01
Feb 12

Top Ten Grammar Peeves

I recently read one of those annoying graphics that are being ‘shared’ or passed-round Facebook.

What makes them annoying is not that they are faddy, inert, and positively dull, but that they are low resolution JPGs of plain text which have been resized to look like arse.

Anyway, the latest – which I simply couldn’t let lie – was this.

Top Ten Grammar Peeves

  1. It’s “I couldn’t care less.” “I could care less” means that you actually do care.
  2. An apostrophe is never used to form a plural.
  3. “Literally” means it actually happened, not that it figuratively happened.
  4. “Loose” and “lose” are two different words.
  5. “Your” and “you’re” are also two different words.
  6. “Their,” “there” and “they’re” are actually three different words.
  7. “nonplus” does not mean what you think it means.
  8. “Affect” is a verb. “Effect” is a noun.
  9. “It’s” is short for “it is” and “its” means “belonging to it.”
  10. “Irregardless” is not a word.

So I read this and thought “nothing gets up my hackles like a pedant who is wrong”.

Firstly the phrase “I could care less”, whilst a little American in tone, is perfectly acceptable. In fact it is rather subtle. It means “it may be possible for me to care less, in which case I might; however I do not”. Such linguistic subtlety has clearly passed-by the writer of this little ditty.

Secondly why has the writer consistently included punctuation marks not relevant to the sense within the quotation marks? Fowler’s A Dictionary Of Modern English Usage states that “all signs of punctuation used with words in quotation marks must be placed according to the sense”.

As for “literally” meaning “actually”, what rubbish. It means, “in a literal sense” or “pertaining to a literal”. In fact my dictionary says it is often used as an acknowledgement that something is NOT to be taken literally. Such is the flexibility and subtlety of the English language, and any true lover of language will appreciate this, rather than getting annoyed by it.

The word “affect” can be a noun as well as a verb, and in this form is synonymous with the word “emotion”.

Finally the word “irregardless” has an entry in my Concise Oxford English Dictionary, an edition from about 12 years ago. If that doesn’t make it a word in some official sense, I don’t know what does.