I almost never address the issue of grammar because, sure as shooting, I’ll make a handful of mistakes right here in front of you. But irregardless I’m feeling cranky so I’m going to list eleven of my top cringeworthy examples of grammar and word use mistakes. I originally wrote this several years ago, but decided I wanted to add a few more misspoken words or phrases.
Irregardless— need I say more? Regardless is the word. Irregardless is fingernails on a blackboard.
Confusing Your and You’re— Is this the most common grammar mistake in written communication? I have to hold myself back from correcting those responsible for the signs that say, Your in for a Treat! or Turn You’re Engine Off Before You Pump Gas.
The Plural Apostrophe— Why is it that people feel the need to separate the singular version of a word from the plural? Every fruit stand in Central California seems to sell orange’s and artichoke’s and avocado’s. Can they charge more by throwing in an errant apostrophe?
The Self Conundrum— Since when did we start using myself in place of me or I? I have a feeling that people are so confused as to when to use I and me that they feel the safest route is to substitute myself. *buzzer* Nice try. The -self words (myself, herself, themselves, itself, etc.) are used in only two instances– to emphasize, like, “I picked out the color myself.” Or to refer back to the subject, as in “She spends hours preening herself.”
Nauseous or Nauseated?— I hear this way too often, especially by YouTube vloggers. “I’m especially nauseous today.” Oops! That does not mean what they think it means. It means they are especially sickening. If you are sick, you are nauseated. Sick vs. sickening.
Upgrading words— when simple seems too simple. I wish people would use the perfect little word instead of turning simple into simplistic or use to utilize or even orient to orientate.
Secret or Secrete?— I’m wondering if I am wrong here because I hear this pronunciation (or what I believe to be mispronunciation) frequently when listening to professional newscasters and commentators. It makes me gag every time I hear someone say that the “documents were secrete-ed on a hard drive.” Shouldn’t it be secret-ed? When I picture secretions of documents it makes me nauseated. Someone set the record straight, please.
Supposeably or supposedly?— It’s the latter but this is one of the words that comes from hearing it wrong.
Hear, hear!— Yes, speaking of hearing, most people get this phrase wrong when it comes to writing it. It actually comes from the British Parliament of old. When some stood to speak approval, the encouraged listeners to really hear, not here.
Okay, and one more that is my own pet peeve and is not related to grammar but to the spoken (or misspoken) word— There’s a whole demographic that seems to refuse to enunciate the letter T or double Ts if they happen to come in the middle of a word. Instead of button, they will come to a full glottal stop and say buh • in. The same with curtains. They say Cur • in. Listen for it. You’ll hear it often with online influencers. Where did this come from?
By the way, the T in often is silent. You’re welcome.
Okay, your turn. Name a couple (or more) of your pet grammar gaffes or word use mistakes.
Hmm. I looked some of these up, because I had different understandings.
According to the OED (my dictionary of choice), “secrete” does have two meanings, and the word is given two separate listings. Secrete means “conceal; hide”.
“Secret” is not a verb (although it was centuries ago), so documents could not be “secret-ed” on a hard drive. They could, however, be concealed, hidden, or secreted (presumably through encryption or some other white smoke of electrickery).
For nauseous–vs–nauseated, the OED gives as the first meaning of nauseous: “affected with nausea; feeling inclined to vomit”. Another meaning is indeed sickening (“causing nausea”) but that isn’t the word’s only meaning. Nauseate does mean “affect with nausea” or “fill [someone] with disgust”.
Language is ever changing. Thanks for clarifying nauseous. I guess I can stop cringing.
I’ve taken to ranting on FB recently.
Peek, peak, and pique are not the same word. I can pique your interest with a peek at a mountain peak.
It’s not a mute point, but it is a moot point.
Your main character is not an ancestor of his great-grandfather. He is a descendant.
I wish people who self-publish would find competent editors
Oh yes! Mute point, indeed.
Irregardless of you’re word’s,
I myself will carry on,
orientating my heart toward’s
grammar being simplistically gone,
and, here here!, our thoughts fly free,
unfettered by the olden rules
that supposably are good for me,
but condescend ourselves as fools.
For now my plan must be secrete-ed,
kept away from prying eye’s
lest my schemes become deleted
by literati and their spies,
but be prepared to take the bet
that you ain’t seen nothing yet!
Oh, Andrew. This was painfully hilarious.
I think the main bee in my grammatical bonnet is the comma splice.
Janet Holm McHenry
Bless you, Catherine.
I don’t think I’ll ever get used to hearing “gift” used as a verb.
Or “loan”. Or “impact”. Or “access”. 🙂
Language … IT’S ALIIIIVE!
No need to say “in spite of” when “despite” will do!
And “although” is generally better than “despite the fact that”.
I’ll bet I do that one.
For the letter ‘t’ or the double ‘tt’ in pronunciation, I think pronunciation with the glottal stop is not an error. To say so is, I feel, rather like saying anything but RP pronunciation of English is “wrong”. Rather, that pronunciation is a matter of regional variation (along with many other variations).
I’m by no means a dialect or accent expert, but the glottal stop is widespread amongst non-standard English speakers, including speakers of Cockney and Estuary English. Northern English accents also use the glottal stop – a Northumbrian is likely to say something like ‘”foo-ey” instead of “footy” (for football). But it isn’t an error.
Equally, outside Britain, the glottal stop is also common in Australian pronunciations of English, for example. But Australian English is still English, and not “wrong”.
There are also non-native English speakers who are used to the glottal stop in their own languages (for example, Arabic speakers), who may use the glottal stop in speaking English. But their English is WAY better than my Arabic. And again, it is not an error, but a variance.
I was going to comment on this, but you said it better. Dialect is not the same as poor grammar.
But it is not English as second language people who do this. Not like using the T instead of TH for the Irish, for instance. I see this among 20-something YouTube and Instagram influencers– especially west coasters. It feels like an affectation. I may be wrong but it still makes me cringe.
That is why I mentioned all the English and Australian English speakers who use the glottal stop. As Elissa said, “Dialect is not the same as poor grammar.” The same is true simply of accents. Accents are not erroneous pronunciation, or “affectation”.
It was Winston Churchill who said, “England and America: two nations separated by a common tongue.” But American English is English, even though so much of it is pronounced and spelt very differently from any version of English spoken in England. And American English has words and phrases that English English speakers would not recognise. The same is true in Australia.
Even so, I could simply have referred to all the regional accents of England itself. RP is in a minority (about 2% of the English population). Moreover, even the pronunciations of words by the younger generation of the royal family are often different from the Queen’s. They are using a modified RP.
Never mind that English even in London used to sound something much more like Northumbrian. That was the “standard” English pronunciation in Shakespeare’s day (now called OP, or original pronunciation), which is why many jokes and rhymes in Shakespeare actually don’t work with RP pronunciation.
I am Australian (seventh-generation). English is my first language. I think I move back and forth roughly equally between the glottal stop and pronouncing the “t”. That is not an affectation. It is the English of the area in Australia where I grew up. That said, I have had many people (including English people) ask me if I am in fact English. I simply grew up in an area of Australia where the people sounded more English than other Australians.
What about if an Australian says to you, in an Australian accent, “Hey sheila, want to have root in the dunny?” – do you know what that means? Even though the words are English? The following is also purely English: “Howay, man. I’m clamming for some scran.” It’s Tyneside English, from northern England (also known as Geordie). It’s spoken with a Newcastle-type accent.
I feel I should suggest that your opinion may be regarded as a form of snobbery. I know of an English language coach and teacher who was vilified in the media and by language academics for suggesting in a YouTube video that northern English pronunciations of some words were “wrong”. It is a rather touchy subject in England, because for a long time RP was considered the “proper” English. It was the only accent ever heard on TV or the English stage, and non-RP speakers have been considered almost a lesser class of citizen. There have been strong social reactions against such a position, although it still hangs around.
I’d even note that Prince William frequently uses the glottal stop. It can be heard clearly in this interview. The interviewer is using traditional RP. Prince William is using modified RP.
For example, Prince William says:
* “tha-” — that
* “hasn’-” — hasn’t
* “suppor- you” — support you
* “importan-” — important
* “a- the right time” — at the right time
* “no- careful” — not careful
* “go[dd]a” — got to.
* “comple-ly” — completely
Sorry. The link for the interview with Prince William is:
Here’s another: “would of” instead of “would’ve” or “would have”.
For example, “I would of got my book published if the agent and publisher had had as good an understanding of grammar, punctuation and vocabulary as I do.”
Growing up in Ohio, we always said, “by accident.” Out here in Seattle, I keep hearing people say, “on accident.” Wrong or a colloquialism? I’m not positive, but it drives me batty!
I just might get in trouble for this, but I cringe when I hear “I axed her” instead of “I asked her”.
Well, Deb, depending on context…
Haha! Those folks over at the Killzone would love that, Andrew!
Some of my peeves:
– Mixing up they’re, there, their
– Misusing these words: amount, number, less, fewer. You use the words “number” and “fewer” when you can count the items. You use “amount” and “less” for something that cannot be counted, such as flour or bravery or water.
– Using objective pronouns as nominative pronouns and vice versa. These are wrong: “Him and me went…” “Her and I started to…” “They gave the money to she and I.”
It takes everything I’ve got not to correct these writers on social media. And yes, I know that when we refer to words themselves, we should use italics, not quotation marks, but I I don’t see an option for that here. This former English teacher who actually taught grammar could write a book.
Always the teacher, Janet. I’m actually learning from my own blog comments.
Janet Holm McHenry
Oh gosh, I’m going to think of these all day long.
Lots of writers do not understand parallel construction Look it up. Figure it out. Use it.
Parallel construction is one of the bugaboos of proposals. We’re constantly catching this.
gift for give
“I’m giving this to you.” NO! “I’m giving this to you.”
Oh, my goodness, you have just made my day. I whooped and hurrahed throughout the entire article. And to top it off, you hit my husband’s favaorite pet-peeve at the end. Often – with a silent T. The TV commentators drive him nuts with that one.
My personal “nails on a chalkboard” mispronounciation is “Calvary” instead of “cavalry.” It makes me want to throw something at the TV, or run screaming from the room. Yes, certainly it is – and always will be – Calvary to the rescue. But not when horses, uniformed soldiers, and guns blazing are involved. ARGHHHH. I heard it again just this past week and I have developed a nervous tic over it.
So thank you, for a moment of clarity and several smiles in my day. Please forgive any mistakes I have made herein.
I apologize for the typo in “favorite.” Yeesh. Blushing over here.
No need to blush. I know if I post a blog like this there will be mistakes made– keeps us grounded.
Yes! Definitely the misuse of cavalry vs. Calvary.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Ha ha! Secrete the papers! That is fabulous! I also enjoy seeing the misuse of quotes in signs. Great “food” here!
Jean Kavich Bloom
If you can realistically say “never” instead of “don’t ever,” do it.
You’re speaking my language, Wendy. Thank you for the rant. I feel better.
Linda K. Rodante
Word usages, meanings, pronunciations, and spellings change often 😊 Remember the back and forth of Caribbean? Depended on how the President at the time pronounced it! And we all have our “druthers.” Many words in the KJV of the Bible need to be explained today. Here are two words you mentioned that have changed recently (this information was found on the internet).
1) “Irregardless means the same thing as “regardless.” Yes, it’s a word. But major dictionaries label it nonstandard.”
2) “Pronouncing the “t” in “often” has returned in some modern usage.” “On the website where people pronounce words from their languages, the page for the word often gives 15 accounts. 13 people pronounced it with silent t (ofen), and only 2 with strong t (ofTen). But all ESL teachers I know (U.S. native speakers) pronounce it with strong t (ofTen).”
Pet peeve: definitely “lightening” instead of “lightning”. After seeing it three times in one day in different books, I began to wonder if I did, in fact, have the correct spelling. Closely followed by “solider” instead of “soldier” – a complete giveaway to a lack of a good proofread.
I think I forgive spelling errors more than I do grammar and punctuation errors. Sometimes, spelling errors are just typos. Even if there’s a spelling error from ignorance, as I tell my nine-year-old son when he worries, English spelling is weird (not wierd). And there are way more words to learn than there are grammar and punctuation principles.
Just smiling as I read this one. Believe it or not, Wendy, my husband and I just had a conversation about secret-ed versus secrete-ed yesterday! And we both agree with you. The other way is stomach-turning.
My pet peeve is when I hear people use adjectives to describe verbs. The whole point of adverbs is to describe verbs. I love books and movies that do it correctly; hoping that young people today will read or watch and follow the correct examples. In the movie about author and book store owner – You’ve Got Mail – what they did almost made me applaud in the theater. At the end Meg Ryan said, “I wanted it to be you so badly.” Not ‘bad’ but ‘badly,’ since it was the degree to which she ‘wanted’…wanted being the verb. But the biggest offender of this error is when people ask, “How are you doing?” The reply all too often comes, “I’m good.” Good is an adjective, fine and well are adverbs. The implied verb in the response is shortened, but still implies: I am doing fine. However, this has become so ingrained into the way people speak today, I doubt it will ever be corrected. Let’s keep pounding away at Regardless, not Irregardless. Maybe that one can be corrected.
I had to laugh at your pet peeve! As a longtime singer in church choirs, I’ve learned to over-enunciate lyrics. All that emphasis might sound strange to your own ears, but it sounds normal as a song wafts its way through an auditorium or sanctuary.
And I LOVE the Pug!