Everything Language and Grammar

Posts Tagged ‘English’


Posted by languageandgrammar on January 9, 2011

By now, most of use have heard Tucker Carlson’s (of Fox News) opinion on quarterback Michael Vick’s involvement in dog fighting: He thought that Vick should have been executed. What most of us might not have heard, however, is his backpedaling on the statement.

Carlson said, “…I overspoke….”

Overspoke? I’m not sure what overspoke means. Did he mean that he’d said something that he doesn’t believe but said it because he was just trying to play to Fox’s radical right-wing base? Did he say something that he does believe but that he now knows he should have kept to himself because it’s considered bizarre by most people? The most logical assumption is that he meant that he’d said too much. After all, when you overeat, it means that you ate too much.When you oversleep, it means that you slept too much and missed, for example, an appointment.

But in that sense, what was too much? Did he think that he’d used too many words?

This is yet another example of the disconnect that can occur between speaker and listener when the speaker makes up a word instead of using perfectly good veteran words that are part of the English language. Even dictionary.com, which has never met a non-word it  hasn’t liked, doesn’t embrace overspoke (yet).

Carlson seemed to be making up a word in order to avoid taking responsibility for a radical opinion. Instead of saying I overspoke, he should have said what he meant—–whatever that was.


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Myself Cannot Be the Subject of a Sentence

Posted by languageandgrammar on July 18, 2010

Do not use myself as the subject of a sentence. Myself and the other -self words—himself, herself, ourselves, etc.—are  reflexives, and reflexives cannot be used as subjects. Nominatives should be used as subjects. The nominatives are I, we, he, she, and they. You is both nominative and objective, so it can be used as either a subject or an object.

Incorrect example: Myself and the rest of the team will be working on Saturday.

Correct example: The rest of the team and I will be working on Saturday.

The verb is will be working, and the subject (who or what will be working) always needs to be a nominative, so the correct pronoun to use is I.


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Is That Beside(s) the Point?

Posted by languageandgrammar on February 23, 2010

Beside/besides seems to fall into the same grammar error category as toward/towards, forward/forwards, and backward/backwards. Many people aren’t sure when to the one with the -s.

Beside means by the side of or next to. He sat in the empty seat beside her. She moved the chair beside the window. That’s beside the point. (Here, it’s beside, not besides. In the idiomatic expression, beside means by the side of, that is, not directly on or not directly relevant to, as in not directly relevant to the point. It does NOT mean That’s in addition to the point.)

Besides means in addition to as a preposition and moreover as an adverb. Besides Weather Whys, Paul has written Literally, the Best Language Book Ever. Besides, I can’t go out on a school night.


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Language Game

Posted by languageandgrammar on February 8, 2010

Can you name the most commonly used words in English?

Clicking on the link above will take you to a sporcle.com page that contains a word game that tests your knowledge of common English words.

Good luck.


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What a Waste

Posted by languageandgrammar on February 4, 2010

While reading an article on politics on a popular news Web site recently, I reluctantly ventured into the comments section. I normally won’t read the comments section of an article on politics since it often seems to be just a hub for the vile and sophomoric among us——and have you ever noticed that many of them can’t spell?

This time, it was waist versus waste. The comment writer advised others not to waist their time. I’m not sure what anyone’s midsection had to do with her stance on the Obama administration—-maybe she was making some sort of cloaked insult about the president’s lack of a six pack, I don’t know.

Waist is a noun denoting the most narrow part of the torso. In Don’t waste your time, waste is a verb denoting doing something that doesn’t give you enough in return to make it worthy of doing. Don’t waist your time has no meaning.


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Change Out the Football

Posted by languageandgrammar on January 14, 2010

I recently heard an esteemed celebrity football announcer say during one of the Sunday games that the referee was going to change out the football. Change out?

What does it mean to change out? Is it more important to change it out than to simply change it? Does it sound more exciting, more challenging, more game-changing to change something out?

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard the expression change it out when change it would have been correct. I’m not even certain whether changing something out really is the same thing as simply changing something, but what I do know is that the referee was going to change the ball.


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Hitherto-s and Tautologies

Posted by languageandgrammar on December 6, 2009

I recently wrote an article about an art exhibit for a local newspaper. Having been both an editor and a copy editor for many years (and those of you who are editors, copy editors, and proofreaders know what I’m talking about), it’s admittedly a bit difficult to surrender my copy to someone else, knowing that he or she has the final say on my brilliant exposition. (You CAN see my tongue in my cheek, right?)

In any case, in this article, I used one of my favorite words: hitherto. I’ve already expounded on why I like the word, so if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read about it here. Hitherto, of course, means up to now or until this time, and my original sentence read Artist names and their works that have hitherto been unfamiliar will become more familiar to those who see this rare exhibit …. The copy editor changed it to Unfamiliar artist names and their works likely are unfamiliar to those who see this rare exhibit. This change seems to me to be a good example of a tautology. A tautology is, according to Merriam-Webster, a needless repetition of a statement, idea, or word. I’ve also seen it defined as circular logic.

Unfamiliar names are unfamiliar. Well, OF COURSE unfamiliar names are unfamiliar. What else could they be? If they’re not unfamiliar, then how could they be unfamiliar? The change was not only incorrect, but it’s also quite embarrassing. Some people who read my work will now view it as sophomoric, undisciplined….and just plain bad. (There’s also an incorrect tense use in their change, but that’s for another post.)

So why am I writing about this? I have two reasons: I thought that readers might like to re-visit my post on hitherto (which also includes the word henceforth), but more important, it’s a good reminder to be very careful when you’re responsible for someone else’s final copy, especially when it’s going to be read by thousands of other people. Mistakes happen, people suffer, and reputations can be ruined.


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Adverse Versus Averse

Posted by languageandgrammar on November 27, 2009

Averse, related to the word aversion, means opposed and should be applied only to people because it is a feeling. It comes after a form of the verb to be and has the word to after it. He was averse to socializing with his ex-girlfriend. She was not averse to hard work, but it was unreasonable for her boss to expect her to work 70 hours per week.

Adverse is used to describe a noun or action. It is not a feeling but, rather, a state or condition–and an unfavorable one at that. We traveled in the 100-degree heat without any air conditioning in the car–-without a doubt, adverse conditions. A person cannot be adverse; he or she, however, can experience adversity.


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“From” Does Not Mean “Off”

Posted by languageandgrammar on November 18, 2009

The word from is not synonymous with the word off or the words off of. This is something that I hear fairly often.

For example, I got these nematodes off the guy in the lab next door or I got these nematodes off of the guy in the lab next door (well, maybe I don’t hear this exact sentence all that often!) should be I got these nematodes from the guy in the lab next door. The only way that off or off of would be correct is if you actually plucked each nematode off the poor guy.

You also borrow five dollars from your brother, steal a cigarette from a co-worker (not that I’m advocating either smoking or thievery), and take your daughter’s car keys from her.


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Now, Don’t Be Lazy

Posted by languageandgrammar on November 10, 2009

Why do I more often hear people say LACKSADAISICAL than LACKADAISICAL? I’m asking because lacksadaisical isn’t a word; the correct word is lackadaisical.

Lackadaisical means without enthusiasm or interest or vigor, so someone who is lackadaisical lacks enthusiasm or interest or vigor (he’s just plain lazy)—but don’t make the mistake of including the word lacks in the word lackadaisical.


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