used It’s instead of Its. In my opinion, as long as I can figure out what you mean, it’s all good.

      • I think it really comes down to one’s education and how strong an emphasis there was on the English language. It is very difficult to correct bad spelling and grammar habits later in life – it can be done, but it is not an easy task.

        Some mistakes are so ‘glaring’ though and it is true that it is a reflection on the writer if one’s grasp of the written English language is not up to scratch. But hey, there are a lot worse things in life, aren’t there? Interesting post, nevertheless.

        PS. My personal dislike is ‘seperate’ instead of ‘separate’.

  9. While all of these are quite interesting, and the reminder on proper usage of common phrases and grammer is useful, please keep in mind that all of the mediums you mention (particularly LJ) are considered informal modes of communication.

    Especially LJ, being a journaling tool, is more about self-expression than being grammatically correct. And butchering the language is entirely my right to do in my space. No one is paying to read my content, I’m not communicating with clients and trying to prove my professionalism, I’m not being graded by my professors and I owe no one editting services on my writings. It’s the reader’s choice to read or not read my postings. If my grammer and incorrect use of the language turns someone off from reading my personal postings so much that they can’t get the content, then it’s their loss, not mine. I write for me, not for others, generally.

    But thanks for the reminders… as I do at least attempt to not butcher the language so badly as to turn folks off from at least grasping the content of my writings. But please don’t threaten physical harm to me for not meeting your standards for my informal writings. Just don’t read if it angers you so much.

  10. Actually, it is “beck and call.” “Beck” is an archaic term, from the Middle English root for modern English “beckon;” the term “at one’s beck and call” means “ready to obey one’s command immediately.” It’s documented by looking up “beck” at http://www.m-w.com (entry 3, definition 2). πŸ™‚

  11. It’s true that informal modes of communication have less-stringent grammar requirements than formal writing do. It’s also true that people are free to ignore grammar if they so choose.

    However, there’s a difference between knowing the rules, but choosing to ignore them, and simple ignorance. My ire is pointed at the people who write things like “I went over thier with my friends, and low and behold, my sister said she wanted to go to. So I told her ‘your not aloud to go out with us’ but it had no affect on her.” This kind of writing says something about the writer, but probably not what the writer intended. πŸ™‚

  12. It indicates that the writer isn’t very good at differentiating between the way words sound and the way they are written. Since a lot of schools taught spelling using phonics, and a lot of people don’t have good memorization skills (which is what you have to do to learn how to spell things in English), a lot of people spell things the way they sound and are wrong. In the case of your example of ‘Lo and behold’, Lo is archaic and people may not know that it’s even correct.

    It’s fine to let them know that they spelled something incorrectly (privately) or are using the wrong form of the word, if it’s in an effort to help them out. However, it shouldn’t be done by telling them that they are ignorant and that their ideas and thoughts are worth nothing simply because they are using words wrong.

    There’s no need to be derogatory or mean when one tells the person because one must consider how one would feel if one were on the receiving end. I would be very upset if I wrote something meaningful, and then someone else came along and without commenting on anything else at all, ripped apart my writing because I used It’s instead of Its. In my opinion, as long as I can figure out what you mean, it’s all good.

  13. Well smoke me- you’re right! I learn something new every day!

    Thanks. I still say we should all learn Esperanto. I’ve read that English is the second most arbitrary language, spelling-wise. Gaelic is the worst.

    2 more peeves, both food-related: There’s no “x” in “espresso”, and only one “r” in “sherbet”.

  14. Mi konsentas!

    And there’s no “x” in “espresso” and only one “r” in “sherbet” because they should pronounced espresso not expresso and sherbet not sherbert. πŸ˜‰

  15. I think it really comes down to one’s education and how strong an emphasis there was on the English language. It is very difficult to correct bad spelling and grammar habits later in life – it can be done, but it is not an easy task.

    Some mistakes are so ‘glaring’ though and it is true that it is a reflection on the writer if one’s grasp of the written English language is not up to scratch. But hey, there are a lot worse things in life, aren’t there? Interesting post, nevertheless.

    PS. My personal dislike is ‘seperate’ instead of ‘separate’.

  16. Dear. Sweet. Jesus.

    8. It’s “I couldn’t care less,” not “I could care less.”

    That one pisses me off so fucking much. Everytime someone gets it wrong I want to beat them to death with an english phrase book.

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