Grammar Man

Curiously enough, I have found that since moving to Seattle I have heard far fewer people ending every other sentence with the rhetorical question, “know what I mean?” or its more irritating abbreviated form, “knamea?”. On the other hand, there have been a number of grammatical curiosities that I have noticed here. As well as these, there are some frequent errors I have noticed since my first article on this topic.

Don’t Misuse Anymore, Anymore
There’s only one place the word anymore belongs in a sentence and that’s at the end of it, in a negative form. Mark used to drink soda all the time, but now that he is trying to lose weight, he doesn’t drink it anymore. The most frequent misuse of the word that I have heard since moving here is using it in place of the word “lately” or “nowadays”. Anymore, the price of gas doesn’t make it worth taking long trips into the country. What the person is trying to express is that something is happening in the present that may not have happened in the past.

As an aside, anymore was at one point only acceptable as two separate words. That isn’t the case anymore. Nowadays, it is acceptable as two separate words or a compound.

Where at?
A word that is frequently used in a place where it isn’t necessary is the word “at.” Specifically, it doesn’t ever belong at the end of any sentence which begins with the word where. A friend of mine told me the only acceptable answer when someone asks you “where is that at?” or any other form of the question which ends with “at” is “Behind the prepositional phrase.” I have gotten some pretty hostile reactions from people when I have used this answer so I would caution you, the reader, to carefully gauge the person for possible anger issues before saying it.

I actually just did a web search for the expression “behind the prepositional phrase” and I found no exact matches, which amazes me. I suppose this article will just have to be the only one of its kind, for now. On the other hand, I found an excellent page on the improper usage of prepositional phrases. It is called, appropriately enough, Purge the Pesky Prepositions. Besides having a chart of the most frequently overused prepositions, it is insightful while not being overly long. It is an excellent read.

General Lee Spoke Appropriately, Which Was Appropriate
The poor suffering suffix of ly – how it is ignored! If all suffixes were living beings in a soap opera world, then ly would be able’s clever yet ugly younger brother, never succeeding in love. If a person doesn’t drive quickly, they might drive slowly, because they are a slow driver. Note that a person can not drive quick, behave bad, or draw poor – all of these words are lacking the beautiful little suffix called ly. As a general rule, if a word you’re trying to use is modifying a verb in your sentence, it most likely is in need of the suffix -ly. This is a rule that should be taken seriously.

I Hate to Burst Your Bubble…
The word bust refers exclusively, if you exclude slang, to the sculptural portrayal of a person’s head and shoulders, and to the breasts and thorax of a woman. It is not a verb, and should not be used as a verb instead of the more appropriate word burst. It seems to be more and more frequently used but this does not make for its acceptance as proper grammar.

There are many other uses of the word bust that are equally improper. For example, when a police officer breaks down the door of an apartment and, with the help of his fellow officer arrests the occupant for growing marijuana, it isn’t really a drug bust, though it is often referred to as such. There may be a song as well as a video game telling you to ‘bust a move’ but really, you shouldn’t – unless you want to misuse the word bust.

To Be, or not To Be? Usually, It’s The Former
When Hamlet asked this question he was wondering if he should go on living. Here it is a matter of whether it should be used in a sentence or not. The improper lack of the words ‘to be’ comes about when something needs to be done. For example, a car needs to be washed every once in awhile so that it doesn’t get overly filthy. The car does not need washed. The laundry does not need done, it needs to be done, and the files do not need organized, they need to be organized. All of these examples involve verbs that end in the suffix -ed. When the suffix -ing is used instead, the situation is entirely different. To take the original examples again, the car needs washing, the laundry needs doing, and the files need organizing – this all makes sense.

On Purpose, or By Accident?
Another grammatical error I have only heard in this state is the use of the term ‘on accident’. At first when I heard it I was confused – it sounded peculiar. I wasn’t sure how it could have come to be in the first place until I once said, “I didn’t do it on purpose, I did it…” and then realized that it would seem logical that the opposite of “on purpose” would have to be “on accident”. Do not be deceived by this and know that there’s absolutely no such thing as “on accident” – when you do something, you either are doing it on purpose, or by accident.

It has been suggested to me that insisting on proper grammar gives me an air of arrogance, as though a person who insists on proper grammar thinks himself better in some way than the person who has made a grammatical error and does not want to correct it. This bothers me, as I have in my conscious mind no connection between speaking properly and being on a higher level in any way. I am cognizant of the fact that often people subconsciously make such assumptions but it should not preclude ones insistence on speaking as well as one can.