Sunday, October 7, 2012

GRAMMATICAL RANT

I recently finished proof-reading the first draft of the layout of Unleavened Dead. I was sure the manuscript I had submitted to Oak Tree Press was pristine, with no typos, no continuity errors, no inaccurate character names or places.

So, then why did I send three pages of corrections back to the publisher? And the corrections
included typos, continuity errors, and the misuse of a character’s name.

This reality check (useful whenever I think I’m infallible) reminded me of a blog I had posted in January, 2010, titled “Typos and Other Errors.” (You can access it on my original website at: http://rabbiavivacohenmysteries.com/meanderings-2/typos-and-other-errors/.) To my embarrassment, a friend of mine, on reading the blog, emailed me that I had misspelled “naval” as “navel.” And I pride myself on knowing the difference between “faze” and “phase,” when to use “it’s” and “its,” and the correct spellings of “their,” there,” and “they’re.”  I even know the proper placement of punctuation marks inside or outside quotation marks.
Proper grammar was drummed into my classmates and me during our six years at Girls’ Latin School in Boston. I still cringe when I hear “He graduated college.” I know “He graduated from college” is now accepted, but I still use “He was graduated from college.” And when I use “hopefully,” rather than, “I hope,” or “It is to be hoped,” it’s when I’m writing some dialogue for people who may not know the difference. And I always say “It is different from . . .” rather than “It is different than . . .”
But I refuse to accept the singularization (yeah, I made up the word) of plural nouns, as normative as they now may be. “The data show . . .” and “the datum shows . . .” are the correct forms. So are the expressions “the medium is . . .” and “the media are . . .” (Marshall McCluhan did not write a book titled The Media Is the Message.) And when I’m taking an antibiotic, it’s because I am infected with “a bacterium,” not with “a bacteria.”
I blame my grammatical intolerance of the misuse of those words on the six years I suffered through . . . I mean endured . . . I mean attended Latin classes. The only other useful skill I’ve taken away from all those years of Latin is an ability to complete crossword puzzles in pen. As for the flotsam, I still recall the first thing we learned after “amo, amas, amat,” namely, Julius Caesar’s opening sentence to his Gallic Wars, “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.” And I had to Google it to make sure I remembered the words in the correct order. (I hadn’t.)
But there are two common errors that make me grind my teeth: the pluralization (another neologism – I’ve always wanted to use that word outside of crossword puzzles) of “doesn’t,” and the use of the subjective case after “between.”
Sorry, all you offenders out there, but “she don’t . . .” is incorrect, even though “I don’t . . .” is correct. And we never say “between we,” so why do people often say, “between you and I”?

Conclusion: I am very relieved that I grew up speaking English. I doubt if I could ever have mastered all the irregularities and inconsistencies in the language. And, judging from what I hear and read these days, neither have many native English speakers.

Now, excuse me. I need to proofread this blog before I post it. Hopefully, between you and I, there are no typoes or erors.

15 comments:

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Your last line made me laugh out loud.

Rabbi Ilene Schneider said...

Thanks. Here's an even better one: despite proofreading the entry, I mixed up "naval" and "navel!" Again.

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

At last, a kindred spirit! Thank you for your inspiring blog post, dear Rabbi Ilene. I was greatly encouraged.

Your educational experiences closely resemble mine. I took five years of Latin, and I cringe at the same mistakes at which you cringe. Thanks to your comments, no longer do I feel like a lone voice crying in the grammatical wilderness. :)

Shalom!

MaryAnn

Larion aka Larriane Wills said...

ah, proofreading, the pain that never ends. I work and work doing just that before I send a submission in. The first time an editor sends it back, I'm positive I sent the wrong copy. now to see how many times i have to prove i'm not a robot.ishou

Monti said...

I spent a ton of time in Latin classes in my high school and, often, I was the only student. However, I absolutely adore "hopefully" and use it all the time in my writing and in my everyday conversation. Hopefully, I will never give it up!

Monti

Rabbi Ilene Schneider said...

MaryAnn:

Thanks. When I taught college students, I could always tell who had gone to Catholic schools. There were no grammatical errors in their papers. Nothing like a classical education for instilling the basics. (And I say that as a proponent of liberal curricula in public schools.)

Hmm...more Latin influences: "curriculum" and "curricula." Plus I always use alumnus, alumni, alumna, and alumnae correctly. And know that the "ae" is pronounced with a long-e.

I'd add "criterion" and "criteria," but that word is Greek. LOL

Rabbi Ilene Schneider said...

Larriane:

I'm amazed at how many times I miss errors in my own writing, but pick them up in other people's.

Rabbi Ilene Schneider said...

Monti:

You mean you took Latin voluntarily?

I have to admit, though, that it take make me more aware of proper grammar. And it made learning other languages seem easy in comparison. Unfortunately, though, I don't seem to have a facility for learning languages, although I can analyze them.

Hopefully ;-), you are better at languages than I am,

Rabbi Ilene Schneider said...

I just saw an ad in which someone said, "She meant a lot to my wife and I."

No! All prepositions take the objective case!

Should I mention that I originally wrote "propositions"? Good thing I proof read before pushing "send."

Holli said...

You could not live down here, where everyone "conversates" in a gumbo of Cajun French, Spanish, Yat (as in where y'at?) and ebonics, all in the same conversation, or possibly even the same sentence.

The word, or non-word, conversate, is used as much by the rich and educated as the poor and illiterate.

Rabbi Ilene Schneider said...

Holli: I don't mind grammatical errors when they're part of regional dialects. They bother me, though, when said by "professionals" in advertisements or on news broadcasts and talk shows. I think phrases like "between the doctor and I" are "hyper-corrections" - people use them because they think such phrases make them sound intelligent and educated (which aren't synonyms, but that's a different topic).

Radine Trees Nehring said...

Great information Ilene! I had to stop laughing before I wrote this, however. (Please know that I wanted to comment here because I absolutely cannot read the second part of the captcha below and will be going round for a while. The first part reads like a prescription medicine for those suffering from wonderLUST. (Rovsin)

Beryl Reichenberg said...

Great post. It reminds us all to proof-read again and again. Because language is a living thing, changing over time, I wonder what acceptable grammar and word usage will look like in 50 years. Beryl

John said...

This is really worth reading, it has too much details in it and yet it is so simple to understand


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D.R. Ransdell said...

I'm so incensed by grammar mistakes that I started a blog about it.
http://grammarbandit.blogspot.com/
It's one thing to miss a couple of errors when doing final proofing. That happened to me too when I did my first book even though I could have sworn I'd reread carefully. But when a book is RIDDLED with mistakes... there's simply no excuse for it. If you find some texts with lots of mistakes, I invite you to comment on my blog.