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.

Conclusion
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.

18 comments

  • Albert van der heijden

    Oddly, I recognize you sentiment on the accusation of arrogance; if it makes you feel better, politicians and HR-people are the ones that are pompous, people with a genuine scientific interest at heart are compassionate. -It has taken me years to overcome this myself, and got help from a person that can’t be bothered with errors, being a constuctionist: “a few millimeters difference occur easily” is a much heard “adagium” in construction. ( and they sometimes make families, which in some buildings grow to be tribes and even populations the size of France). He just mocked me in a funny voice like John Cleese: O well, yes, a complaint. Their are always people that complain, what will it be now. Please state it and have it done with, maybe in a few days we come back to it and apologize. Next! -But as an aside, if you like to feel guilty and preclude happiness, go ahead on cognization of subconscious assumptions. Anyone else that would like to complain about pompous arrogance? Yes? No? To late, we’re closed!

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  • Pingback: Grammar For the Birds | WordPunk

  • Thank you for helping to spread the word about “anymore.” It’s so annoying, I hear it all the time used in a positive connotation. For a long time, I wasn’t even sure that it was wrong, or why it was wrong–but it just SOUNDS wrong. Now I know it is. Can’t wait to tell my mother-in-law!

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  • Says you. I’ve always used “on accident”. It makes sense that it is the opposite of on purpose. To me “by accident” sound funny. I don’t live in Seattle. I’m from Massachusetts. I’ve been asking people today what one they use and what one they think is correct. I’d say it’s 50/50.

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  • Thank you. “On accident” drives me crazy.

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  • Why not accidentally? Why is the debate over “on vs by”? Is it me, or when I goof up, am I the only one who goofs accidentally?

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    • The term accidentally definitely would work, Frank! The issue is that when people learn to say that something was done on purpose, they seem to think that the antonym would therefore be “on accident” whereas it should be “by accident”.

      I believe that goof ups are done accidentally if the intent was not to goof up. For example, if I am pouring a cup of tea for myself and my hand jerks and causes it to spill, that is an accidental goof. Pouring it onto the floor intentionally, however, would not be accidental. :) Thanks for the comment!

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  • Thank you for your article. I live in Wisconsin, and the word “bust” and “busting” is used constantly instead of burst and bursting; it drives me crazy. Another irritation is the pronunciation of the word veterinarian as vetinarian”, nails on a chalkboard to my ears.

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  • Both of my in-laws (separated for 20 years) use “anymore” at the end of a sentence with a *positive” connotation. My brain has a fit when I hear it used this way because I honestly don’t know to correct the grammar or syntax. It’s just wrong.

    Just what to add that I once heard someone say, “I don’t know, man. Know what I’m saying?”

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  • Just wanted to share my ditty on the ‘then/than” conundrum:

    If you use the word then instead of than, then than is the word you use other than when then is the one you should use rather than then.

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  • WHY is it on purpose not by purpose if it is by accident and not on accident?

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