Monday, July 28, 2014

Why I Love Weird Al ... and Other Word Crimes

I love Weird Al. I have always loved Weird Al. (Who could resist that adorable face?)

But now I REALLY love Weird Al.

Not only does he know that "it's" is a contraction, he also knows what a dangling participle is. (Be still my heart!)

Now that I am backed by a celebrity, I feel inspired to add my own Word Crimes. And at the top of this list is:

1) Impact is not a verb. It is a noun. You can have an impact on something, but you can't impact it. It may be true that all your friends, TV announcers, and anybody with an MBA uses impact as a verb, BUT THEY ARE ALL WRONG! (And anyone who says "impactful" is going straight to hell.)

To continue my rant:

2) "Issue" does not mean "problem," it means a topic of debate. You can discuss an issue, but you cannot have one. (This grammar crime was fomented by therapists, who also have convinced susceptible individuals that they are "conflicted" when they have "issues.")

3) "Grow" is what you do with potatoes - not audiences, businesses, or twitter followers. (This is an MBA-speak crime.)

4) "Conflicted" is not an adjective. You can feel conflict, you can even be in conflict, but you can't be conflicted. (See number 2 above.)

5) "Different from" (or "different to" in Great Britain) is correct when you are comparing nouns, not "different than." For example, California is different from ... well, just about anywhere.

6) The object of a preposition is object case, not subject. Let's keep this between you and me, not you and I.

7) "Like" is for comparing nouns. "As if" is for verb phrases. I act like you, but we can't act like nothing matters. We must act as if nothing matters.

8) Plurals do not use apostrophes - ever. You own CDs, not *CD's.

9) A possessive goes with a gerund. "My going to California upset her" is correct, not *Me going to California upset her."

10) Reported speech uses declarative sentence structure. "I asked him what the time was" not *"I asked him what was the time." If you are quoting, you can use interrogative structure. Ex. I asked him, "What is the time?" (Reported speech is comprised of sentences beginning with phrases using verbs such as wonder, consider, ask, etc. Ex. I wondered what the time was. I considered what the alternatives were.)

11) "Lay" is a transitive verb. That means it requires an object. You lay a book on a table, or lay your head upon your pillow. "Lie" is intransitive. It does not take an object. Therefore, *"I'm going to lay down" is incorrect. "I'm going to lie down" is correct. Where this gets confusing is that the past tense of "lie" is "lay." "Last night I lay down at eight" is correct. (Note: "Lay low" is a colloquialism. Grammatically, it couldn't be more incorrect.)

If you are guilty of any of the above grammar indiscretions, you are doomed to suffer the eternal torment of grammarian hell. Also, people will assume you did not pay attention in my English class. (That's right. I'm talking about you, Pete.)


  1. Love, love, love. From one grammar nazi to another, a huge thank you.

  2. Aargh! Not the dreaded "comprised of" (item 10). Please edit this immediately. It's like saying "composed of of", and you wouldn't do that, would you?

    A (Grammar) Polite Notice

    1. Merriam Webster includes the following under "comprise":

      3. compose, constitute a misconception as to what comprises a literary generation — William Styron "about 8 percent of our military forces are comprised of women" — Jimmy Carter

      With this note:
      "Although it has been in use since the late 18th century, sense 3 is still attacked as wrong. Why it has been singled out is not clear, but until comparatively recent times it was found chiefly in scientific or technical writing rather than belles lettres. Our current evidence shows a slight shift in usage: sense 3 is somewhat more frequent in recent literary use than the earlier senses."

      I will bend on "comprised of" but not on "impactful."

  3. The point is yours, Erica, although I just don't get it: why on earth would one choose to use the word as sense 3 and have to add "of", when the word on its own means exactly the same thing? Isn't that the same as the construction "off of"? Perhaps that's why people get so exercised about it.

    I've nothing against "impactful". :)

  4. Agreed. But "comprised of," while redundant, is used routinely in academic publications. So, it has gained a rather prestigious foothold. As for "impactful," I'm afraid I am just going to have to shoot everyone who uses it. How else are we going to maintain standards?


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