Kelly, from Mission, spent August guarding our grammar. She sent me some of her grammar pet peeves, and I thought I’d share a few of them with readers:
• Since when does the word "nuclear" have a "u" after the "c”? (It’s true. Sometimes people pronounce it “nuc-u-le-ir.”)
• Why is the city pronounced "MacAllen" instead of "McAllen" so often? (I had to laugh at this one because I have often wondered this myself. It would be like calling the home of the golden arches MacDonald’s.)
• A few of the TV anchor people do not understand there is a "t" in the middle of the word "sentence.” Every day, I hear of people being "senenced" to jail. On that note, there are also "d"s in the middle of didn't, shouldn't, and couldn't. (I must admit I am guilty of pronouncing “didn’t” as “din’t” when I’m in a hurry. I promise the “d” is there, but you must listen carefully to hear it.)
Kelly also asked a question:
Q: This one really has me stumped. I have always used the term "as long as" not "so long as.” I hear this everywhere, and yes, even by our president. Which is correct?
A: On The Grammar Logs web site, I found this: The phrase "as long as" can mean either "during the whole time that" or "provided that (or only if)." The phrase "so long as" can substitute for "as long as" when you mean "provided that." According to this definition (from Burchfield) the phrasing one hears at weddings, "so long as they both shall live," is either wrong or archaic. They cite The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, edited by R. W. Burchfield. (For the record, I was always taught to use “as long as,” too, Kelly.)
Last month, Grammar Guardian Marty from McAllen had the idea of looking for grammatically questionable headlines. I found a great one, but I want to share some grammatical errors from newspaper stories and radio programs first:
• “ ‘Then (the babies) would return back where they could be raised and coddled as future terrorists,’ he said.” The error in this sentence has become as much of a pet peeve to me as “your welcome.” Why do so many people say “return back”? If someone returns, he is going back. You do not need “back.”
• “The District Clerk’s Office sent out 600 questionnaires under the new system and saw less than 100 potential jurors report for duty this week.” Here we go again with “less than” versus “fewer.” If you can count the item in question, use “fewer.” Our local stores that still have signs reading, “20 Items or Less” need help from a faithful Grammar Guardian. Just like this sentence should have read “…saw fewer than 100…” their signs should read, “20 Items or Fewer.”
• “Why does baseball and softball have different rules when it comes to their postseason?” This one made me cringe when I read it. Baseball AND softball. They. You cannot use “does” with “they.” It should be “do.” I need some help from retired teachers Mr. Garza and Sylvia Clark on the second questionable word in this sentence. Postseason. I have always seen it written post-season. Which is correct?
• On the radio, I often hear, “should have went.” This is another make-me-cringe comment. Never use “have” and “went” together. “Have” changes this verb to “gone.”
• Another newspaper sentence fits right in with this. “Almost all of BP’s statements about the disaster have proved wrong.” I was always taught to use “proven” with “have.” When I searched grammar sites, some said when used as a verb, “proved” is right. Help, Valley Grammar Guardians! This just can’t be.
I must end with this month’s clear winner in the Hilarious Headlines category:
Man wakes up to find ankle shot near Alamo. I pictured a man waking up and discovering his ankle gone. He searches for it and finds it near Alamo. The ankle has been shot.
Thanks to all of you who are out there Guarding Our Grammar. Until next month…
Chris Ardis is a high school teacher and freelance writer. You can send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her web site at chrisardis.com.