http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2008/04/04/talking-points


Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - April 4, 2008

Talking Points

A few peeved readers sound off on uses and abuses of grammar

I am delighted to report I have many peeved readers.

A few respondents to my call for grammar pet peeves pointed out that among my own vexations I listed a few punctuation and spelling and mistakenly referred to them as grammar errors.

It is true that grammar in the strictest sense of the word deals with how words are combined to form sentences. I was reaching back to my days as a college English instructor when I was asked to impart knowledge of not only syntax, but also mechanics (punctuation) and word usage. Correct application of all is necessary for proper communication.

A caller identifying himself as Gary pointed out that one of my pet peeves, using a preposition when it is unnecessary, was in the very next edition of the Pleasanton Weekly.

Gary said, "Here is it on page 14 of the March 21 edition, 'A house fire on Cloverwood Lane, off of Muirwood Drive…'"

"'Off of' is absolutely the worst usage ever!" he continued.

A few people expressed dismay over my rant against "verbization" (making nouns into verbs), saying the practice is getting a "bum rap."

Online contributor Stacey wrote, "...language changes and this (verbization, a.k.a. zero derivation) is a prime example of that process in action. It helps make English a truly international language because foreign speakers don't have to remember obscure morphological suffixes, native speakers can fit new or foreign words into English easily, and the sentence is semantically more efficient. Saying 'I Googled...' is not much different from saying 'Can you Xerox this?'"

Another online contributor lamented the incorrect usage of adverbs and adjectives, such as when answering, "How are you?"

"I'm doing good." WRONG

"I'm doing well." CORRECT

The anonymous contributor added the following examples:

Jon is careless.

Jon drives carelessly.

Dan finished his work quickly.

Diane walked slowly to school.

Then the passionate poster advised readers, "Adverbs modify the verb! Adjectives modify the noun! Just think about it people!"

I have to think about adverb/adjective use, particularly in verbal communication, which seems to be more casual.

Both the caller Gary and Pauline Coe mentioned pet peeves in spoken language, with the mispronunciation of "nuc-u-lore" and "real-a-tor" being two.

Pauline added, "How about the 'y'all' we're starting to hear way too often? 'You' can be plural, folks!"

Speaking of making something plural when it shouldn't be, I was listening to the 2008 Annual Kids' Choice Awards on Nickelodeon (at the request of my daughter and against my will), and heard an actor thank his "moms." I wanted to scream. Even my 7-year-old said, "Did he just say 'moms?' Please..."

Donna Whitaker pointed out the misuse of the statement, "I could care less," which doesn't really make sense. It should instead be "I couldn't care less," but at least 50 percent of the time speakers use the former as opposed to the latter.

Language evolves, but the purpose of language is to communicate, whether that be written or verbal communication. As many of you pointed out, however, incorrect grammar / punctuation / word usage hinders the message.

So even if you couldn't care less about the grammar you learned in school, you should be aware that the way you present your thoughts reflects on you and affects how your ideas will be received.

Gina Channell-Allen, a 20-year journalism veteran, is the president of the East Bay division of Embarcadero Publishing Company, president of the Pleasanton Weekly and publisher of the Danville Weekly. Send questions to gallen@pleasantonweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by megan, a resident of Deer Oaks/Twelve Oaks
on Apr 9, 2008 at 5:39 am

How are you?
I am doing good.

Correct when not referring to how you are doing physically

How are you?
I am well.

Correct when referring to how you are doing physically


Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Apr 9, 2008 at 10:17 pm

Ok. I will take the bait and will respond to this post.

Poster says: "I am doing good" is "Correct when referring to how you are not doing physically". Is this ever correct? The poster seems to imply that there is an implied noun that somehow twists this expression into describing non-physical well-being that justifies the use of an adjective to modify a verb. Please construct an example for us to understand how it is correct.

Oh, let me do it for you. "I am doing good things for you." Or, "I am doing good things to you." Yes, this is correct. But saying "I am doing good" is INCORRECT. If you dont' complete your sentences, how is anyone to really know what you are talking about.

The rule still holds. The word "good" is modifying or describing the unstated word "things" in this example. You post suggest that you don't really understand the rules of English and implies the rule somehow changes because you left unsaid part of the sentence.

Read the original article about this example where the grammar rule is that adverbs apply to describing a verb or an adjective while adjectives always describe nouns. (That's why you call them ADverbs.) "Good" in this case is always an adjective (you should already know that - it is never an adverb) and "well" is always an adverb in the English language. Since the "good" describes how you "am doing", the usage is WRONG in the example. "am doing" is a (compound) verb. The word "well" should be used. Always.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Apr 10, 2008 at 10:18 am

Is there a place in PTown for "I been had a good time!" Hmmmmmmmm...