It's been a long time since Crabby Old Lady got her knickers in a twist over grammar but last week, Gnomedex founder and all-round technology guru, Chris Pirillo, posted a rant on the subject and Crabby has been muttering to herself ever since.
“It drives me batshit,” wrote Chris, “to see someone use your and you’re interchangeably. Hello! They are not the same word! Are people seriously not learning these things in school, or are they too lazy to type/spell the words correctly?! It makes me want to tear my hair out.”
Crabby's with you, Chris. She has always assumed the grammar police were mostly old people, but Chris is barely past 30, so Crabby is pleased to know there will be at least one person to take up the slack for her when she shuffles off this mortal coil. Someone has to uphold standards.
One expects a publication as esteemed as The New York Times to be on their grammatical toes, but there are increasing numbers of errors in the old gray lady of late. A few weeks ago, a reporter made Crabby's teeth ache, writing: “... with he and his wife, Juliet, expecting their first child.”
Crabby's teachers passed on a number of clever tricks to help students mind their grammar p's and q's. One of them addressed the Times' writer's mistake. When you are unsure whether to use he or him, or you or I in a pair, read the sentence while dropping the other name and you'll hear which is correct.
For example, if you omit “and his wife” in the quotation above, it is obvious you can't say “with he expecting their first child.” Too often, people write or say, “She went to the store with him and I” or “...with he and I.” Drop either one of the pronouns in each phrase and you can easily tell that me is correct, not I, and him is correct, not he - and you don't even need to know that it's a rule about which kind of pronoun follows a preposition.
Another teacher trick involves the choice between amount and number which are commonly misused. If it is a collective noun being referenced, amount is correct as in “an amount of money.” If you can count the items – 1,2,3 – then number is correct as in “the number of dollars.” Crabby hears amount used incorrectly almost every day on television business reports when it should be number. She thinks people who use the two words more frequently that most should know the difference.
A remarkable number (!) of people don't know the difference between then and than, as in “then we went to the beach” versus “it's bigger than a breadbox.” These can't be typos; a and e are on different rows using different fingers on a keyboard. So it must be ignorance.
Crabby reserves her greatest disdain for those who use less when they mean few or fewer. Less calories is nearly universal in television commercials for products related to weight loss and it drives Crabby – to borrow a term from Chris – batshit. Do you know how many people are involved in producing those commercials?
At the ad agency and the production studio, there are the writers, producers, graphic artists, a project manager, art director, account executive, audio and video technicians, a director, the actors or a voice-over artist and a variety of assistants. Does not one of them ever say, “Hey wait a minute, this is wrong”??? How can that be?
A similar number of people are involved in designing food packaging. Next time you're in the supermarket, take a stroll down the diet aisle. Every package that promises to help with weight loss boasts in big letters, LESS CALORIES.Wrong!
The principle is the same as with amount and number: when the noun is collective, the word is less; when you can count the items in the noun, the word is few or fewer. Example: You will gain less weight if you eat fewer calories.
Whew. That should hold Crabby's ire for a little while. Given the high level of grammatical skill among Time Goes By readers who comment, Crabby Old Lady is pretty sure you will have your own pet peeves to add to this short collection.
The latest episode of Life (Part 2) takes on the physical aspects of aging. A number of people and organizations have created ways for younger people to understand elders' limitations. In this clip, a young man visits one researcher who helps him into an “empathy suit” to simulate some of the problems of an aging body.
You can view the entire episode – The Mechanics of Aging – here.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellen Younkins: A Bowlers Lament