The Cranky Grammar Post

My name is Valerie and I am a grammarian. Yes, I know I’m almost as hated as an IRS auditor, but there’s no 12-step program for grammarians, so get used to it. And, as a grammarian, I have Buttons (note the initial capital letter for emphasis). Lately, people around me — through no fault of their own and some on television — have been pushing my grammar buttons. And so I am pushing back today.

First of all, what is it with the misuse of hang? I realize that it’s an edge case, but the Legal Terminology for execution by hanging is, “hanged by the neck until dead.” “Hung,” when referring to a human being who might or might not have been convicted of a capital crime, refers to something entirely different. Hence my involuntary giggle at the sentence, “He was hung for murder.” Um, no. Although he might have been hung, telling me that on television is deeply into the area of Too Much Information.

There is no such word as “towards.” Stop sticking the S on the end, please. It makes you sound almost as stupid as “nukular” (nuclear) or “aks” (ask) and I know you’re not stupid. You’re intelligent and articulate, a natty dresser and an all-around good person who likes dogs, cats and small children; never litters; and opens doors for people with their arms full.

I realize some of the mispronunciation might not be voluntary. My mother, bless her, could never properly pronounce larynx; it always, always (no matter how hard she thought about it) came out “larnyx” on the first try. Maybe that’s why the other mispronounced words bother me.

Lately, I’ve been hearing a fairly high percentage of newscasters mentioning politicians taking decisions (yes, the debt showdown was watched avidly in my house — not by me, but I still caught more of this construction than I would have liked). I learned as a child that choices are taken, but decisions are made. I know you can stop mixing that up.

On the other hand, I have been hearing more and more bad grammar on television news networks over the last year or so; maybe I’ve only been noticing it for that long, but still…when all you have to do is read the copy on camera, you might at least attempt to use the right pronunciation and construction.

There has also been a lot of “try and” on the news networks, too — it’s “try to,” people. “Try and” doesn’t even make sense; you need a preposition after “try,” not a conjunction. Duh.

Speaking of missing conjunctions, people who complete a phase of education graduate FROM the program. Graduating school means dividing it into grades, and that was accomplished a long time ago. Nobody needs to do it again.

One more — use the correct pronoun. If you’re talking about a single individual, you cannot describe this person as “they,” because “they” refers to more than one person. There are three possible pronouns to refer to a singular noun: he, she, and it. Guess which one doesn’t have a gender?

Other than turning a person into a thing, you could use the pretentious-sounding “one.” Maybe if more people used it, it wouldn’t sound as pretentious. But then, one never knows what the next linguistic fad will bring.

So those are my buttons for this year. I fear “try and” will be a button for many years to come, because, alas, it appears to be becoming more and more prevalent. I realize that language is a living entity that evolves, but I also know that’s not a valid excuse to completely misuse a part of speech.

“And” isn’t a preposition, dammit. Now get off my lawn, you pesky kids.

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