Grammatical Pratfall’s [sic]

This didn’t start out as a grammar nerd blog. Instead, I wanted to rant about the misuse of some select literary quotes (i.e. a literary nerd blog), but I’ll get to those later. What happened was, as I tried to think of examples of literary massacres, my mind drifted into grammatical waters.

Now, nobody here needs to hear about your/you’re and they’re/their/there—I mean, I sympathize.  I screw up those common homophones more frequently than I should for being a snot about it (usually in emails to coworkers, who, I assume, then quietly judge me).

And I’m surely not so in need of a grammatical ego boost that I get satisfaction pointing out every single instance of misuse and bad punctuation. (First of all, there are too many; secondly, I just point out the funny ones.) I mean, if people don’t care, they just don’t. But I like what happens when people make a sincere effort to write it right, but they still take a wrong turn somewhere. So close, and yet…

For instance:

Oh Jason Mraz, you’re on my list. First, your rather catchy “I’m Yours” includes (in its album version, at least) the line, “It’s our godforsaken right to be loved.” DUDE. “Godforsaken” is not the word you want there. It’s like saying, “God doesn’t love you…but someone should.” (A live performance on Late Night suggests somebody told him about this—after it was recorded—and he changed the lyric.) But now he’s done it again, and in the damn refrain, too: “I won’t give up on us / Even if the skies get rough.” GOD, MAN, SKIES DON’T GET ROUGH. “Seas,” “winds,” “hockey games”—these things get rough. Take your pick. And get an editor.

We all know that you never, ever make something plural by adding an apostrophe. Never. (We all know that, right?) Still, you see it everywhere, like “We need more cardigan’s” and “You said there’d be slut’s at this party” and “Who gave perm’s to the cat’s?!” But the other day I saw something pluralized with the less-common S-apostrophe—I think it was like, “Take a look at the wonderful ottomans’ we have.” Aw, you were SO CLOSE. You put the S there. All you had to do was walk away.

Along those lines, there seems to be a phobia about pluralizing nouns that end with a non-silent vowel—as though the S is going to corrupt that last syllable if you don’t separate them with an apostrophe. I recently saw, “salads, calzones and pizza’s.” That’s like, “Yes…yes…no, why?!” (Menus are AWESOME for these kinds of oddities, by the way.) You know this pluralization glitch was not a totally conscious decision—nobody’s obsessing over these things unless, say, your job depends on it—so it’s funny that, instinctively, somewhere in the language portion of the brain, there’s a hang-up about post-vocalic pluralization.

I blame potatoes.




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3 responses to “Grammatical Pratfall’s [sic]

  1. Not to stir up the ultra-picky grammatical waters but…a friend recently told me with extreme confidence and seriousness that “the semi-colon is going away, no one is using it anymore, at all.” Maybe it’s that I’ve recently experienced having my work edited all to hell, but that’s a bullshit statement, yes?

    • Uh, yeah, I’d call that bullshit. I mean, first of all, it serves a purpose not served by any other punctuation. Secondly, people who write love it for serving that purpose; it’s handy. (And in fact, it’s McD’s favorite punctuation mark.)

      • Yes, TOTALLY a BS statement, and Hannah’s right about it serving a unique purpose. And yes, it is my favorite punctuation mark; I love it and use it with a vengeance!

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