Last month, the main topic of this column revolved around a recent trend to say and write, “He graduated high school in 1976.” I expressed relief to discover that deleting the “from” is indeed grammatically incorrect, and I heard from several readers who shared my delight. Grammar Guardians definitely need to unite because as I prepared to write this column, I heard a teen on the world news ask President Obama, “When you graduated high school, did you know what you wanted to do?” One more case of the missing “from.”
One reader, Diana Mangum, who is also a friend of mine, approached me at a recent football game. She asked me to include in this month’s column her biggest grammatical pet peeve. Diana makes amazing cakes and receives a lot of phone calls from people wanting to place orders. It drives her crazy when she answers the phone and potential customers say, “With Diana Mangum.” I laughed when she told me this because I, too, have heard this more and more in the past few years. What does that mean? I realize we now live in a fast-paced society, but condensing the correct, “May I speak with Diana Mangum?” to “With Diana Mangum” really is annoying, especially to a Grammar Guardian.
After last month’s column, I received an email from a professor at the University of Texas-Pan American. He mentioned one grammatical error I have covered before, though not recently. Next time you go to the store, look at the express lane sign. See if it reads, “20 items or less” or “20 items or fewer.” Though we are more accustomed to seeing the first one, the correct sign would be the second. There is an easy way to tell the difference. If it is something you can count, use fewer. If it’s something you can’t, use less. Going back to the store example, obviously you can count items in a grocery cart, so the sign should read, “20 items or fewer.” If you were talking about traffic at 6:30 a.m. versus traffic at 5:30 p.m., you cannot count traffic, so you would say there is less at 6:30. (Keep in mind that you can count cars, but we’re talking “traffic.”)
This same professor brought up another good point. In recent months, as a result of bail-outs and other economic issues, we often hear that the government and the banks are “loaning” money. The money they are giving out is the “loan.” What they are actually doing is “lending” money.
At the end of his email, the grammatically astute professor recommended a book on the rules of grammar, which sounds anything but ordinary or boring. It is The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed by Karen Elizabeth Gordon. I found the book on Amazon.com and reviewers have actually awarded it 4.5 out of 5 stars. According to the description, Gordon uses gargoyles, vampires and other creatures to teach the rules of grammar in an unusual and interesting manner. Published in 1993, this revised edition is a special edition of a 1984 classic.
Let’s end the month with a grammatical error that would certainly qualify for a Top 10 Most Annoying Grammatical Errors list: should have went. I cringe when I hear people say, “I should have went to the game, but I was too tired” and similar sentences. Of course Grammar Guardians know the proper way to say this sentence is, “I should have gone to the game, but I was too tired.”
Until next month….keep guarding that grammar.
You can reach Chris Ardis at firstname.lastname@example.org.