As Halloween is this week, I feel it’s appropriate to share some of the horrifying grammar abominations I hear spoken on a regular basis. These abominations also appear in written form, but I find they’re more common in speech. Regardless, they’re really scaaaarryyy! Mwahahahaha!! Ahem…
I try to not cringe when people commit one of these offenses—really, I do. But if the person using them is an English snob, or, God forbid, a writer, I not only cringe, but call them out on it. After all, as fellow writers, shouldn’t we care about one another enough to keep each other from besmirching the language that’s the medium of our art form?
You never hear someone say:
“I have two nother things to try” or “I only have a half nother left.”
Know why? Because nother is NOT a word. It never has been.
Apparently, some genius prone to hyperbole thought another just didn’t cut it; they didn’t have “another big problem,” they had “a whole nother big problem.” Maybe they thought people wouldn’t notice them slipping whole in there, that we’d just let it slide. And that’s true, to a certain extent. But no more! It’s time to go all Psycho on this abomination!
The correct version of this abomination is supposedly. The term supposedly comes from the adjective supposed, which basically means “accepted as true, but not for certain.”
So, when you say:
“He supposedly stole his nephew’s candy,” you’re saying you’re pretty sure he stole the candy, but there’s a possibility that’s not true.
When you say:
“He supposably stole his nephew’s candy,” you’re saying drivel. Utter and complete nonsense.
You wouldn’t say:
“The supposab thief is pathetic,” because that’s just stupid.
It’s illogical. Incorrect. Gobbledygook. Did I say it was stupid? Because it’s stupid.
Don’t take it personal
This abomination calls back to my commentary on the “It’s vs. Its” confusion in Grammarian Pet Peeves #2. In that example, we had an elephant that hit its head and died: “The pink elephant hit its head and now its dead.” The second its is incorrect—its dead what? Similarly, when someone says, “Don’t take it personal,” he hasn’t finished his thought. Don’t take it personal what?
Personal is an adjective, not an adverb—an adverb is needed to describe action. I can’t take something personal, unless I’m stealing someone’s personal property.
A few equivalents to “Don’t take it personal” would be:
“Don’t take his death threats serious.”
“The pumpkin was cleaned out thorough before carving it.”
“He cruel scared his little sister.”
Get it yet? Adverbs aren’t interchangeable with adjectives, and personally is no exception.
John and I vs. John and me
The incorrect use of I and me drives me bonkers—doing cartwheels down the street, honking a bugle horn while ripping out my hair bonkers. I usually only imagine myself doing this, but you get the idea.
Below are two examples of the incorrect usages of I and me:
Example 1: “He came with John and I to the haunted house.”
Example 2: “John and me are going to the haunted house.”
And there you have it, one of the easiest rules in the wacky world of grammar: take out the ‘other’ in an I vs. me phrase to tell if you should use I or me. You should use the pronoun that would be correct if the
‘other’ were removed.
Below are the correct versions of both examples:
Example 1: “He came with John and me to the haunted house,” because “He came with me to the haunted house” would be correct if John were removed.
Example 2: “John and I are going to the haunted house,” because “I am going to the haunted house” would be correct if John were removed.
By Madeleine Mozley
Images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Image credtis in order of appearance: Simon Howden, zirconicusso, Salvatore Vuono.