My Top 11 Grammar Pet Peeves

I was tempted to write about the Stamp Act of 1765 today, but I was afraid I’d scare off my audience. Let it suffice for me to say that today is the 256th anniversary of the Stamp Act of 1765 that contributed so much to the American Revolution.

Photo credit: Brett Jordan on unsplash.com

Today’s blog post is a little less serious than the last two. As a writer and the daughter of a former English teacher, I have many grammar pet peeves. Today I’m writing about 11 of my favorites. (By the way, this started out as my three favorites. I need to put this out there in cyberspace soon before my list becomes unmanageable.)

February 8, 2021 was National Grammar Day here in the United States. I mentioned it in my blog post that day but, due to the length of the post, I didn’t elaborate as much as I wanted. Therefore, I’m taking the opportunity to air my grammar grievances today.

I’ve found a new “label” for myself. It has come to my attention that I am on the verge of becoming a pedant. I sometimes get distracted by minutiae. I can’t see the forest for the trees. You get the point. Below, I offer examples of what I mean.

Who hijacked “fewer?”

Have you noticed that reporters on TV and some of the people they interview have completely abandoned the word “fewer” and have replaced it with “less?” Is this a new guideline? Whatever it is, I don’t like it. It is my newest grammar pet peeve.

I’m a native-born American. I was taught at an early age that “fewer” was used when referring to something that could be counted and “less” was used when referring to something that could be measured. That’s a little vague, and is probably a difficult concept for anyone learning English as a second language. To a native-born American, though, one grows up with certain things just sounding right.

For instance, I would say “fewer minutes” but “less time.” I would say “fewer dollars” but “less money.” I would say “fewer people” but “less population.” Substituting “less” for “fewer” in each of those examples just sounds wrong to me; however, the English language is ever-evolving. If the general consensus is to abandon the word “fewer” and use “less” in every instance, the day may come when it will no longer sound wrong to me. But I doubt it.

Right near

Another relatively recent pet peeve of mine is the use of the term “right near.” TV news anchors tend to say it. “The accident was right near the intersection of ….” “Our reporter is right near the scene of the crime.” Why and when did people start saying that? The word “right” is unnecessary. Think about it.

So

It was maybe eight or ten years ago that I first heard someone start a presentation or speech with the word, “So.” She was a young college student. The first word out of her mouth was, “So.” It wasn’t long until I heard other people falling into that habit. Today it has become so widespread I fear it’s here to stay.

Lie or Lay

Please take a minute to think about this one, people. You know who you are. You don’t think “lie” is a verb. You think it’s only a noun. A liar tells lies. I’m here to tell you that you also lie down. I lie down. He lies down. I don’t lay down. You don’t lay down. He doesn’t lay down. I lay down a book. You lay down a book. He lays down a book. All God’s children lay things down, but they don’t lay down. They lie down. Got it?

I want to… OR I’d like to…

This pet peeve is one I hear speakers make. It is in speeches or interviews on TV that I usually hear this. It causes me to talk back to the TV, usually at a higher volume than my usual speaking voice.

If you want to apologize, say, “I apologize for…” or “I’m sorry for.…” Don’t say, “I want to apologize” or “I’d like to apologize” and then not follow that with an apology. When I hear someone say they want to apologize but then they don’t, this is what goes through my mind: “What you’re saying is, ‘I want to apologize, but I can’t.’”

If you say, “I want to thank you…” but that’s not followed by an expression of appreciation, what I hear you say is, “I want to thank you but I can’t” or “I want to thank you but I’m not going to.”

Just go ahead and tell me you’re sorry. Just go ahead and say, “Thank you.” Don’t just say you want to.

Very unique, most unique

I suppose I’m nitpicking here, but something is either unique or it isn’t. There are no gradations in uniqueness.

Awesome

God is awesome. God’s creation is awesome. Your team winning a ballgame is not awesome, although the Carolina Panthers winning the Super Bowl would be something to celebrate. A new outfit is not awesome. McDonald’s fries taste good, but they aren’t awesome. The overuse of any such word weakens it and leaves it powerless. That’s what’s happened to awesome.

Normalcy vs. Normality

This is a new one for me. Apparently, the two words are interchangeable. I’ve heard “normalcy” all my life, but it seems like the last several months we’ve been inundated with people on TV saying “normality” instead. Is it just me, or have you noticed a change? “Normality” sounds more hoity-toity to me, but maybe that’s just me.

Come on guys, it’s prostate

This illustrates prostrate. Get it? Photo credit: Naassom Azevedo on unsplash.com

Maybe it’s none of my business, guys, but the name of that gland y’all have is a prostate. It’s not a prostrate. This mistake is made so often that when you search for the word prostrate on Microsoft Bing, it comes up with a kazillion sites about prostate and asks, “Do you want results only for prostrate?” I’m not kidding.

Hot water heater

It’s just a water heater. It’s not a hot water heater unless there’s such a thing as a cold water heater. The term “hot water heater” is especially irritating when it is used in printed material from a large electric utility company.

Apostrophe s

I hope I’m not stepping on your toes, but whoever wrote the computer program for the automated grammar checker got this completely wrong and has confused people to no end. The program insists that an s at the end of a word should always, always, always be preceded by an apostrophe.

Sometimes, a word is simply a plural. An apostrophe indicates a possessive. If you ever receive a Christmas card from “The Morrison’s” instead of “The Morrisons,” you’ll know I’ve gone around the bend.


A confession

I make grammatical errors. I still have to look up “affect” and “effect” because I’m unsure which one to use when. I still have to stop and think sometimes to figure out if I should say “I” or “me.” I make many punctuation errors. The use of commas has always tripped me up. My errors are probably some of your pet peeves. Point them out to me in your comments below. Go ahead. I can take it.

I feel better now. Thank you.

Since my last blog post

I had several rough days after getting my second Covid-19 shot, but it sure beats getting a bad case of the virus! The high fever was the worst part for me. It varies from one person to another. Some people just have a sore arm. Don’t let my experience deter you from getting vaccinated.

Until my next blog post

Try not to get too hung up on grammatical errors. In the big scheme of things, they aren’t life-and-death matters. On the other hand, ….

I hope you have a good book or two to read. I’m listening to Truths I Never Told You, by Kelly Rimmer, and I’m reading The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II, by Jan Jarboe Russell. Ms. Russell’s nonfiction book has been a real eye-opener for me. I’ll share more about it in my April 5, 2021 blog post.

Make time for a hobby this week.

What do you think?

Do you think I qualify as a pedant? Survey says….

What are your grammar pet peeves?

Janet

4 Other Books I Read in January 2021

My custom is to share with you my thoughts about the books I read during one calendar month in my first blog of the following month. Last Monday’s post, My thoughts on Stones from the River, by Ursula Hegi, was about the novel Stones from the River, by Ursula Hegi. In today’s post, I’ll tell you what I thought about the other four books I read in January. It’s a nice mix of fiction and nonfiction books.

After the attempted coup at the US Capitol on January 6, it was difficult to concentrate. My reading suffered, but my writing time suffered even more. I was surprised at the end of the month to discover I’d read five books.

I ran into some problems while trying to insert images of the books I’m blogging about today. Ironically, (or not?) the message I got when I tried to copy the publisher’s image of The Spy and the Traitor said “for security reasons” I was not allowed to use it. I had to laugh. I could download it to my computer, but I couldn’t insert it in today’s blog post. It’s recommended that all blog posts have images, so I’m disappointed to present a post today that has no illustrations.


The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War, by Ben MacIntyre

On a scale of one-to-five stars, I give this nonfiction book six stars. The research that backs up this detailed account of the life of double-agent Oleg Gordievsky is stunning. The book reads like a spy novel but is all the more riveting because the reader knows it is true.

I learned about this book when I saw a list of the top five books of 2020 that Bill Gates recommended. This one sounded intriguing, and it didn’t disappoint.

Oleg Gordievsky started out as a KGB agent. Fascinated by the West, though, he read and learned all he could about Great Britain. He also read works of such Soviet dissidents as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, even though reading those works or having them in your possession was against the law in the Soviet Union. Gordievsky’s world opened up when he landed an assignment in England. It is there that he became a double agent and became the crown jewel in Great Britain’s MI6 spy network.

I learned how close we came to nuclear war in 1983 when the Soviet Union misinterpreted a NATO war game with the code name ABLE ARCHER 83. The book says on page 181, “Both Reagan and Thatcher understood the Cold War in terms of a Communist threat to peaceful Western democracy; thanks to Gordievsky, they were now aware that Soviet anxiety might represent a greater danger to the world than Soviet aggression.”

It is not common for an individual spy to have a profound impact on world history, but Oleg Gordievsky falls into that category. As the book says of Gordievsky on page 183, “…he opened up the inner workings of the KGB at a pivotal juncture in history, revealing not just what Soviet intelligence was doing (and not doing), but what the Kremlin was thinking and planning, and in so doing transformed the way the West thought about the Soviet Union. He risked his life to betray his country, and made the world a little safer.”

The story is far from over at that point, and the book takes the reader on an edge-of-your-seat nail-biting ride. Will Gordievsky be outed? Will Great Britain succeed in smuggling him out of the Soviet Union? What happens to his wife and daughters? Who turns out to be an American double agent? Is that spy still alive and, if so, where is he? Is Gordievsky still alive and, if so,  where is he?

All these questions and more are answered in the book, but I don’t want to spoil the fun for you. I highly recommend The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War, by Ben MacIntyre. I listened to the book on CD while keeping a print copy in front of me. That made it easier for me to keep up with the unpronounceable Russian names.


My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman

Told from the point-of-view of seven-year-old Elsa, this is another somewhat quirky novel from Fredrik Backman. I think it was clever for Mr. Backman to give us a novel told from a child’s viewpoint. It was an interesting read, but not one of my favorite novels.

I listened to this book on CD. My favorite part of the book turned out to be the first disc, as it included Elsa’s feisty grandmother before she died. It was funny. Elsa’s grandmother wasn’t a typical grandmother or a typical old woman. She delighted in upsetting the powers that be. She thrilled at dragging Elsa into her various escapades.

Since both of my grandmothers died before I was born, I had trouble identifying with Elsa. I don’t have a firm grasp of the personalities of either of my grandmothers; however, since they were farm wives and were born in the second half of the 19th century, they probably didn’t resemble Elsa’s grandmother in any way, shape, or form.

Of course, the reason for this novel was not to entertain the reader with the antics of an old lady. It was to show the ramifications of a life lived as this woman lived it. This woman lived her entire life insulting people, but somewhere deep down inside she wanted to apologize. The burden of making those apologies fell on her granddaughter.


Step into the Circle: Writers in Modern Appalachia, edited by Amy Greene and Trent Thomson

This is a book of profiles about nine writers of present-day Appalachia written by writers of present-day Appalachia. It is beautifully illustrated with photographs of the writers and the mountains from which they came. The writers highlighted are Wendell Berry, Crystal Wilkinson, Ron Rash, Adriana Trigiani, Silas House, George Ella Lyon, Frank X. Walker, Marie Junaluska, and Lee Smith.

Some of these writers were familiar to me, while others were not. I was glad to learn about each of them; however, the book did not live up to its promise as far as I was concerned. At least one of the “profiles” turned out to be more about the profiler than the writer being profiled. Therefore, the book ended on a sour note for me. Nevertheless, it’s worth checking out of the public library and giving it your attention.

The book addresses the influence of an author’s geographic upbringing and the importance of writing the truth that one knows. The importance of Appalachian writers to write the truth in order to dispel the myths about the people of Appalachia is an overriding theme.

The most interesting profile for me was that of Marie Junaluska, a Cherokee language teacher and translator.


The Fix, by David Baldacci

I’m attempting to whittle away at the 300 books on my To Be Read list (TBR.) I thought it might be a good idea to try to read one book from my TBR each month. But then I did the math and discovered that, at that rate, it will take me 25 years to read those 300 books. That doesn’t sound doable because I would be 103 years old by then. Also, I tend to add more than one book to my TBR each month, so the list is literally never-ending.

The Fix has been on my TBR for several years. It is the third in David Baldacci’s Amos Decker series. Labeled a thriller, I found The Fix to be more of a spy mystery. It did not keep me on the edge of my chair anxious to see what happened next. Perhaps it just wasn’t the right time for me to read this book, since I had trouble concentrating all month.

I’ve listened to many novels in the last year or two, which is quite a change for me. A lot depends on the professional recording reader. In addition to that, something that jumped out at me in listening to The Fix was how the “he said/she said” tags can distract. When reading a print book, our eyes often leap over those tags. In listening to The Fix, I was very distracted by them. There were several readers – male and female. When I female voice read a line, it was terribly jarring to have the male reader follow it by saying, “she said.” It reminded me that I was listening to a book – and that’s not a good thing. I’m not sure what the remedy is for this, but it continually took me out of the story in this novel.


National Grammar Day in the USA

No, that’s not the name of a book. Today is National Grammar Day in the United States It gives me an opportunity to share with you something I learned recently from a blog post.

I took courage from reading Melissa Donovan’s December 15, 2020 blog post. She opened my eyes to the difference between grammar rules and grammar guidelines. Here’s a link to her blog post: Grammar Guidelines Versus Grammar Rules | Writing Forward.

If grammar grabs your attention, please take time to read Ms. Donovan’s blog post. Like me, you might be surprised to learn that some things you think are grammar rules are just guidelines. You must follow the rules, but you don’t have to follow the guidelines. I wish someone had told me that years ago.

I have stressed over some guidelines because I thought they were rules. One of my favorites is that you should never end a sentence with a preposition. It turns out that rule of earlier centuries is now a guideline. Hurrah! I’ve twisted myself into a pretzel on occasion trying not to break that guideline because I thought it was a rule. What I’ve ended up with are awkward sentences. From now on, I’ll end sentences with a preposition when it makes better sense to do so.

And, by the way, you probably noticed that I used the numeral “4” in my blog post title today instead of “four.” I was taught to write out numbers one through nine in a written document – and always when it is the first word in a title or sentence — and to use numerals for 10 and higher.

I learned recently though, that when writing the title of a blog post, I should always use numerals because they make a bigger impact. They help my SEO (Search Engine Optimization). In those mysterious algorithms of cyberspace, they help my blog posts move up and get seen. They grab a person’s attention. That’s what “they” say.

Bear with me, folks. I’m in my 60s (or sixties?) and I’m trying to learn new things and adapt to the world of technology. When I was born, black and white television, black and white photography, and manual typewriters were cutting edge. And Caribbean was pronounced Ca-rah-be-in.


Since my last blog post

I’ve continued to read and I have some excellent books to share with you in March when I blog about the books I read in February. I have been entertained and educated by these books, and the month is just one-week old. I’ve read two historical novels this week that I can’t wait to tell you about.

I tried my hand at a new recipe for no-knead whole wheat sandwich bread. It held much promise in the beginning, but it turned out the size of half-of-a-sandwich bread. It tastes okay, but looks pitiful. I was disappointed but had to laugh.

We came within a few miles of having snow on Saturday night but only got rain. That’s the way it often is in the piedmont of North Carolina.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have at least one good book to read this week – one that will not only entertain you but also educate you. Our learning should never end.

Wear a mask and get the Covid-19 vaccination as soon as it’s your turn and you can get an appointment.

Stay safe, and be respectful of others’ desire to stay safe and well.

Janet