Rio Grande Valley Grammar Guardians have been busier than Santa and his elves lately, spotting grammatical errors all around us. Here are some of the most recent errors detected by our best grammar guardians:
One reader’s pet peeve is when people say, “Hot water heater.” After all, if the water were hot, who would neat a heater? The heater heats water, not hot water. Thus, it is a water heater.
A couple of months ago, we covered it’s versus its. I reminded readers that “it’s” is a contraction for “it is.” One of our most faithful grammar guardians is a former English teacher. He reminded me “it’s” also means “it has” and provided an example: “It’s been five years since I’ve seen my uncle.” Thanks for reminding me, Mr. Garza.
One reader pointed out a grammatical error that seems to have grown more prevalent (and more annoying). I often hear and read, “Return back,” such as, “We will return back to McAllen after a week in Vegas.” This is redundant. If you return, you are coming back. There is no need for “back.”
One reader shared with me a lesson she learned from her mom. “My mother taught me when I was little that I should say ‘shake’ your head no and ‘nod’ your head yes. Many people say, ‘He shook his head yes.’”
We still see “could of, would of, should of” enough to drive us over the edge. Change “of” to “have” and you’ll be correct. “I could have won the grammar award if I would have used have and not of. I should have known better.”
Another retired teacher and grammarian extraordinaire squawked when she read the following Associated Press caption under a picture in the newspaper. “A murder of crows flies down to roost in barren trees as the sun begins to set Sunday in Peoria, Ill.” I had to include this for two reasons: I had never heard of a murder of crows AND the picture came from my hometown. The faithful grammar guardian fired off an email to the AP when she couldn’t find a definition to support this use of the word. She and I both learned something new when she received a response. A group of crows is indeed called a “murder.” Critter Guide, on the PBS website, indicates the name came about because a group of crows sometimes kills a dying crow.
And the most popular request for this month involves the use of “good” versus “well.” One reader, who teaches English in Edinburg, tells her students, “Well is an adverb and good is an adjective.” This teacher fantasizes about “a world where ‘I’m doing good’ doesn’t exist.” Another grammar guardian also stresses the adverb versus adjective difference. If you are DOING something (a verb), you use “well” since it is the adverb. Thus, you swim well, run well, do well on a test and feel well. “Good” is an adjective, so it describes a noun: good speakers, good work, good time.
I’d like to end this month’s Grammar Guardian column with a few holiday reminders:
1. Santa Claus is not a part of speech, so be careful not to spell his name Santa Clause.
2. Though it may sound strange, the plural of reindeer isn’t only reindeer. It’s also reindeers.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays to all. Thanks for your diligence in Guarding Our Grammar.
Chris Ardis teaches in McAllen ISD. She is working on a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at UTPA.