I have to rant about something that is driving me absolutely crazy, and I feel certain I’m not alone on this one. Has anyone else noticed how often we hear or read that someone “graduated high school”? This isn’t the first time I’ve covered this topic, but there seems to be a “graduated high school” epidemic taking place in our country. I’ve heard it on the national news, I hear it at least once a week on the local news, and I’ve seen it in several newspaper and magazine articles in recent weeks. If I didn’t know better, I would swear there is a conspiracy to drive me over the edge. People do not graduate high school; they graduate FROM high school.
On another note, which is correct, “have proved” or “have proven”? I was always taught that “proven” is the past participle of “prove,” so I shudder when I hear or read, “He has proved to be a talented quarterback” or something similar. I searched online to find grammar sites that would prove my point. Imagine my shock when every site I referenced definitively identified both “proved” and “proven” as past participles. A couple of sites even went so far as to claim that “has proved” is the form-of-choice for today’s journalists. When used as an adjective, “proven” remains the only correct form. Thus, one would say or write, “He has a proven method of ridding lawns of leafcutter ants.” Regardless of what I have discovered, I cannot use “proved” as a past participle. For me, “proved” will remain the past tense only.
Recently we reviewed “less” versus “fewer,” and I’m still hoping some of our local stores will fix their signs that read “20 items are less” when we know it is grammatically incorrect. Because we can count the number of items in the cart, we must use “fewer.” The signs should read, “20 items or fewer.”
The same holds true for “amount” and “number.” Have you ever heard someone say, “There was a large amount of students standing in front of the school” or something similar? Again, if you can count the students, you use “number.” If it is something you cannot count, you use “amount.” A few weeks ago we had a sudden downpour, and no one could believe the “amount” of rain that fell in such a short time. I was shocked at the “number” of people trying to drive their cars through the rising water.
Before we end this month’s edition of Grammar Guardian, I thought we’d have a bit of fun. Marie, a faithful Grammar Guardian from Mission, recently sent me a column written by Susan Capps in Senior News. The column is titled “English is crazy,” and it serves as a parody of the English language. I have received similar compilations on several occasions via email, and I always find them entertaining. Here are some of the ones from Susan Capps’ column:
• The farm was used to produce produce. The first produce is pronounced pra-DUSE (my own pronunciation guide), while the second is pronounced “PRO-duse.”
• A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum. The first one: bass. Second: base
• He could lead if he would get the lead out. First: leed. Second: led.
• The insurance was invalid for the invalid. First: In-VAL-id. Second: IN-va-lid.
The second part of the article covers analogies that just don’t cut it:
• If teachers taught, do preachers praught? (Personally, I think she should have used “did” instead of “do” here.)
• If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
• How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same thing, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
Your assignment this month, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with some crazy English examples of your own. No fair getting online to find them. Use your own brain power to come up with some others and send them to me for next month’s article.
Until then, keep “Guarding our Grammar.”
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.