As a brand new Guest Reviewer for Silk Screen Views, I think it’s no more than fair to give readers an idea of what kind of a person I am. My nickname on SSV is Contrary Erica and it should give you a bit of a clue already–I’m one of these people who will go against the grain just for the sake of it.
A prime example: When I was about to go to university, all my classmates expected me to study English Language & Literature. It was one of the main reasons why I didn’t, and studied Slavonic Languages instead.
Another thing to know about me is that I am very, very easily annoyed. It is much easier to get me to go on forever about something I dislike than about something I like, just ask my husband. At one point he swore he was going to compile a list of all the things I hate and make me rate them, like some sort of perverted review system. He never did, but I can only say one thing: don’t get me started on pandas.
Anyway, that’s not to say that I don’t have many things I really really like, I’m just not as likely to get very passionate about them. Being a Guest Reviewer here is one way in which I hope to be able to change that.
With that in mind, this post will tackle the pet peeves I have about language that really bug me on a day to day basis. This can be spoken or written language, and they mostly happen in everyday life because thankfully they haven’t penetrated into the world of books yet.
Top of my list is the ever-increasing tendency for people to use both also and as well in the same sentence. I might be watching the six o’clock news, and the presenter, looking earnestly into the camera, says, “We have also asked this question of the Prime Minister as well.”
People, please get this straight: also and as well mean exactly the same thing! This is the worst possible tautology I’ve ever come across in my life, and it’s starting to permeate spoken language everywhere! (Well, in Britain at least. I have no idea whether Americans do this as well.)
The worst thing about this? Not only have I caught my husband doing this several times, it’s so all-pervasive that I’m starting to say it myself. I’m still noticing it when I do so, but I ask you – for how much longer? The thought sends a shiver up my spine.
Second on my list is a phenomenon of the written word, and no, it isn’t text-speak. Yes, text-speak annoys me to a certain degree, but it doesn’t drag its nails across the blackboard of my soul as much as does the expression ‘I could of done that’.
No, mister chav git! A thousand times no! You could have done that. Or, if you want to colloquialise it a bit more, you could’ve done that.
Of course, this more or less comes into the same category as people who cannot distinguish between it’s and its, or your and you’re, but at least those are proper heterographs. Okay, maybe could’ve and could of are also heterographs, but it’s just taking it a step too far, because ‘could of’ doesn’t actually mean anything, whereas its and it’s both do.
Number three on my list is a bit of a toss-up, in that I’m having difficulty deciding which of the next two annoys me more. However, after some deliberation I think it will have to be the incapacity of certain people to properly read and pronounce the word ‘mischievous’.
For the record, this is a three-syllable word with the stress on the first syllable: MIS-chie-vous. It is not a four-syllable word with the stress on the second syllable, like so many people seem to think. It is not mis-CHIE-vi-ous. It is derived from mischief, with -vous added to the end, just as grievous is derived from grief and nervous is derived from nerve.
So, a close fourth is the – again ever-increasing – tendency for people to refer to persons as ‘that’. As in, ‘the person that won the lottery last Friday’. Even a literary site such as Goodreads is falling foul to this phenomenon. I was trying to set up my author page, and Goodreads helpfully asked, ‘Are you the Erica Dakin that wrote The Ritual?’
‘No, Goodreads!’ I wanted to shout. ‘Last time I checked I was still a person, so I am the Erica Dakin who wrote The Ritual.’
During my year at Edinburgh University I was taught that this is actually a Scottish tendency, so it appears that it has worked its way south of the border and across the ocean. Well, much as I like the Scots, they can keep that particular linguistic fallacy.
At number five is that endless source of amusing internet photos which is the misuse of apostrophes, though in my case I’m particularly offended by apostrophes used to indicate a plural. Every day on my bus home from work I pass a dog-grooming parlour, and every day I somehow manage to look up from my book just long enough to see the notice in their window that says ‘Please take your dog’s to do their business before bringing them in.’
Please take my dog’s what to do its business? Why is it so hard for people to form a plural just by sticking an s at the end of a word? I mean, in English it’s pretty much the only plural that is left! It’s not even like Dutch, where if a word ends in a vowel the proper plural does include an apostrophe! Do people even know what the term plural means? Should I even bother pointing out that ‘dog’s’ is a possessive, or shall I anticipate the blank look of incomprehension at the word ‘possessive’ and just leave it?
Which brings me to another scourge of proper use of language: the inability of some people to differentiate between adjectives and adverbs. I don’t encounter it so much now that I don’t play World of Warcraft anymore, but the number of times I’ve seen people shout in general chat, “Looking for ‘blah’, paying good!”
And yes, I was pedantic enough every time to shout back, “No you’re not, you’re paying well!“
Then we come to something which maybe shouldn’t be included in this particular post, but which annoys me enough that I have to get it off my chest. It concerns children.
Now, let me start by pointing out that I’m not very good with children. I don’t know what to do with them until they reach about age 15 and you can have a reasonably adult conversation with them. I’m not mother material, and I panic when someone hands me a baby and it starts to cry. Still, I appreciate that I’m a minority, and that there are many, many people who have children and are very happy with them.
That said, do you really have to let them address you as ‘mummaaaaaaaaayyyyyy’? I’ve lost count of the amount of toddlers on the bus, in the street, anywhere you like, who try to get their mother’s attention by uttering that elongated, drawn-out atrocity that makes me want to strangle a chicken. (Not the child. I know I could get into trouble for that.) I can handle ‘mum’. I can even handle ‘mu-huuuum’. But I cannot handle mummmaaaaayy. Is this another British thing? Do American children do the same? I’ll probably never know, nor do I particularly wish to find out.
My last pet peeve is a little obscure, I’m afraid, but I come across it often enough that it bothers me. It is the misuse of Old English ‘thou/thee/thy’. I was reminded of it by one of those amusing lolcat type photos someone posted on Facebook. It was funny, but it was spoilt by the fact that they’d used ‘thou’ when they should have used ‘thee’. Or the other way around, I can’t remember. So let me clarify this for those of you who aren’t sure which to use when.
Thou is used as the subject: “Prithee, thou art a very handsome prince!” the fool cackled.
Thee is used as the object, either direct: “Verily, I thought I had warned thee!”
Or indirect: “Forsooth, had I known, I would not have given thee my dog!”
Thy is possessive: “Egads, thy britches are straining to contain thee!”
For completion’s sake I should mention thine as well, which is another possessive for which I don’t know the English term, but it’s the kind of possessive which you use independently: “Take us!” the nuns cried, “we are thine!”
Apologies for the overuse of exclamation marks there. Old English people were obviously very shouty.
Now, before anyone berates me for being very harsh on people, and points out that all this stuff can be pretty difficult to learn, please remember this: I am foreign, and I managed to learn it. I’m a stickler for correct grammar, and whilst I cannot claim that I always get it right, I damn well give it my best effort, and I am mortified if I get it wrong. To me it is only natural that I expect other people to make the same kind of effort.
This likely marks me as a very judgmental person, which I suppose I am, but I have been enlisted by the lovely people of Silk Screen Views to deliver judgment on the books I read, so I have justification. Please let me leave you with one last observation: this is probably the worst I can be, and I am normally much nicer.
This post was adapted from an entry on my own blog. Feel free to pay me a visit and read some less judgmental posts.