Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hear! Hear!

I am somewhat frequently peeved by Usage and Abusage of the English language. I'm the first to admit that I am far from perfect and am sure I am guilty of many faux pas in my written and spoken speech. The language is an odd one, full of wiggle room and exceptions. It is also a living, changing thing and can, therefore, be subject to the whims and tendencies of those using it. However, there are some wiggles and exceptions that I am not comfortable with; lest we devolve into the grunts and epithets spoken by the human race in the frighteningly plausible Idiocracy (by Mike Judge).

I took advanced English throughout my schooling. My mother started out her illustrious teaching career as an English teacher. I've been a proofreader in a professional setting. When I take the quizzes that are supposed to be able to tell you where you're from by your vernacular, the result is General American English. I have a reasonable grasp of what is and what isn't when it comes to grammar, punctuation and spelling. I try to always put two spaces after the end of a sentence* (even in texting). I admit that I'm a bit of a stickler and a dork, though I try to be as gracious as possible and mostly just worry about myself. Everyone makes mistakes. I have a chronic difficulty in spelling receive and surprise and my husband and I are constantly looking things up and learning things from each other. I often refer to websites for grammar and punctuation rules. Please do not take this as me putting myself out there as any kind of authority.

My whole life I thought that if something made sense with what you knew from past experience it "jived" with what you knew. Come to find out from Bryan that it actually "jibes" with what you know.


John: "Sally wants to go to the Renaissance Fair this weekend."

Trevor: "That jibes with everything I know about her."

I used the word "champing" (at the bit) and my husband hadn't heard it before. We looked it up and found out the "chomping at the bit" and "champing at the bit" are both accepted phrases.

Just this morning I wanted to agree heartily with someone on Facebook; but before I did, I had Bryan look it up so that I could clarify for myself whether it was "Here! Here!" or "Hear! Hear!" (the latter is correct).

It's an odd language. The important thing is to admit that we're all just doing our best and to check yourself; also to remove the stigma of helpful reminders from those around us when we blunder. That said, here are a few mistakes I've seen/heard repeatedly in recent months and would like to set the record straight (at least in my little corner of the internet).

I'm fairly certain that most of these are brought about by mishearing someone else and thinking you've heard them correctly, then using that version; or hearing enough people saying something incorrectly and thinking that they must be in the right. I've also encountered problems when someone has only read a word and never heard it spoken, though these are not examples of that situation.


"Loose" is the opposite of tight.

"Lose" is the action of misplacing something.


"Welt" is a raised bump on your skin.

"Whelp" is a young dog or wolf. Can also be used in slang to refer to a child or a young, impudent person.


It's Wheelbarrow.


"Breath" is what comes out of your mouth when you "Breathe"


"Moot" refers to something being doubtful or debatable: A moot point.

"Mute" refers to a person incapable of speech or the act of silencing something.


"Peel" is the natural covering of a fruit, such as a banana peel.

"Peal" is a loud burst of noise, as from bells or laughter. Ex: "There were peals of laughter coming from the cafeteria."

The word is not spelled or pronounced "Vo-lump-tuous". Even though it refers to lovely lady lumps, there's no "lump" in voluptuous.

Supposedly should not be pronounced "Supposively."

Could've is an abbreviation for "could have;" as in "I could have done something about it, but I chose not to." It isn't "could of."

One that I foul up all the time is an expression. I could have cared less/I couldn't have cared less.

It is so easy and common to say "I could care less." This, in writing, becomes abundantly clear as an ineffectual statement; but in everyday speech is less obviously wrong. It's easier to say than "I couldn't care less." That doesn't make it right.

Side note: I was interested to read about the origin of the word "O.K." on the yahoo home page the other day. If you didn't catch it, it was a fad in the 1850s(ish) to take a common phrase and then abbreviate it as though it were misspelled. Ex: "no good" was expressed by saying "K.G" - as if the expression were spelled "know good." Weird, huh? "O.K" is abbreviated from "oll korrect."

In short, I know that much of our common and accepted language has evolved from humble human tendencies/preferences/misconceptions/habits; but I guess I just hope that these words aren't getting muddy already. I don't want to see the language degenerate any faster than it has to.

*Upon inserting this text into Blogspot, all my lovingly typed spaces were messed up. Feel free to point out any hypocrisies you find in this post, but I already found that one!


  1. I would really like it if that stigma against correcting someone were not quite as easy to aggravate. I know I can be pedantic, but goodness, you should be able to kindly let someone know if they've erred without them getting all offended. I want people to correct ME if I say something wrong.

  2. it really grinds my gears when i see SEQUENCE written in a description of a sparkly, spangly, bedecked thing instead of the correct SEQUINS. really. it happens. everyday. look up something sparkly on ebay and you'll find 50 listings with some variation of SEQUENCE.


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  4. look: http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=sequence+vintage&_sacat=0&_trksid=p3286.m270.l1313&_odkw=sparkle+holiday+dress&_osacat=0

  5. 'Gasp!' I never dreamed of such a thing! Horrors!

  6. They had "could care less" on Gilmore Girls! Jess said it- I was not pleased.

  7. Oh, and I think Jim Gaffigan said "wheelbarrel" in his beyond the pale routine!

  8. The misusage of "is" and "are" really bugs me too! I just read on Etsy "There is a ton of cool reactions going on in this bead." Ugh.

  9. I was an English major for my first degree and people that know this always expect me to be perfect at grammar, which I so am not. Pronunciation is what bothers me most actually and it's funny that you mentioned Supposedly should not be pronounced "Supposively." My boss does that and just this morning in our staff meeting I was once again biting my tongue wanting desperately to correct her. I really think text speak is going to destroy not only this generation's spelling but also grammar in all forms. This was a great post!