Last week I wrote about National Grammar Day, which was celebrated March 4, and I made public a few of my personal pet peeves. When I asked for readers' vexations, the emails and comments online started almost immediately!
Nancy Lyness of Pleasanton emailed, "I have so many!" Her number one peeve is when people use "a large word (to sound smarter) when a small word will do the trick just as well." She gave the example of "utilizing" versus "using."
Nancy Freedom's example was using the word, "'transitioning,' instead of the perfectly good verbs 'transferring' or 'changing,' " she wrote.
On the same note, Andrea Brennen and Nancy Freedom both referenced the common practice I refer to as "verbization." Brennen wrote of her 19-year-old daughter, "I am appalled every time she uses nouns as verbs and try to correct her. For instance, she'll say something like 'I Facebooked her,' or 'I Googled (fill in the blank topic),' or 'I texted so and so.' Why can't she say, 'I sent a text to so and so,' where 'sent' is the verb? I notice that it's not just teenagers who are doing this, but I cringe every time I hear a noun turned into a verb."
While these grievances aren't exactly as grammar-related, they are irritations nonetheless.
Many people voiced their intolerance for incorrect word usage. Nancy Lyness commented on use of "then" versus "than."
"Why can't people just commit to learning when to use which word, and then (not 'than') get it right?" she asked. "Next on the list is 'infer' versus 'imply,' " she continued. "To 'infer' means to come to a conclusion or to form an opinion about something on the basis of evidence or reasoning."
And it drives me and Nancy Lyness crazy when people write or say, "In lieu of the fact that….." when they really mean "In view of the fact that….."
Lyness said, " 'In lieu of" means 'in place of"--it is not synonymous with "in view of." It just sounds similar.
"Bill O'Reilly used to do this all the time on Fox News Channel's 'The O'Reilly Factor,' " Lyness continued. "I sent him an e-mail about it. He didn't read my e-mail on the air, but not once since I sent it has he said, 'In lieu of the fact that…..' He now routinely says 'In view of the fact that…' "
Brian Leonard of Pleasanton referenced the improper use of the word to "bring" in place of the word "take." Using the example, "When I go on vacation I am going to 'bring' my new camera," Brian advised, "the easy way to distinguish between the use each is remember that when one goes, one takes. When one comes, one brings."
Freedom said in addition to "verbization," her pet peeves include substituting "who" for "whom" and adding unnecessary prepositions, such as saying, "Where's it at?" as opposed to "Where is it?"
(My efforts to correct both of these offenses usually results in the recipient of my good-natured suggestion giving me an eye-roll and a heavy sigh.)
Frank, an online poster, and I agree that the consistent misuse of "effect" and "affect" is somewhat frustrating. The way my high-school English teacher taught me to distinguish between the two was that "effect" is a noun and "affect" is a verb.
Brian Leonard mentioned that his junior college English instructor did not allow sentences beginning with "but," "and" or "however," but that this seems to be common among columnists and authors.
I admitted last week that I split the occasional infinitive to make the writing more conversational and I believe that is why using "but," "and" or "however" is common. It just sounds better. I have also been known to end a sentence with a preposition for the sake of rhythm. (gasp)
In the words of Winston Churchill, "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put."
Stacey, a frequent contributor on PleasantonWeekly.com, noted that I didn't follow the infinitive rule in my poem last week when I wrote, "I obviously missed National Grammar Day."
"I missed obviously National Grammar Day" simply doesn't sound right. The most popular split infinitive is from the television show "Star Trek," in which the Starship Enterprise's five-year mission was "to boldly go where no man has gone before."
However, (sorry Brian), Nancy Freedom said, according to the English teacher author of the book "Woe is I," it is permissible to split infinitives when you think it is best.
"So," Freedom told me, "split away unabashedly without impunity."
This story contains 840 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.