Home > Random Musings, Writing > In Defense of the English Language

In Defense of the English Language


Okay, I’ve tried to be nice. I really have. I’ve sat quietly and rolled my eyes. But nice is for chicken salads and grandmas, folks.

I’ve had it with the murder of the English language; put down your mangled, half-chewed pencils and stop stabbing at those sentences. My eyes hurt, and my soul is bleeding. Profusely. Plus, it makes you look like a bit of a dolt, when you can’t spell definitely (defiantly is a different word. Really. I promise. Would I lie to you? *fingers crossed behind back*).

Am I being elitist? Yes. Do I sound snarky? Yes. But I don’t care. I’ve had it with “im” passing as a single word. I’ve had it with “neone” instead of “anyone.” Really? Typing ONE more letter is going to make you implode? I don’t think so. Yes, we all have typos and the odd error. I’ve had those pointed out to me, and that’s fine. Hell, I’ve probably got a few typos in this entry. But I’m addressing habitual errors, not accidental faux pas. Savvy?

So, for the benefit of world at large—and perhaps what’s let of my sanity—let me explain a few things to you. (Those of you who have been reading me for a while will recognize a bit of this post. My apologies.)

  • Homophones. Now, you may be looking at that word with your head cocked to one side. You may not even recognize it. Suddenly, you sound like the dad in A Christmas Story, pronouncing ‘fragile.’ Let me clarify: a homophone is a word that sounds like another word, but it isn’t. Example: wear and where. See? They sound the same, but they are not. Consequently, please learn the difference between the following:
    • to, two, and too
    • hear and here
    • knew and new
    • accept and except (no, these are not interchangeable)
    • add and ad
    • peace and piece
    • than and then
    • there and their
    • where and wear
    • weather and whether

…and there are many, many more, but I fear that I’ve already short-circuited a few brains. Moving on.

  • The phrase is not “I could care less.” Why? Because that implies that you, in fact, could care less than you presently do. Instead, say, “I couldn’t care less.”
  • “Intensive purposes” means…what? Nothing. The phrase you’re looking for is “intents and purposes.”
  • “Unbeknowingly” is NOT a word. Unfortunately, it appears to be “unbeknownst” and “knowingly” shoved together.
  • Just, because, you, you know, throw commas in a sentence does not mean, you know how to use them. (The meaning of this should be obvious.)
  • Conversely if you are missing an important thing like commas everything becomes confusing and no one wants to read a run-on sentence.
  • “Your” and “you’re” do not mean the same thing. “Your” signifies ownership (it is a possessive pronoun). Example: Is that your car? “You’re” is a contraction for “you are.” Example: You’re very interesting.
  • You know, while we are at it, “its” and “it’s” convey a different meaning, too. “Its” is possessive. “It’s” means “it is” or “it has.”
  • It isn’t “alot.” It’s “a lot.” Unless you actually mean “allot,” which scares me, quite frankly.
  • Stop trying to make a time period possessive, or a strange contraction. Writing “1990’s” is wrong. It’s “1990s.” It indicates a span of time.
  • An independent clause can stand on its own; it’s a complete sentence. Example: Grammar is your friend.
  • A dependent clause is–you guessed it–dependent. Thus, it cannot stand on its own. Example (dependent is underlined): When I went to the pharmacy, I didn’t buy any Tylenol. You cannot walk up to someone and say, “When I went to the pharmacy.” It doesn’t make sense. Therefore, it’s a dependent clause; it depends on the independent clause for clarification and meaning.
  • You cannot separate two independent clauses using only a comma. I know you think you can, but you can’t. Use a semicolon–or a comma with a coordinating conjunction. Incorrect example: I went to the pharmacy, I didn’t buy any Tylenol. Correct example: I went to the pharmacy, but I didn’t buy Tylenol. Or: I went to the pharmacy; I didn’t buy Tylenol.
  • Than is used for comparisons. Example: Coffee is better than tea. Then has more than one meaning. It can describe a point in time (I’ll talk to you then), something that happens next (Have a cup of coffee, and then we’ll eat cheesecake), in addition (There’s reason, and then there’s accountability), and in a specific case (If you want food, then you should go to the store).

Honestly, I could go on, but I’m in dire need of more coffee. So…Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.

Er, wait….that’s not right. But it’s The Princess Bride. Don’t forget to say hi to Miracle Max on your way out, ok?

  1. March 31, 2011 at 11:04 am

    I just uploaded the “alot” cartoon to my facebook and then came and read this. Great minds think alike!

    • Ali
      April 1, 2011 at 8:57 am

      I love the Alot. It’s awesome. *grin*

  2. March 31, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    First of all, I feel terribly hip, because I do get all your jokes. (I even know who 24601 is.) Second, I am perhaps awful at texting because I can’t see why I’d leave off ONE character to be briefer, as if typing ‘to’ instead of ‘2’ is a waste of my fingers. Third, there is nothing that grinds my gears more than the use of ‘then’ for ‘than.’ I see it in signage, in blogs, everywhere. I fear it will replace the correct word. Everytime I see ‘You’ll love X because it’s better then Y’, I think, then what? It doesn’t make sense. THEN I go on a rampage, which I guess, answers my question.

    We’ve all got to stand up for proper English. We can’t let it be tossed aside by people who don’t care if it’s ‘their, there, or they’re.’ They’re idiots.

    • Ali
      April 1, 2011 at 8:59 am

      I hate it when people type the number 2 instead of the word. I totally feel that you’re justified in your Then Rampage. It’s wrong. Period.

      And I’m glad that you get all my jokes! Sometimes, I worry that I’m too obscure. hehe

  3. March 31, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    There is stand-up comedy to be had in the English language. So many variations based on context alone.
    I leave you with a time honored piece of wisdom that says it all:

    “Time flys like the wind… Fruit flys like bananas” 😉

    All the Best Ali!

    • Ali
      April 1, 2011 at 8:59 am

      Ha! Thanks for reading and commenting, Doug! 🙂

  4. Andrea
    March 31, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Don’t forget about “they’re!” So very, very different thAn “their” and “there,” and also a pet peeve of mine. 🙂

    • Ali
      April 1, 2011 at 8:59 am

      Oh, man — I hate it when people do that!

  5. April 1, 2011 at 8:51 am

    You left out “irregardless”. 😐

    • Ali
      April 1, 2011 at 9:00 am

      I want to know where that bastard of a word came from. It doesn’t make sense, damn it!

  6. Jessica
    April 1, 2011 at 9:42 pm


    I can’t stand the fact that, in this day and age, grammar has devolved into something so… pathetic. Full grown adults can’t spell, or use the proper form of “your/you’re” in a sentence. (No, really, the PRESIDENT of the company I work for sent me multiple emails using the incorrect form. PRESIDENT. OF. THE. COMPANY. Multiple. Emails.) It makes me so sad that people can’t take the five extra seconds to make sure that they’re presenting themselves in a way that looks and sounds professional and intelligent.

    • Ali
      April 2, 2011 at 9:15 am

      Your comment made me laugh out loud. It is amazing how many people in positions of power/authority cannot write a clear, proper sense if their life depended on it. It’s insanely frustrating. All it takes is a little bit more effort. I mean, if people were constantly doing simple MATH wrong, it would be a huge deal. But a misplaced comma, or misuse of your/you’re is widely overlooked. It makes me snarky.

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