Friday, July 21, 2006

Other common usages include . . [note: more at the end this time]

[a bit of this post got cut off when I first posted it; should be ok now.]

Many years ago, in mixed company, a dear friend of mine made some comment about the Marquis de Sade, but instead of pronouncing Sade as "sadd" she said it like “sha-day.” What do we, her good friends amongst this mixed company, do? Do we discreetly tell her that she erred? Do we quip something about the good ol’ Marquis ourselves, but pronounce his name correctly so that she clues in. No, we launch into our best rendition of Smooth Operator to laughs all around.

We are terrible people. I think I covered that already.

But we’ve all done something similar to what my poor friend did. We’ve all experienced that horrible feeling when you find out that you’ve been mispronouncing something or using a phrase, word, or some bit of grammar incorrectly for, well, forever. Sure some of us have experienced this more than others, but I think it’s as close to a universal experience as you can get. You wonder how it could have gone on for so long and wonder whom you’ve erred in front of. Has your boss been cringing every time you say “in regards to” instead of “in regard to?” Is your mother-in-law wondering what kind of moron her son married every time you use who or whom incorrectly? There are a million of them and I’m usually part of the Grammar Gestapo noting every "alot" and bad apostrophe that finds its way into print. Wrong usage! Wrong usage!

Of course, I have a few of these experiences of my own.

Recently my sister and I found out that the phrase “pure as the driven snow” actually means very pure, as opposed to say slutty and sullied. Our previous conclusions that Paris Hilton is as pure as the driven snow is apparently erroneous (although who can say really). We blame our mother who I’m sure is reading this and shocked to find out that she has been using the phrase incorrectly for, well, forever; either that or she’s been using it ironically all this time and her daughters just didn’t get it.

The worst, however, is my recent discovery of “awhile” vs. “a while.” It especially hurt because I discovered this when reading my new favourite column in The Edmonton Journal, "Grammar Gaffes." It’s written by some pompous ass – of course, I love him. Normally, I read his column with a bit of a self-congratulatory “morons” running through my head as he indicates his latest annoyance over “Apple’s for sale.” However, I know that I have made the awhile/a while error a million times. Even worse, is that I know I will continue to because it is a phrase I use a lot and I have to admit that I don’t really get the explanation. Since starting the blog, I feel that I should be more on top of such grammar gaffes even in my “conversational tone” of writing. Now I realize that I will inevitably make gross errors and post them for all of the world to see.
William Safire I am not.

So please, in an effort to make me feel better, I encourage you to comment on your own “grammar gaffes” (and other similar things) that you’ve realized well after the fact. All of you, please share your mistakes, humiliating moments and other exciting adventure in the English Language. It’ll be just like therapy.

Oh, and it was Joolz.


At 12:40 PM , Blogger Cynto said...

I like this topic.

My principal in high school pronounced 'quiche' as 'quick'. He had a Master's Degree too.

Pet Peeve - when people say 'fustrated' instead of 'frustrated'. Drives me crazy and so many people do it.

Best spelling error though that I have seen. At the personal injury law firm I work at one of our clients submitted her list of things she could no longer do. For crocheting she submitted 'crotchen'. What a hobby!

At 1:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Salma Says:

Crotchen!!!! Fantastic!!!

Apparently (although I am still not entirely convinced) it is wrong to say "On top of the ball" as opposed to "On the Ball". I blame my mom... oh and Angie.

At 2:46 PM , Anonymous akk said...

Yah. I also blame my mom for a number of mixed up cliches. For example, her use of "out of the blues". You know, "Wow. That job offer came right out of the blues". Do you love it?

My most recent and memorable word misuse was "self-defacing". I used it to mean some mix between 'self-effacing' and 'self-depricating'. But, as Joolz finally informed me, it sounded like i was spraypainting my own face with a big "f*@#*k you, angie!!"

At 2:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke said:

Living in the Maritimes and working with poor people, I get to listen to some horrific distortions of the English language.

My personal favorites are the expressions "some good", "right good", which both mean something is really good. If something is really, really good people call it "right some good". All of this is done without a hint of irony.

At 11:01 AM , Anonymous Dustin said...

I just learned that nonplussed (nonplused?) is the opposite of what I thought.

Even though the non implies lack I really seems wrong to me.

Irregardless its some thing I could care less about.

At 4:31 PM , Blogger AEG said...

Alison said . . .

The one that gets me my own husband is guilty of, and he makes no effort to correct -- no matter how many times I *inform* him.

He'll say, "I should have went earlier" -- you either should "have gone" or "went" but never "have went". Honestly, is that so hard?


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